I'd have forever hated this Xbox Game Pass gem if it wasn't for this one menu option
When at first you don’t succeed, just cheat.
I wasn’t vibing with Tunic. That actually is me being too kind on the game. I simply wasn’t enjoying it, at all. I’d seen the praise, heard the GOTY chat – even from our own Dom – and yet there was I, tapping buttons on my Steam Deck wondering how on earth people loved such an irritating, obtuse, time-waster of a game. I’d decided Tunic, a darling of Xbox Game Pass no less, wasn’t for me. I uninstalled it twice, simply being unable to get into this claimed-to-be modern classic.
Tunic looks gorgeous. Ever since it was first revealed it was on my radar as a game I’d have to play on release. Like a retro Zelda (but made today), its art-style oozes childhood whimsy, yet it’s not kiddy. The soundtrack seemed incredible, too, and the little of the game I saw in trailers suggested there was a great mystery to unravel. Boy, was I excited to play Tunic.
But then I did.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever bounced so hard off a game in my entire life. The sense of disappointment reached levels usually reserved for when I realise a game I liked the look of is actually another survival sim. “Oh, I’ve got to cut wood have I? Got to make a bandage out of seaweed and the floss found in the baggage of the dead plane passengers scattered on the beach?” I’m out!
But why did I rebound so hard? It’s simple, really: I found the entire experience of playing Tunic to be an absolute chore. There are multiple parts to this that I’ll explain briefly below:
- What the hell am I meant to be doing? Perhaps I’m just extremely dumb, but I’ve managed to navigate my way through every other game I’ve played in the 30+ years I've been playing video games. So why is Tunic’s world designed like every pathway has been hidden by someone determined to ruin your day?
- The map is infuriating – Yes, it’s lovely and twee to have a instruction booklet that is built up as you play, its secrets being revealed, etc, but just show me a map that connects all areas of the world together, please!
- Why are these enemies so bloody annoying and the combat so poor? Why make such a gorgeous world that begs to be explored (and properly pored over, in truth) if you have combat that sucks all the fun out the room? Then die and find your ghost corpse stuff just doesn’t fly with me. Get rid.
That’s the lot, really, but it’s how these elements fuse into a stinky lump of toxic slime that makes the whole experience grate. I was playing Tunic and wondering if the game even wanted me to be enjoying myself. To be clear, I definitely wasn’t.
As I tend to do, I took to Twitter to moan and hope others could share in my misery. A few people did. I tried the game a few more times after this, got nowhere, and once again aired my mean-sounding thoughts about what I was told over and over again was a lovely game. I felt bad, but I needed to know I wasn’t alone.
And then someone gave me the answer. Inside the accessibility options there is a “No Fail Mode.” This, to anyone from the past, like myself, is God Mode with another name. You can’t die. With one hidden option activated, Tunic suddenly opened up, like the Leeds United defence in a crucial Premier League match.
What a difference being able to wander the world without fear makes to this game. In truth, I needed a small pointer from a former colleague, but from then on I was good. I’d potter about the world, looking in every nook and cranny, squeezing down every out-of-sight pathway, venturing into every darkened cave entrance.
I started to piece together the instruction booklet, unravel some of the secrets, and did so without banging my head repeatedly against an unfair boss fight or falling at the feet of a forgotten enemy. I acquired multiple new abilities, experimented with pick-ups, found hidden items, and just soaked in every last bit of the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Tunic has some big problems (the map is high on my list of terrible design choices), but how this game went from “this is the most overrated tedium I've ever come across,” to “Damn, I’m really sad this is all over,” is really quite remarkable.
If you gave up on Tunic for any of the reasons above, give No Fail Mode a try. I did, and now I can say I put 25+ hours into one of the best games on Game Pass (also on PC, Switch, PS platforms).