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Review: TEVI – Movies Games and Tech

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TEVI pulled a very manipulative trick on me. I was having a casual stroll through a mutated, sickly looking forest when I suddenly realised I recognised the music. It was Venom by Dance With The Dead. A great song by my absolute favourite band. If TEVI had gone on to print out vouchers for Aspall cider and bars of white chocolate, it probably would’ve gotten a 10/10. I’m not that immune to bribery, after all.

Still, even discounting the Dance With The Dead tracks, TEVI puts in a good showing. Usually with Metroidvania games, I hit a wall about two-thirds in. The sprawling nature, and the constantly getting lost, wears me down. I didn’t get that with TEVI. I just wanted to keep poking around in the corners. It’s an excessively charming game, with a lot of variety, and has some interesting tricks up its sleeve. Though it does suffer from some slightly wonky gameplay balance.

TEVI - Tevi enjoys a nice drink on the beach.TEVI - Tevi enjoys a nice drink on the beach.

Hop, Skip And Jump

Let me say right out of the gate that TEVI‘s world is a wonderful one. Partly that’s down to the visuals. Everything’s just so bright and happy. Each new area feels distinct, with its own colour palette. Even the giant, glowing balls of death are in pleasant, luminous shades. It’s an adorable pixel art style, with such fine art that you forget it’s pixel art all. No crunchy, blocky pixels here. Just wonderful backgrounds and adorable characters. Hell, the main character is a cute chibi girl with bunny ears. Though some designs are… interesting. No one can wear a belt correctly in this world. One lady wears one as a bra, which brings the words ‘nipple pinching’ to mind.

This world is more than cute, though. It’s interesting too. In the world of TEVI, humanity has – rather unsurprisingly – managed to all but wipe itself out. This is down to a magitech – think magic powered robot – rebellion. Thirty years later and the non-rebellious magitech have formed into various factions, as have the beastkin and the presumably embarassed human survivors. Meanwhile, Tevi, a human wearing a fashionable set of bunny ears, is going about collecting ‘Astral Gears’, a potent source of mana. This is to help her father combat the decay that’s spreading around the world. There’s a lot going on in this world. Can be a little hard to keep up.

Perhaps that’s why Tevi’s motivations are kept rather simple. The first half of the game is essentially a scavenger hunt as we travel around the world, doing odd jobs for people and scooping up gears. At one point we decide to visit heaven and hell. Just ’cause. Tevi’s journey feels a tad disconnected from the rest of the world. Still, her support characters keep things grounded. Sable, a demon, and Celia, an angel, have some good banter with Tevi. I grew to like all three by the end. The dialogue has a lot of funny (and emotionally devastating) moments but does suffer from a tone issue. Snarky lines come in right when characters are baring their soul. It also has a strange fixation with Celia’s breasts, which did make the whole thing feel a little creepy at times.

TEVI - Tevi and Celia battle The Eidolon.TEVI - Tevi and Celia battle The Eidolon.

Drag Me To Bullet Hell

So how does TEVI play? Well, it’s a metroidvania so we can break it down into three parts: movement, exploration and combat. Let’s take movement first – this is TEVI‘s sweet spot. Running and jumping feels good, feeling neither floaty nor sticky. When TEVI begins bringing in giant swinging axes, avoiding them feels smooth and simple. The usual suite of movement upgrades come in, but it paces them well and the map opens organically. It makes the most of its movement too, putting light platforming challenges everywhere. Not so difficult as to overtake any of the rest of the game, but enough that you can’t just breeze through. That’s the first big tick.

Exploration is a bit more nuanced though. On the good side, exploring the map hands you lots of rewards. There are potions everywhere that buff your skills, new sigils to unlock (we’ll get to those in a mo) and cash in half the walls. Going off the beaten track is usually rewarded. The good movement makes it natural to do so as well. It does have a couple of black marks though. Enemies respawn when you leave a room, for one, making backtracking feel like a chore. The map is also rubbish. It doesn’t show you all the exits to a room, so you’ve no way of knowing which rooms branch off and which don’t. Surely that’s cartography 101. Let’s give exploration half a tick.

Combat is probably the weakest area. It’s got promise. There’s a mechanic where you can launch enemies and smack them into the wall, like a violent game of squash, and that’s good. Your side characters also shoot various ranged attacks, which do add some flair. There are also strong Bullet Hell elements, which I’m all about. It just feels both flat and, on Normal at least, poorly balanced. For one, the basic combo is just pressing X over and over. This wipes up most enemies, with little variation. Boss Fights do spice things up and are definitely TEVI‘s strong point. They bring in the Bullet Hell bits. Tevi’s hitbox just seems a little too small though. I found I could just stroll past most of the bullets. This is more akin to Bullet Limbo.

TEVI - Celia, Tevi and Sable speak to Memine.TEVI - Celia, Tevi and Sable speak to Memine.

TEVI: A Solid Package

The end result is that I died precisely once, from getting stunlocked by a swinging axe. Not to say that all games should be brutally difficult but the flat combat made it a little too easy. Even bosses get stunned by the basic melee combo, so I just ricocheted them off every hard surface until death. The sigil mechanic had the potential to fix this. These are equippable buffs that you collect by exploring that boost certain mechanics, like buffing ranged damage. Problem is, they don’t change enough. Most are just straight stat increases and the points you need to equip them are given so freely, I was practically plastered with them by the end.

Still, I finished the game feeling positive. Partly that’s down to the excellent final boss, which brings all of the good points home to roost. I also think a large part is down to TEVI‘s sense of style. The art and character designs put in good work, but I want to give props to the worldbuilding too. This feels like a world with history. Giving us that whole world to explore then, makes the most of the genre. As I said at the start, I never felt myself wearying of it.

It’s also got a great soundtrack and I’m not just praising Dance With The Dead again. The unique tracks are great too. I still find myself humming the song for Travoll Mines. Just strolling about the world feels nice. I wouldn’t say TEVI is a triumph of style over substance, as that would be a disservice to the nice movement and exploration, but it’s an attractive package. It’s just a shame the combat can’t keep up, but there is great potential here for further improvement. The biggest shame though is that neither ‘Get Out’ nor ‘That House’ by Dance With The Dead were used. That knocked off a couple of points. Turns out my susceptibility to bribery is balanced by excessive pettiness.

(TEVI’s Steam Page)


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