Released: September 2014
Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac
Available on: Game Jolt
Tess is a freeware 2D run-and-gun platformer by GIRakaCHEEZER, of OneShot fame. The game focuses on Tess, a little girl who had a bad day, and her making up with her friend Milly. Things don’t go well when the two girls meet at the lookout post.
The game draws inspiration from Cave Story, with its simple yet upgradable HP system, the art style, platforming mechanics and odd setting. Tess isn’t a long game with at most one hour of gameplay without achievements, but it might take longer if you choose to pursue the harder ones!
The gameplay is the usual fare for a run-and-gun, with the difficulty stemming mostly from enemy placement and the usually sloped terrain. The game begins with Tess having 5HP and a simple pistol that shoots in a straight line. As you play the game, you gain new weapons as well as experience to raise Tess’s max HP. While the game doesn’t include an auto-save feature, save points are plentiful and allow you to restore Tess’s health. Enemies frequently drop experience and health, so there are always chances to recover if you’re low on health. For a short and free game, the platforming kept me hooked from beginning to end, utilizing unique level concepts like wrapping screens or enemies that turn into walls when killed.
The art style is interesting and ties well with the game’s plot, with each character wearing a mask expressing the character’s dominant emotion. None of the characters take off their masks, which makes them intriguing and mysterious. The music emphasizes the sad aspect of the story with its calmness and slow pace, though it wasn’t all that special – you have the option of buying it from Bandcamp if you like!
The achievements are the most challenging aspect of the game. Some of them are obvious fares like getting the normal ending or finding a secret weapon, but others are less unforgiving, with one for beating the game without getting any health upgrades, and another for beating the game’s only boss without getting hit! You can sync your achievements with your GameJolt account.
Tess is a decent free platformer with melancholic themes and a varied level of difficulty depending on how you play the game. Inspired by Cave Story, the game isn’t too hard and gives you a lot of opportunities to recover, while also providing you achievements should you choose to challenge yourself!