Tallowmere is a Rogue-like 2D action game from one man team Chris McFarland, it was released on PC is 2015, the Wii U last year and Teyon have taken up duties to port and publish it here on the Nintendo Switch.
Now, I already mentioned it’s a Rogue-like game which I’m sure a good few of you are already kind of sick of these days. It seems like indie games are all about being Rogue-likes, and even though I do love a good Rogue-like if done well, I too am feeling a bit of the fatigue.
The first thing you’ll note is that a story isn’t even attempted. You’re instantly dropped into a mysterious castle to prove yourself to the Lady Tallowmere. You begin in a room full of random people, one of which is the titular lady. I’ll get to what some of the other folk do later but the main focus is on picking up the nearby key and opening up the dungeon where you’ll take on your quest.
The controls are odd to say the least, well the jump is. The developer has purposely gone for a comically extreme basic-ness to how the game functions, almost like a parody of a badly programmed game. It works though. It’s the jumping that’s the strangest for the fact you can jump as many times as you want mid-air, giving you the chance to perpetually stay airborne Flappy Bird style. It’s bizarre but very much needed for how the dungeon’s are laid out where you have to reach high places, avoid spiked floors and walls and so on.
As the dungeon is full on monsters that must be eliminated you also have a weapon to attack with. You always start the game with a measly axe that the character holds humorously over his head. You can spam the attack button as much as you want against the highly varied enemies. As you may guess though, your axe’s usefulness won’t last particularly long. You can find chests as well a pay a premium at your home base to the merchant, or rescue one mid-dungeon and get a bit of a discount on new weapons that you will need as soon as possible.
There’s quite a nice variety of weapons to play around with. The afore-mentioned axe, a katana which teleports you around, mentally slashing at everything. There’s a flamethrower, grenades and my personal favourite, the ice wand. They are completely different gameplay-wise which is to the games credit and none seem to be a clear step up from another. Variants on each are also present. Not all axes are the same, some have better stats and abilities and you can generally tell how good a weapon is through its rarity rating.
To go hand in hand with weapons, you’ll also be equipping armour, helmets and maybe the most import of them all, a shield. The shield can be used with the ZR button and is vital for progressing in the game. As you start out with only 10 health points at the beginning, levelling up doesn’t give too much and enemies get more numerous and strong as you go, being able to protect yourself is very important in Tallowmere.
You’re still going to take damage at points though since enemies can be brutal. If you’re finding things really tough (like I did) you may want to head to the upper part of your home base where a basket if nine kittens lay. Sacrificing one kitten will grant you 10 extra health point so, if you really want, you can start your run through the game with 100 health. While this is tempting, it does segregate you to a different leaderboard with other 9 kitten shamers.
While I thought it was nice to include something like that, I tried it only once before I decided to play it the way it was designed to be played. From then on I didn’t take advantage of the kittens and always went in with just 10 health points. Needless to say I found it difficult, rarely making it through a dozen rooms before succumbing to the enemies. As a Rogue-like it is wholly unforgiving in this department. You are sent straight back to zero, everything lost. A harsh reality, but it’s the essence of the genre. I’m pretty sure many of you will hate this because there really is no saved progression at all.
Rather than being completely alone throughout your run through the dungeon’s rooms, there is usually a teleporter in every one which takes you back to your home base for a heal. In theory you can abuse this assist as much as you want to slowly defeat all of your foes at a steady pace, killing one, heading back for a heal, go back to kill another, go heal and so on.
As you make your way through different rooms they get larger and more populated by enemies and so by the time you get passed the tenth room things can start to get crazy as different enemy varieties gang up on you, making it difficult to use specific tactics to deal with each one. You’ll even come across boss battles on occasions, so it does offer surprises once in a while. I found these little surprises, as well as the randomly generated nature of the game to make it quite addictive. Every time I died I wanted just one more go every time. The simplicity of it all helped too. There’s no grind or slog to get back anywhere. You’re just always there, straight back into the action.
One interesting point about Tallowmere is that up to four players can play together co-operatively. Now, due to time constraints I only had the chance to play with one other person, which is a shame because 4-player looks absolutely mental, almost like a party game. What I did notice though, was that it did seem a little easier to play with another person, so this may be a good option for players to help out other gamers with less experience. I also found it to be a slightly bit confusing in how to let more players join. I’d assumed they could just join in arcade style, but no, you need to go in the menus and select a new game, specifically for multiplayer. Not an issue really but just a heads up for those who maybe be a little be confused as I was.
The worst thing about Tallowmere, by far, is the art style which is incredible dark, dull and repetitive. This doesn’t appear to change at all throughout your play through. The animation of the characters, I guess is supposed to be comical, but it just looks unfinished. Everyone moves like they’re a character from South Park and I’m not a fan. It doesn’t take away from the gameplay though, which is obviously the main thing. Going hand in hand with the visual presentation is the audio. Thankfully it’s much better than the visual side of things with some nice tunes.
Overall, Tallowmere is an unforgiving example of an already unforgiving genre. It’s the boiled down essence of Rogue-like which as a gamer you will either love or hate. I find Tallowmere to be a good example too. It has a lot of good things about it. It’s simple yet has depth, there’s no fluff and it’s addictive. There’s not much else to ask for in a Rogue-like. Some may lament the lack of story, the poor visuals and the exaggerated amateur looking mechanics and those may want to look elsewhere. Those wanting a solid no nonsense Rogue-like will definitely get a fill from Tallowmere.
Game provided by Teyon.