A lot of games claim to be love letters to the Sega Mega Drive's era of 2D platforming, but Big Evil Corporation has taken this a step further by actually making their game Tanglewood in cartridge form for the Mega Drive, a console you might instead know as the Genesis, depending on where you're from. Yes, as well as Steam this game is actually living the dream of being a Mega Drive platformer, albeit a few decades too late, and as you might expect this is all reflected once you dust off the console (in our case, our PC) and boot the game up.
If you cast your minds back to that era of gaming when there were far fewer buttons and one less dimension to deal with, things were simpler in terms of their premise, and so it is here. You wake up one day as a creature called Nymn who is separated from her family, and it's only through progressing through these different levels that you can eventually find your way back to them. Even then we found most of that information out from the game's website.
Of course this involves jumping from place to place, but despite Nymn's ability to curl into a ball when she jumps, this has a key difference to famous Mega Drive icon Sonic the Hedgehog in that you can't directly attack. All the enemies you encounter in the world will therefore have to be avoided for fear of instant death, and you'll have to navigate around them using your wits to solve the game's various puzzles. This also makes it a damn sight slower than Sonic, but not everything needs to be a rollercoaster ride through Green Hill Zone, after all.
By making you so vulnerable, Big Evil Corporation does a great job at making you feel like a lonely creature trying to survive rather than a cool hero mascot (there are no '90s catchphrases, don't worry). You're always on the run towards your family or away from danger, and the sinister music when the big enemies come out really makes you feel the pressure, especially when contrasted to the lovely woodland soundtrack you get for the most part. In fact, the music as a whole is a huge selling point, and evoke memories of an older style of games while still keeping things new.
Another key part of the whole experience is the little balls you have to roll around the levels, as it's only by getting these underneath a lamp that you can activate various powers, subsequently changing Nymn's colour. Yellow, for instance, lets you glide; green stops time and prevents danger; and blue lets you ride some of the other enemies. All of this is obviously necessary to progress, and helps keep things fresh rather than simply platforming from ledge to ledge.
What's also appreciated is that it's never too difficult to find out where to go; the path ahead never takes that long to figure out. Usually the levels are limited in scope and size (given the team worked off of original Sega development tools, most likely), and so with a little exploration and some brainpower each section can be bested. With modern comforts like regular checkpoints and no lives too, at least on Steam, it's far less frustrating than it other games of its ilk.
Saying that, it does come with all the limitations of a Mega Drive game, in that it's very basic and won't be for everyone. 2018 gamers are accustomed to different kinds of platformers these days, so as long as you're a Mega Drive fans and know what those kinds of games are, you should be fine, but don't come in expecting a retro-inspired game with modern bells and whistles; this is really authentic, and at times a bit slow. In fact, it often takes just that bit too long when you die to get started back up again, which was a little annoying.
What it does incredibly nicely though is bring these old-school environments to life, as you work your way through the forest which slowly changes in terms of the sky in the background, before then coming to new areas like dark caverns. It all looks wonderful and nostalgic at the same time, and who knows what kind of things you'll bump into in these places. You might even meet some friends along the way...
All in all though Tanglewood sets out to deliver us a Mega Drive game, and it does that successfully, sticking to the tropes and styles of two decades ago. It might not be for everyone's tastes for that very reason, but it's got a lot to look at, collectibles to find, cute characters to see, and plenty of lovely environments. It's even got that iconic spookiness you'll remember from games like Ecco the Dolphin and Sonic, and if that isn't a testament to how faithfully the Mega Drive spirit has been recreated, we don't know what is.