OK, this is something real special. How often do you get a chance to own a video game sound track on cartridge? Not often… not often at all. Almost never actually.
Have a look at the Tanglewood OST with its beautiful red (orange?) cartridge for play on your original Sega Genesis and Sega Mega Drive. This is a sight you won’t see often!
In addition to the OST cartridge you might have noticed a set of 10 Tanglewood themed Post Cards.
Normally you’d only get one random Tanglewood Post Card in every physical copy of Tanglewood the game from Matt Phillips’ Tanglewood Kickstarter campaign. The full set of ten was only available to those who purchased the collectors edition. A true gem that I could not afford at the time.
So how did I end up with a full Post Card set?
Courtesy of a very close friend who reached out to the creator Matt Phillips of Big Evil Corporation and asked if he could buy a set for me.
Not only was Matt willing but he went one step further and included a free OST cartridge as well. When I received this packaged I was truly beside myself. I like very niche things. Things that are incredibly hard for family and friends to deduce. And my buddy nailed it… in a very big way.
Thank you RamboRy!
How good is this 16-bit video game sound track by freezedream?
Oh, it’s good. It’s very good.
The very first track is the Tanglewood theme and it sets a serene and calming mood. Conjuring images of the fairy tale ending you’ll want to earn for our fury friends; Nymn and Echo.
If I had to choose, I’d say my favourite songs would be tracks #20 (So long) and #21 (Deadwood). Not only are they incredible songs in their own right but they play at a very pivotal storytelling moment in the game and they are major contributors to a very emotional moment of loss and enduring.
Below is a recording I captured of the entire OST playing from my original model 1 Sega Genesis. Have a listen!
And I can’t say for certain if it’s simply because they’re what I grew up with or if this era of games did something so right that they transcend the hardware they were made for.
I’m sure for me personally the answer is a mix of both.
At the same time it’s still easy enough to see that the classic platformer formula still really works. To the point where terms like ‘retro inspired’ and ‘pixel artwork’ have become common hooks in the modern gaming scene.
Old timers, next gen gamers and Indie developers have wholeheartedly embraced this retro gaming trend and it feels like it’s here to stay.
What still continues to surprise (and delight) this retro gamer is the desire of talented and capable developers who put the primary focus of their vision on original 16-bit hardware.
“TANGLEWOOD® is a brand new and original game for the SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis…”
“A true 16-bit, nostalgic platforming experience running on genuine SEGA hardware, that will make fans of SEGA’s golden era feel warm and fuzzy.”
“Set in a fictional world, the game follows a young creature, Nymn, who is separated from the family pack after the sun sets. Unable to get back to the safety of the underground home, Nymn must find a way to survive the night terrors and get to morning. TANGLEWOOD’s world is a dangerous one after dark, and Nymn must use skills of evasion, special abilities, traps and trickery to defeat predators.” – TangelwoodGame.com
Before I get into some finer details of the game (without spoilers) I’m going to try and find the words to express how much fun I’m having playing Tanglewood.
You play the game as a ‘fox like’ creature named Nymn who is very endearing. Nymn doesn’t have dialog and the plot is simply help Nymn survive the night and find home. Yet despite this simplicity I found myself getting attached. The more I struggled solving puzzles and after each narrow escape from the jaws of some beast the more Nymn mattered to me.
Nymn is without question the underdog when night falls. And both the mood and story telling of Tanglewood are perfection.
It’s not often that I feel such a strong emotional connection when playing any video game. And I was genuinely amazed at myself when I started to realize how invested I felt in Tanglewood.
For example, I really like Sonic the Hedgehog. There is a lot of fun to be had in the classic Sonic games. But I can slam that Hedgehog into a pit of spikes all day long and not feel the slightest emotional response except a mild annoyance that I’m going to have to do that part again.
But in Tanglewood… my heart would scream ‘Nymn must not be harmed!’.
Of course I managed to bring Nymn to an unfathomable number of savage deaths. But each time death found us I was in fact trying very hard to save poor Nymn. I found that I really, very badly, wanted to safely guide Nymn home.
Tangelwood is always engaging and you’ll always be eager to find out whats next.
Although, I promise, you’ll not be able to anticipate where this adventure is going to take you.
The drive to carry on is fueled by a game that offers both a level password save feature and checkpoints through out each Act. While Tanglewood can be challenging and difficult it is not punishing. Unlike many platformer games from Sega’s 16-bit catalog, when you return to Tanglewood for another session you’ll be picking up where you left off instead of starting right from the beginning. Which is a refreshing change and helps keeps the wonderful story center stage.
The creator, Matt Phillips, found his inspiration for Tanglewood from games like Limbo, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddyssey, Flashback and the Lion King. If you’re familiar with these games then you’ll have some idea of what to expect from Tanglewood.
But make no mistake Tanglewood has it’s own direction and a very strong identity.
An intuitive understanding of the games mechanics will guide the player while Tanglewood’s mysterious lore will slowly unfold as the player progresses.
Despite his appearance Nymn is not actually a fox, but ‘fox like’ and where this adventure takes place is not on Earth but someplace ‘Earth like’. Tanglewood is set on a world with two suns and two moons. Factions are distinguished between the day dwellers and night dwellers. While an extinct race wiped out by it’s own enslaved Djakk beasts have left behind many shacks, tree houses and contraptions that were once powered by small round creatures called Fuzzl’s. Fuzzl’s posses a varied array of powers which can be bestowed onto Nymn. Which in turn help Nymn navigate the games many puzzles and often aid in escaping the creatures of the night.
The core mechanics of Tanglewood will have you running and jumping through each level searching for Fuzzl’s that need a ‘helping paw’ and then figuring out how to return each Fuzzl to its near by nest. Once a Fuzzl is returned you’ll have earned the use of it’s power for a short time. You’ll then have to figure out how to use this power to advance through the next portion of the level.
Combine borrowed powers and the ability to interact with flues, boulders, logs, winches, creatures (both big and small), a labyrinth like forest and even a demon Tanglewood will feel fresh and terrifying every step of the way.
Check out the official Big Evil Corporation Tanglewood Trailer:
Below is my own longplay of Tanglewood recorded direct from my Sega Genesis. I managed to collect all Fireflies to unlock the good ending. And it really is the ending I needed! But don’t spoil the game for yourself. Play Tanglewood and enjoy it firsthand.
No fooling around here people. Unless COD and Battlefield are the only games you care about; Tanglewood is a must own game.
If you enjoy retro video games you owe it to yourself to pickup Tanglewood. It’s an incredibly detailed, polished and fully realized video game. And despite coming from a small Indie Developer Tanglewood is so much bigger than I could have ever dreamed.
I don’t normally put a number on the games I talk about but for Tanglewood I’m compelled to give is a full on 10/10. As far as human kinds reach for perfection can extend Tanglewood has thoroughly earned this perfect score.