When looking at Tamarin‘s debut trailer, fans of classic 3D platformers from the Nintendo 64 will know the type of game they’re in for. Coming from Chameleon Games, the self-published throwback platformer is a tribute made in collaboration with former developers from Rare. Aiming to recapture the same stylings of games from yesteryear, Tamarin channels the same vibe found from games like Donkey Kong Country 64 and Jet Force Gemini, the latter of which showed somewhat of a darker edge to Rare’s 3D action-platformers.
Taking on the role of the titular Tamarin, a new-world monkey that resembles a squirrel, you’re tasked with defending your home from bug-like invaders seeking to take the land for themselves. This conceit entails exploring different levels and areas of your homeland, while also utilizing weapons acquired from the invaders to fight back. While this concept seems to be treading on well-worn ground, that’s a part of the appeal that game director Omar Sawi is going for.
We recently had the chance to speak with the development team working on this throwback 3D platformer. During our chat, Sawi talked about his collaboration with former Rare level designer Richard Vaucher and lead composer David Wise, and how it pushed them to approach this throwback a bit differently.
“So yeah, I started the game and what I wanted was for it to not be too much in one box,” said Sawi. “Rare had these games that were very cute and charming. Yet some other platformers and shooters they made felt different. Tamarin is trying to capture a bit of that spirit. We’re trying to have something that doesn’t necessarily cater just to kids, but also has a wider appeal and has a bit of an edge to it.”
In recent years, there have been several games that have sought to emulate the same style and atmosphere from classic Rare games. These games include 2017’s A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee–the latter of which was developed by Playtonic Games, a collective of former Rare developers. Whether it’s the upbeat musical tracks or the somewhat self-aware humor, these games often try to evoke nostalgia for an era that reveled in exploring a colorful world filled with knick-knacks and other collectibles. And Tamarin is no exception.
Wise, who’s worked on games like the original Battletoads and the Donkey Kong Country series, is also responsible for one of the most iconic themes of the Super Nintendo music library: Donkey Kong Country 2’s Stickerbrush Symphony. While working on Tamarin, Wise spent time revisiting themes from Rare’s earlier years and has a particular view on why people still have an attachment for these this style of games.
“There are certainly still people that like the kind of nostalgia element to it,” Wise said. “It can remind them of when they were a bit younger, and jumping back into games like that. Hopefully, Tamarin can take it a little bit further, as it’s revisiting the genre and stretching it a bit more. I think there’s a lot to be said for that kind of thing at the moment. Again, there are only so many styles of game. So it’s nice to jump in and jump out of different styles and different genres. I’d say both myself and [Banjo-Kazooie composer] Grant Kirkhope are very fortunate in the fact that we’ve made a lot of games. We’ve been making music for so long; it’s almost like we’ve set the expectations for the genre [of platformers]. Fortunately, a lot of people look to our style of music to evoke a kind of video game feel, which has worked out quite well for us over the years.”
Former Rare level designer Richard Vaucher also chimed in, adding that there’s an appealing quality to the setting of Tamarin. A clear focus the developers had when making Tamarin was that they wanted to keep things interesting for players looking for a more familiar experience.
“With Tamarin, we’re mixing different kinds of Rare games,” Vaucher said. “It’s adding a bit of variety to that familiar experience, and not just sticking to one type of game in terms of style. I guess for my part; it’s mostly about the visuals, or like players discovering the new environments, and seeing what they think of the animations of the main character. But in my view, it’s about the exploration [of that world]. I’m quite excited to see what players make of it, like discovering the new levels and seeing what’s there.”
Set for release this year, Tamarin wears its influences on its sleeve, trying to emulate what classic Rare did best during the SNES and Nintendo 64 eras. We’re still in the dark about how much variety is to be had in Tamarin’s adventure. However, it does look to keep its focus on bringing back that particular charm from yesteryear. Considering how much Rare’s imprint on the platforming genre has endured over the years, perhaps there’s still room for more experimentation with this particular genre.