On the surface, TEVI seems to be a similar title to CreSprit and GameYue’s previously-released Rabi-Ribi. And in fact, TEVI takes a lot from its predecessor with a similarly rabbit-themed girl protagonist heavily influenced by the Touhou Project series with a blend of the Metroidvania and bullet-hell genres.
After the release of Rabi-Ribi, the indie scene has seen several games that share the same moniker of a 2D pixel art action-adventure game that also happens to combine bullet-hell and Metroidvania gameplay mechanics. The fusion was a fresh new direction for the genre, but similar entries have been released since, adding and altering the formula in many ways, with games such as Touhou Lunar Nights and The Knight Witch coming to mind.
TEVI marks a return to form for CreSprit and GameYue, bringing back the rabbit-themed Metroidvania experience once again. Only this time with beautiful pixel art, catchy tunes, and an even stronger emphasis on challenging combat encounters. In this hands-on preview, we’ll be looking at the demo version of TEVI, comparing what’s been changed up from its predecessor, and taking a look at some of the mechanics players can expect in the full release.
▍TEVI Hands-On Preview Video
▍Explore the Fluffy World of Az!
TEVI takes place on the extensive continent of Az, inhabited by the three primary races, humans, animal-eared beastkin, and bio-mechanical automata called Magitech. In Az, magic and technology coexist, dating back to ancient times. As the name suggests, players will take the role of Tevi, a wrench-brandishing engineer who is accompanied by Celia the angel, and Sable the devil. Outside of seemingly following the same goals of searching for rare artifacts known as Gears, the game doesn’t dwell on their backstory much, as the player is thrown into a dungeon, tasked with locating their first upgrade.
The demo version of TEVI makes it clear from the offset that the player’s adventure is confined to a snippet of a bigger story, with Tevi being explained to by her cat-eared friend Vena how she’s in one. The game gives a general look at how she jives with her peers, but otherwise keeps the narrative on the back burner.
Each key character in the story has their splash art besides their in-game sprite form, beautifully illustrated by Einlee who is most known for her work as the character designer for the RWBY series. The overall soundscape for the game is also a feast for the ears with tracks being produced by 3R2 and TRIODUS, who have composed for rhythm games such as Muse Dash and Cytus.
▍2D Metroidvania Exploration in a Fantasy World
The TEVI demo puts players through six different maps worth of area to explore. While the exploration is relatively simple, the regions present several obstacles that each require key upgrades and sometimes you will need to solve puzzles to get at the prizes dotted around the map. Progression was kept relatively linear, though some treasures required backtracking after picking up their required action upgrades.
Several aspects of the platforming/exploration may irk some players. In particular is how just like Rabi-Ribi, there is no option to fall through platforms. Instead, terrains you would typically perceive as a platform you could drop down frequently turn out to be one-way trips or blockades requiring a detour. Another sticking point would be how the map has invisible walls that must be walked through once with no visual indicators, making some collectibles hard to search for without wall-hugging techniques.
▍Combo Heavy Combat With Bullet-hell Twist
As one of its biggest selling points, combat in TEVI can be done at close range or long range. Close-range attacks are executed by Tevi with her magical wrench, while her two familiars, Celia and Sable, take care of long-range engagements. Even in the confines of a demo, Tevi’s move set is robust with her ability to perform combo variants that branch off different button presses and situations.
Attacks combo off one another and feel satisfying to pull off, especially in boss fights, where enemies can be momentarily staggered by depleting their break meter making them completely vulnerable and unable to attack, while smaller bosses can even be juggled like common enemies.
While Tevi can’t aim her shots like Rabi-Ribi protagonists Erina and Ribbon, she instead calls upon the powers of Celia and Sable. The two are similar in their capabilities but are differentiated by the kinds of upgrades they get. For example, the devil Sable gravitates toward more offensive buffs and multi-hitting projectiles, while the angel Celia leans toward defensive buffs that mitigate incoming damage and one hard hit.
