23rd Nov2017

‘Tallowmere’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Matthew Smail


As many have said before, the sheer number of indie games that have made their way onto the Nintendo Switch is simply astonishingly and at the same time, hugely promising. For indie developers, the commonly used NVidia architecture of the Switch makes converting existing games an absolute doddle, which is exactly the case for Tallowmere, an engaging and inventive roguelike platformer that weighs in at just over the price of a strong European lager.

Tallowmere is a rare beast nowadays in that it is actually a roguelike (rather than a roguelite) which basically means that you will have one life for a single playthrough, and when you die, everything resets and you literally start again with nothing. I searched for hours and hours during my time with the game to work out if any permanent progression (such as increased life, a single item, a different NPC or whatever) carried from one game to the next and for better or worse, it doesn’t.

What that means is that you’ll hop your way through each of Tallowmere’s procedurally generated levels with nothing but the clothes on your back and whatever is in your hand(s). I say hop, because Tallowmere allows infinite jumps to be chained together (which is almost as good as flying) yet it remains incredibly hard. Levels are filled with spiky walls and floors, spinning disk saws and poison gas traps, as well as an absolute host of enemy types. Death comes swiftly and knowing when to advance and when to retreat is certainly a key strategy, as is deciding when to use your shield or when to use a weapon that brings a risky change in position (such as a Katana) that could place you in harms way.

If the game is either too hard or too easy, it is possible to adjust it somewhat on the fly from the hub level in a few novel ways. Firstly, players can sacrifice up to nine kittens in exchange for increased maximum health, although this comes at the cost of being measured on a different, less prestigious leader board. Making the game harder by applying modifiers such as only being able to use a basic weapon, or without being able to jump for a room or two at a time is also possible, although of course your talents are rewarded rather than penalised.

Advancement during each run is achieved by collecting loot such as more powerful armour or weaponry and by imbuing frozen statues with souls that you collect as you progress. Whenever you achieve one of these latter achievements, you tend to receive a more powerful permanent (for this playthrough) reward such as higher max health. There are some very powerful and very random weapons in Tallowmere and I must say that I found the actual level of challenge the game offers can vary wildly based on which items I accessed and how early, easily as much as by the games intended difficulty curve. Of course, that kind of randomisation is par for the course in Roguelike games.

Tallowmere also features multiplayer for up to four players (using all manner of Switch controllers) which is a really nice, if not entirely sensible addition. Understanding what is happening on screen with a full compliment is nigh on impossible, but it is incredibly fun all the same. Whatever mode you happen to play in, the basic graphics (and more basic animation) can be a distraction, but before long I began to find it rather charming. Tallowmere surprised me – it offers exceptional value for money given the low cost and high replay value and despite humble looks, it creates the kind of gameplay hook that will make you want to keep picking it up again and again.

***½  3.5/5


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