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Tamarin review for PS4, PC


Platform: PS4
Also on: PC
Publisher: Chameleon Games
Developer: Chameleon Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

This is the PS4 storefront icon for Tamarin. Take a good look at it. Based on the cute little monkey, what would you expect from the game? That bug in the background looks kind of ominous, sure, but there’s no reason to believe the game will be anything but a light and playful platformer for the kids. At least, that was my assumption going in.

Boy, was I wrong. Tamarin is, without exaggeration, quite possibly one of the darkest, most disturbing games I’ve ever seen.

And I’m talking about it in the sense of, like, Pokémon, where if you think about it for awhile it becomes sinister. I mean that right off the bat in Tamarin, you’re treated to scenes of giant bugs going into the titular simian’s village and burning everything to the ground as the monkeys flee.

It only gets more messed up from there. Shortly after evading capture, the hero of the game — possibly named Tamarin as well, which would make him Tamarin the tamarin — finds a friendly hedgehog, who escaped capture by burrowing underground. The monkey gives him an Uzi. Like, they literally call it an “Uzi.” At first I thought maybe this was just a case of a game getting a weird translation (even though the game was made by ex-Rare developers, who presumably speak English)…but then the next weapon Tamarin gets is a literal machine gun, so nope, it really is a platformer where monkeys are armed with heavy weaponry.

In theory, I guess, that could’ve been funny, but the combat is shockingly gory and disturbing. As you run through the fields, mowing down heavily-armed enemy bugs, it’s not just a case of faceless, anonymous bad guys who disappear silently. No, when you shoot an enemy, first blood goes flying off them. Then they let out a little scream as they crumple to the ground — though sometimes you get a headshot, which prevents the screaming, but instead causes the enemy’s head to go flying off and rolling along the ground. Then your fallen enemies lay there for an uncomfortably long time, and if you walk into them they’re literally dead weights that slow you down. And, finally, they disappear when swarms of flies come and eat the carcass.

So…yeah. Tamarin’s developers probably look at games like Call of Duty and Battlefield and think their big problem is that they don’t show the horrors of war in graphic enough detail.

What makes Tamarin even worse is that it’s a lousy shooter, too. Aiming sucks, and you’re constantly fighting with the controls to target the many, many enemies who are shooting at you constantly.

Even if you set aside the insane levels of violence (in, again, what looks like it was originally meant to be a kids’ game), you’re still left with a lousy 3D platformer, too. Here, too, you’ll find yourself fighting with the game pretty regularly, since you’ll often find spots where it’s impossible to get a good camera angle. Exploring the world is also no fun, since the game features a weird control scheme where you need to be in just the right spot if you want to go from one ledge to another. Most games would just allow you to double-jump, but in Tamarin you need to find just the right spot to trigger an arrow, and you then hold down a shoulder button to make your leap. It’s needlessly complicated, even if it’s not that hard to pull off.

On some level, I guess, Tamarin is sort of amazing, in that I can’t think of when I last played a game that was this much of an outright disaster on every level. I’ve played plenty of terrible games recently, but at least in those cases you could see what they were going for, and you could imagine what good versions of those games might look like. In Tamarin, the game is an absolute fiasco at a conceptual level. That doesn’t mean you should play it, of course, but the game gets points for effort, if absolutely nothing else..

Chameleon Games provided us with a Tamarin PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: F