Gameplay matters. It’s behind the hard work of everyone involved in the making of the game. It can sink a game or can elevate it to greatness. Having great gameplay matters, but so does story and narrative. A video game is a sum of all of its parts. If one falters then total enjoyment does too. But what if one aspect is so strong? What if the gameplay is so strong that it outweighs the bad of the story and narrative? What you’re left with is Tandem.
Developer: Monochrome Paris
Publisher: Hatinh Interactive
Release Date: October 21, 2021
GWW was provided a digital code for the Nintendo Switch for the purpose of this review. The review will thus be reviewing every aspect of the game via the system it was played on. The Tandem review is broken down into three categories: visuals and sound; plot and story; and gameplay.
Nintendo Switch games are not known for their life-like and awe-inspiring graphics. What the Switch does is express itself through colours and its cartoon-like characters. Tandem is a dark story throughout. The 19th century London look and feel of the game is spot on. If the Addams Family designed the look of a kid-friendly game, Tandem would be it.
Our main character Emma and her pal Fenton are thrust into a mansion with tricks and turns around every corner. The mansion contains five separate levels. All with their own style. The art style used on landscapes and interiors has an old-timey look to them. Each level is different and has its own look and feel to it. Which made playing the game feel fresh after every level. Fentons “part” of the gameplay and his switch of the visuals were my favorite. Where once there was colour and depth. Fenton plays in and around the shadows. Having the switch in visuals for the two characters was a feast for the eyes. Overall the style of the visuals was a win, but the actual graphics play much more like an N64 game.
Voice work and sound effects leave a bit to be desired. The voice actor who portrays Emma is both annoying and shrill. Fenton has a balloon bounce noise every time he jumps. Which by the end of the game could become an annoyance. Sound effects from the world and other characters are all good. Where it falters is with the two leads.
Emma wants to solve a crime, so she heads out to do so. Teddy bear falls from a carriage and goes along for the journey. Pretty simple. Too simple actually. There is a story here somewhere. But, with so much work put into the gameplay, both the beginning and end of the story are left without context or explanation. By the time the opening cinematic ended and explained the story, the player will sense that this game was not one of narrative.
Five levels to play, and with it come 5 distinct and enjoyable levels. Using the tandem of Emma and Fenton to unravel puzzle after puzzle will become an obsession. In simple terms the game is like trying to find out how to put a square peg in a round hole. Mix it in with some simple platforming and this game is an easy pick up and play with no tutorial. Word search puzzles or the jumble or crossword. They all rely on one thing. The player is told that something should fit, so make it fit. That’s what Tandem is.
There is a way to get the key, so figure it out. Using Emma and Fenton to explore and navigate a kitchen or a greenhouse seems simple enough. After a while, the road becomes more difficult using the shadows, the light, and the keys. Painstaking and frustrating at times, but when that final key fits and you’re on to the next level, nothing is better.
This type of gameplay can be mind-numbing though. It’s just one puzzle after another. No break in gameplay. Only different variations. It helps that with only five main levels (45 total sub-levels) that this game can be polished off in 2-3 days, depending on play style.
Tandem is a well-thought-out puzzle-platform game. With little to no story, bad voice work, and off-putting sound effects. Tandem is a game with an overreliance on gameplay, but that gameplay is outstanding though. And with it comes an enjoyable and difficult game.