On Losing Yourself in a Game, Or, Early Thoughts on TUNIC on PS5

Screenshot via Fiji

There’s something to be said about the proper hypnotic mix of score, setting and gameplay that completely transports you in a great video game.

Tunic — which PC, Mac and Xbox players have enjoyed since March of this year, and hit PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch yesterday — is one of those games.

A labor of love by indie game developer Andrew Shouldice, Tunic (formerly titled Secret Legend, is at its core an homage to the Legend of Zelda series, while also being punishingly difficult, a’la Dark Souls.

There are two twists to the game which are truly magnificent, however, and endeared me to the title immediately:

  1. The mechanics of the game are explained by an in-game instruction manual, the pages of which you find throughout the isometric landscape of the game. It’s in an indecipherable language, as are most of in game dialogue, but both are revealed to you as you collect more pages. I was reminded of my days importing games for my PlayStation and Dreamcast, trying to make sense of the gorgeous heavy stock Japanese instruction manuals, filled with bright artwork, and using guides printed out from GameFAQs to make sense of it all. Suffice to say, my nostalgia itch was scratched.
  2. The game, while very difficult, includes user toggles for your level of health (even allowing you to be invincible) and the clarity of puzzles in game. This means what can be a challenge for one gamer, can be an inviting and relaxing journey for another. Speaking as a nearly 38 year old man, I turn on my systems these days to be delighted, not to challenge myself, so this was a welcome addition.1

Wrap the package up with some slight but expressive graphics and a very chill soundtrack (which I will be undoubtedly listening to on a loop on future work days), and you have a game which has already made my Best of the Year list.

Tunic is available now on PC, Mac, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch.

  1. Yes, count me in as one of the many who would love the option in games like Dark Souls and Elden Ring to set the title to “Easy”. I miss the era of the GameShark/Action Replay. (And miss me with the whole, “BUT IF YOU GRIND OUT THESE ITEMS THE GAME IS EASY” mess.)