Review: Tusker’s Number Adventure

Store page / View this review on Steam

Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect

If “malicious software” isn’t a genre unto itself yet, it really should be. The crowd of games that masquerade as one kind of game before revealing themselves to be something entirely different is growing rapidly on Steam. Tusker’s Number Adventure is one of the newest to join the lineup, and one of the most brazen about it, too. You won’t need to wait long for this one to tip its hand, and the revelations will seem familiar to anyone who’s played titles like these before. But there’s just enough charm and creativity to keep Tusker and his suspicious pals from falling into the depths of indie obscurity.

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Tusker’s going on a number adventure, yay! Here in his idyllic woodland village, he can put his counting skills to work collecting berries for Mrs. Wolf’s pie and distributing it evenly between the townsfolk. But there’s more that our adorable elephant avatar can do, and he won’t have much of a choice in the matter. Something is very wrong in Tusker’s Number Adventure, something that goes past the bright colors and simple interface, and plunges straight into the very code of the game. It’s something ominous, something threatening, and if you don’t heed the warnings, something deadly.

It’s impossible to talk much more about this title without a few modest spoilers, so I hope you’ll forgive me for turning over the first few cards of the deck. While the basis of this adventure is a bright, kiddie edutainment game, there’s some kind of malware wreaking havoc around the edges. It’s not just visual glitches and missing assets, either… you’re going to have to take action from within the game on a number of fronts, though what they are exactly I won’t say. You’re also not as alone as you might think for a single-player game, and some of those revelations will lead to a greater scope to explore than just the apple trees and cottages.

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Again, this trope of “infected programs” is becoming more common by the day, but Tusker at least puts some new spins on it. Some of the tasks you’ll take on to get past glitches are pretty inventive, and make good use of the meta aspects of the game. Dialogues are pretty good, there are some genuine surprises to be had, and there’s one big shift late in the game that has you working on several interconnected layers of the game at once, something that quite impressed me. It also wraps up in a suitably ominous way, and also offers a second, altered playthrough to flesh out parts of the story. Compared to other glitch games, Tusker offers a pretty robust package.

One run through the game should take around an hour, if not less, and not much of that time is wasted on the glitchless preamble. The only thing I’d really knock this title for is a lack of polish, with the edutainment portion itself looking more like a cheap Flash game than any of the weird motifs actual games went by. There’s decent variety to the gameplay as well but it never really goes deep, so don’t expect any serious hacking or puzzling here. For what it does, though, Tusker’s Number Adventure does it well and with enough novelty to stand out from the crowd.

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