Review: Rock-a-bye Taky on the mountain top...
When the staff glows the enemies will drop...
When the barrel breaks the opening Tak will install...
And down will come its wood shards, blockade in all.
He's baaaaaack! Who? What? Where? When? Why? Oh, and how? Tak. The game. On multiplatforms. This October. Because THQ wants your money! How, you ask? With the franchise setup, all THQ and developer Avalanche Software had to do was create a brand-new platform basis for Tak. Of course, you probably already knew the answer to these questions if you were a loyal Tak follower last year. Yep, