The easy condition of the tunic, called “No Fail”, lets me enjoy its riddles more

Tunican indie adventure game that mixes influences from The legend of Zelda and Dark souls into an adorable and mysterious package, has taken over my brain the last two weeks. It’s been ages since I hit a game and threw myself into New Game Plus mode without so much as stopping to refill the glass of water on my desk. I must admit, though: I would never have reached the end – let alone enjoyed the ride as much as I did – without occasionally using the game’s “No Fail” mode.

Just as much as I have enjoyed the puzzles and the feeling of discovery in Tunic, I have struggled with its struggle. The little vulpin hero’s sword swing feels fluid, sluggish and inaccurate. The game lacks the laser-like precision of similar combat-heavy isometric games like Hades, where failure always felt like my own fault. IN Tunic, I would often fail combat sequences, simply because I had not landed an attack head-on, or dodged in the right direction – even though I often felt confident that my button presses should have done the job. Even after a dozen hours of fighting in Tunic and several difficult boss fights, I still do not quite feel that I am in control of it.

I do not blame myself Tunic‘s development team for this. It is almost exclusively composed of one person, Andrew Shouldice, who designed and programmed the game. Additional art came from Eric Billingsley and ma-ko, and the game’s beautiful score is a credit to Terence Lee and Janice Kwan. Still, the battle design was entirely on Shouldice, as well as the level design and puzzle. Tunic is an incredible feat – especially considering it did not have a large team to help polish the coarser edges of.

It is precisely for this reason that I have not felt remorse for turning on Tunics “No Fail” mode. I did not use it all the time; I would first explore each dungeon with combat fully engaged, and enjoy the hardships of combat and the difficulties of failure as I learned around. But once I got the feel of each dungeon map, I no longer felt the need to fight every single enemy over and over again. I turned on “No Fail” and dived into the secrets of each location, without worrying about dying, as I uncovered every single coffin and power-up.

Image: Finji via Polygon

With “No Fail” turned on, TunicThe hero’s hero must still take part in battle, and when they are hit, their health meter still ticks downward. However, when the health meter reaches zero, the hero does not die; their meter stays just at zero forever while the fight continues. There is also an option to turn off the endurance counter so that the fox always has a full endurance. I did not use it that often as I enjoyed breaking with the endurance meter (just like I do in Dark souls), but not having to resume completely, helped me enjoy the riddles of the game without a sense of fear.

Tunic‘s riddles are easily its best asset; in my opinion they are the whole reason for playing the game. My favorite part was exploring every single room for hidden ladders, doorways and paths. I walked slowly all the way around each area and walked along bridges to see if the revealing A-button prompt would show up, thereby indicating a hidden ladder to climb on. I crawled behind walls, my fox barely visible, hoping to see the same prompt indicating that a hidden coffin was about to open.

The game also has significantly more complex puzzles, such as learning certain button patterns to unlock certain types of doors, as well as assembling every single page of the game manual and making sense of the mysterious language in which it is written. The more I played Tunicthe more of its world I unlocked and understood – but again, I would not have bothered to play that long if I had been dealing with the mushy sword game all the time.

I love creating challenges for myself in combat-heavy games where I learn every single precise move I have to perform to win. Metroid Dread‘s boss fights, for example, hit just the right place in my brain; I loved both the challenge and the sense of pride I felt as I learned the dance steps necessary to avoid and counter every single attack. But i Tunic, I’ve just never had that experience – and it’s okay. That’s not the strong point of the game, and it does not have to be. By using “No Fail” mode, I enjoyed the best parts of the game and I’m still hungry for more. There are puzzles left that I have not yet solved and the game has given me the exact tool I need to face them and enjoy every moment.

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