Playing Tempura of the Dead is an absolute charm since it’s as if early SNES gaming was transported to the Xbox 360. Featuring an overly silly plot and characters, Tempura of the Dead has an undeniable charm that’s actually backed by some fun yet challenging gameplay that mirrors that of the genre and era it’s inspired by.
You play as the President of the United States who wields a gun and proceeds to kill zombies, need I say more? The game maintains a perfect retro look and art style without ever feeling too kitschy. Controls feel just right so the game is easy to get into. It’s only 240 Microsoft points!
At times the game is a bit too difficult for its own good. There are a few occasions when the hit detection seems a bit cheap. Given the plot and premise of the game, it would’ve been incredible if there was a co-op mode.
If you’re over the age of fifteen, chances are you probably grew up playing various side-scrolling games on the SNES as a kid. Whether it was Contra or Mega Man, its games like those that hooked a lot of people into becoming gamers for life and obviously that’s the case if you’re on this very site reading my rubbish. But after playing tons of 8bit games they quickly became a thing of the past due to the advances in technology and game design which led to bigger and better games. Most of us still yearn for the retro goodness that we grew up with but that’s a bit hard unless you still have your SNES hooked up to your TV or some emulation software on your PC. But now we have a game that perfectly encapsulates the retro gaming vibe with its combination of fun and sometimes damning gameplay with the release of Tempura of the Dead for the Xbox 360.
Tempura of the Dead may go down as the surprise hit of the year on the Xbox Live indie scene merely because it came out of nowhere. It’s difficult for Xbox Live indie games to get the attention they deserve but Tempura of the Dead just came out of nowhere, said out loud “I’m here so play me fools” and people such as me are doing just that. I think the same reason Tempura of the Dead has hit such a chord amongst certain portions of the core gaming community is because it’s like someone went back in time with a DeLorean to 1992 and found this never released game and decided to come back to modern times so we can all enjoy the goodness.
The basic jest of Tempura of the Dead is that you play as the President of the United States, who when not in pixel form looks like if someone melded Barack Obama with the anime character Lupin. Or one could make the argument that the President looks like how an anime studio would design him since it has a look similar to that of the Boondocks cartoon. President caricature discussion aside, Tempura of the Dead also lets you play as a samurai. So let’s get this straight: you play as both the President of the United States who happens to wield a machine gun along with a stoic samurai. Game of Forever right? But you know what sweetens the deal? The fact that Mr. President and Mr. Samurai take on the mass forces of the undead. Yup, this is yet another zombie game but it’s an awesome one.
Like I said earlier, Tempura of the Dead feels like it was ripped out of the SNES era in just about every way. The game itself is a simple 2D pixel based side-scrolling shooter/melee game with a minimal amount of platforming thrown in for good measure. A standard level in Tempura of the Dead is as follows: shoot zombies, do a quick jump, avoid zombies, slash zombies, blow up the big beasty and give yourself a congratulatory high-five. Staying true to the games that inspired it, Tempura of the Dead can be hard as hell at times. The difficulty doesn’t reach Contra levels of insanity, but if you’re not careful and decide to go all buck wild in the game chances are you’ll slip up and good old Mr. President and Mr. Samurai will be zombie chow.
However, with the available skills of the President and the Samurai I felt like I was a pure zombie killing badass for a good portion of the game. The President’s gun may have a slow rate of fire but it’s a terrific long range weapon and eventually as the game progresses new weapons are unlocked over time via the shop. During my time with the game I didn’t find myself playing as the Samurai too often since if not timed properly you can really open yourself up for attack since sword = slower than gun. Though, the Samurai is useful in the game as he leaps higher than Mr. President which is a necessary thing to navigate the sprawling urban landscapes presented in the game.
Playing through Tempura of the Dead in all its zombie killing glory felt like I was playing a classic side-scrolling game. That’s not to say that the game is on the same level as some of the oldies from back in the day, but it just has a certain level of polish and flair that certainly made me reminiscent of my early days as a gamer. In the past whenever a developer tried to do a retro game it usually resulted in a disaster of sorts on the control side of things since for some reason it’s hard to find that sweet spot as far as double jumps and weapon firing is concerned. Tempura of the Dead is almost flawless in its execution as the controls feel tight and don’t have any immediate lag or that occasional twitchy nature to them. Aside from a few cases of misjudging where my character would land on a ledge, killing zombies and taking on purple blob spurting bosses is a thing of ease.
But even with the solid controls, ridiculous plot and style that seems like it was lifted from a long forgotten era doesn’t mean that Tempura of the Game is a flawless product. Like I said earlier, the game can be damingly difficult at times and for gamers who haven’t played a retro game in a while it’ll definitely take a while to get acclimated with Tempura of the Dead. I also encountered moments where the enemy hit detection was a bit off. It’s somewhat hard to describe, but during certain encounters my character would bounce upon being hit by an enemy which would in turn result in my character being hit multiple times thus I would lose quite a considerable amount of lives. I only found situations like that happening every now and then and they weren’t a game ruining experience as I eventually adapted to things and tried my best now to let those damn zombies get their grubby hands on me.
Tempura of the Dead is a game that perfectly has that retro feel to it without coming across as a hipster developer trying to be hip and replicate a SNES game to come across being cool. From how the game plays, looks, sounds and every other category it’s clear that developer Wosa (only 1 dude made this game) had an intense passion that shows in every regard and it ultimately paid off since Tempura of the Dead is pure retro fun.