Genre: Platformer Developer: Red Corp. Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1994
I love quirky platformers. The weirder the better (with the exception of Stretch Panic. Sorry Treasure, but what the hell were you thinking?), and I always strive to get my hands on one whenever I get the chance. Naturally, I was drawn to Sega’s Tempo, which is about as quirky an adventure as you can think of. While the actual gameplay left something to be desired, I found myself enjoying it quite a bit.
Imagine if you will a game centered around a musical grasshopper, tasked with saving the planet Rhythmia from the groove-hating evil King Dirge Sound far fetched enough? No? Ok, then imagine that this grasshopper has the ability to kill his enemies with music. He’s very talented – more so than your average insect, I’d wager – and has a decent musical arsenal at his disposal. How on earth a rhythmless creature became Rythmia’s king is a discussion for another day, but rest assured our six-legged hero has something to say about it.
I do have a word of advice for Tempo newcomers. Do not use any controlled substances before you play. The game’s presentation can be overwhelming at times, especially the backgrounds, and the sheer amount of colors and shapes onscreen twist and flash like something out of the 60s. I suspect that Sega wanted to use Tempo as a vehicle to show off the 32X’s expanded color palate, which would explain why there’s so darn many of them in use here. Hmm, on second thought, maybe the best way to appreciate this game would be while under the influence…
Multi-sensory overload can be a clever device when used correctly, but Tempo mostly uses it to cover up its standard cookie cutter gameplay. Once you get past all the glitter and huge sprites, you’re essentially left with the same type of platformer that glutted the Genesis near the end of its life span. Compounding the sheer mediocrity is the piss-poor level design, which is confusing and more often than not, completely irrational. When you need to include directional arrows to guide the player through a stage, something is lacking in the design. Those psychedelic backgrounds I mentioned are also a factor here, as you’re often attacked by things you thought were mere scenery.
This sounds worse than it actually is, and while you will sometimes be frustrated by some cheap hits (common reactions are “where the heck did that come from?” and “WTF?”), the levels are large enough for you to navigate around many obstacles and concentrate on the meat and potatoes of a platformer: jumping around like, well…a grasshopper. Tempo and his butterfly companion control well enough for most gamers to make their way through all seven levels in decent fashion.
Perhaps the most key component of a game like Tempo is the music, and it really stands out, as it strives hard to overcome the hardware’s neutered sound chip. To me, the 32X is much like an olympic bodybuilder with a Vienna sausage in his pants. He may be impressive from a distance, but he’s really hurting in a key area. Sound had always been problem for Sega’s mushroom, but thankfully isn’t really an issue here. From the vocalized intro to the hilarious level themes (the yodeling! Oh the yodeling!), Tempo provides a quality sound package overall.
Even with its failure to provide anything truly innovative, it’s still a solid game. The lack of anything like it on the 32X and relatively few platformers available overall make it kind of a no-brainer. If you can get past the lack of originality and poor level design, you’re sure to have some fun. At least try it for the yodeling cows!