The Core Expansion move serves as the game’s equivalent to a bomb in a bullet-hell game, allowing you to clear most incoming bullets all the while granting different buffs depending on the orbiter Tevi equipped. I say “most” bullets, as some projectiles can travel scot-free, though the game doesn’t seem to be able to visually tell you which bullet can or cannot be blocked.
Interestingly deviating from its predecessor, the game eschews the Stamina Point (SP) meter from the formula, allowing Tevi to perform moves without the need to wait for the gauge to come back up. To newly penalize players for spamming melee attacks for too long, the game introduces the Outline Statuses instead. Color-coded by a yellow or red outline around their contours, enemies can now go in and out of the submissive state in which they are susceptible to hit-stun and other knockback effects, or the more troublesome dominant state in which they gain super armor and become uninterruptible.
While the system seems sound, the execution of the mechanics in TEVI has a learning curve that must be surmounted first, as you can put the hurt on, but so can the enemy. Both regular grunt skirmishes and boss fights typically take on a more methodical pacing of finding openings between attacks and whaling on them before they reel up another attack that puts them in their dominant state. While this steadier pace of combat is highly engaging and fun to pull off against enemies, thanks to Tevi’s assortment of combo tools, she does find trouble when taking on more than one enemy.
The game also requires players to familiarize themselves with the numerous buffs and debuffs that can be applied to Tevi and her foes. From the equipped sigils to the various activated buffs that proc during battles.
While the combat can feel lofty in some later encounters, the demo presents an overall graceful evolution from the formula shown in Rabi-Ribi. Each battle will challenge players to juggle the two aspects of weaving through enemy attacks while making the best out of each opening by racking up long attack strings.
▍Power Up Through Exploration
Exploration while feeling gimmicky at certain points, is integrated into the gameplay loop of TEVI, as Sigil upgrades and Bunny Potions that dot the map provide stat boosts to alleviate the difficulty to challenge bosses. The game essentially implores players to experiment with their Sigil combos or explore more of the map to seek out upgrades to level the odds against formidable foes.
The perk-style Sigils make up a considerable bulk of the collectible items for different advantages when equipped. For example, some can alter the charged projectile fired by the orbiters into beams that ricochet, while others alter Tevi’s moveset when hitting a certain combo rating. When hitting a wall in difficulty, it seemed like a good idea to review what each Sigil did and to find synergistic combinations that would better suit the particular situation.
Your level dictates the amount of Sigils the player can slot in, as the capacity count goes up per level. This does limit the number of upgrades Tevi can equip at a time, meaning the more minute powerups may get put to the way-side, especially accounting for the fact that the more powerful Sigils cost more points to slot in.
The multicolored Bunny Potions serve as the game’s permanent upgrades that enhance Tevi’s basic stats across the board. They come in five different colors and are hidden all around the map. Other sources like the item shop found in one of the cities in the demo also offer extras should you need them.
Other than the permanent upgrades to her actions such as higher jumps, air dashes, and sliding, Tevi can also level up through combat, further extending her combo strings and abilities. Furthermore, enemies will occasionally drop materials that can be crafted into consumable foods or stat increase items. This is vital for exploration, as munching on these treats is your only means of healing outside of hitting up a save point.
While none of the sigils and potions are technically necessary for progression, these upgrades along with the level-up system open up different playstyles that can help out in boss fights that can be extremely challenging at times.
▍TEVI Offers an Alternative Spin on the Genre
TEVI regales players with a game laser-focused on iterating on its unique Metroidvania formula that blends bullet-hell sensibilities into the mix. Character customization via the sigils opens up different ways of tackling the formidable boss encounters, and the smooth melee combat animations make for responsive, tight, but ultimately fair challenges that truly test your mettle.
In the meantime, enjoyers of CreSprit and GemaYue’s previous Metroidvania, Rabi-Ribi can now download the TEVI-themed collaboration costumes for free. The DLC pack adds new costumes for Erina and Ribbon based on characters from the upcoming title. While TEVI has no release date set in stone (other than that it’ll be coming soon in the third quarter of this year), the developers encourage fans to stay tuned for more information to come!
This hands-on preview is based on a Steam demo code provided by the publisher. TEVI will launch in Q3 of 2023 on PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.