Tuffy The Corgi And The Tower Of Bones
How many times do you have to die before you feel like you've given a game a fair shot? That's the quandary I faced while trying to review Tuffy the Corgi and the Tower of Bones. Unlike other indie darlings that celebrate the challenge and skill of yesteryear's classics, Tuffy is a different breed of platformer – a punishing homage that demands a level of perfectionism and patience only speedrunners possess, leaving most gamers stuck on the ground floor.
Tuffy's goal is to make it to the top of the titular tower while collecting 108 bones along the way, and you control the cutesy canine with a two-button control scheme that mixes traditional platforming with the endless runner genre. Tuffy ceaselessly bounds forward with the happy-go-lucky stubbornness you might expect from a corgi pup; pressing the left shoulder button causes him to switch directions, while pressing the right shoulder button causes him to jump. The initial jankiness of the atypical control scheme slowly gives way to a satisfying platforming rhythm and subtle nuances like walljumping emerge, but not before driving countless corgis off the cliff of an old-school learning curve.
Once you realize that everything kills Tuffy with one hit and that dying always resets your progress and starts you back at the beginning of the tower, you give up on the foolish completionist goal of collecting all 108 bones. Instead, you focus on just trying to make it to the top. After hours of further dying fully conveys the massive scope of the singular and increasingly difficult level, you give up your dream of making it to the top, and your sole goal becomes playing the game for as long as you can stand it.
Which brings me back to the initial question: How many times do you have to die before you decide a game isn't for you?
I continued thinking about that question as I slowly eked out progress with each soon-to-be-dead corgi. The further I got in the tower of bones, the longer each run took, as I tried desperately to recall and avoid every deadly trap. Reaching new sections of the tower became rarer as I remade old, frustrating mistakes and slowly learned how to navigate new traps. After hours of play, 161 deaths, and hundreds of bones collected and lost, I was ready to call it quits.
Tuffy encapsulates everything I loved and hated about video games as a kid. The endearing, pixelated art style is as charming as your favorite SNES classic, and the platforming controls perform admirably (even if I'd still give Tuffy's right paw for direct control over his movement). At the same time, Tuffy's unforgiving design and reliance on rote memorization harken back to a time when I had nothing better to do than memorize tricky platforming sections. There's a reason I've moved on from those types of games, and why most developers have too.
Despite my unabashed love of punishing retro platformers like Spelunky and Super Meat Boy (not to mention an equal fondness for adorable corgis), I never warmed to Tuffy. Unless you're obsessed with speedrunning (and are just obsessive in general), this is one stray dog you shouldn't play with.