Reviewed on PC
Reviewing a Sega Mega Drive game in 2018 would seem a little behind the curve, but Tanglewood is a brand new 16 bit release for Sega's top selling platform. You can buy a cartridge right now, pop it into your aged console and play as you would have done in 1990!
Luckily for those of us without access to a real Mega Drive, developers Big Evil Corporation have also made the game available via Steam so us PC players can join the retro party.
Unlike more recent retro-inspired games, Tanglewood, is actually a modern game developed on retro hardware. Coded in pure 68000 assembly language using the same tools as developers would have used to create other Mega Drive games, Tanglewood, is a pure passion project. It features gorgeous hand-drawn sprites and a sprawling map that offers a reminder of how games use to be but with a sensibility that comes from playing more recent platformers.
The game controls as you'd expect any 16-bit platformer would and perfectly suites the joypad. On-screen mechanics are very much of the earlier era with your playable fox, Nymn, even resembling a certain hedgehog when he jumps. But that's not to say the game is at all derivative. Playing as Nymn you find yourself separated from your pack and alone will have to travel across the various levels of the map jumping on platforms and solving puzzles in order to find your way back to the set.
As you explore the game you unlock various abilities that help you progress and you quickly find that Nymn might not be the predator he would be here on Earth. Puzzles are generally pretty tame requiring agility alongside brainpower and both need to learn how to both defeat and harness the strengths of the creatures and monsters you find yourself up against. The level-end boss battles are always achievable too removing that frustration that came with hitting a wall that scuppered so many games three decades ago.
Tanglewood looks gorgeous - the game's aesthetic is remarkably varied with levels providing various biomes for you to explore. At times it even reminds us of the much more recent Limbo with Nymn silhouetted against a gorgeous sunset soaked backdrop. The audio is very much inline with the 1990s chip tunes - and it helps to transport the player back to a simpler time where gaming didn't have to be a huge commitment of time.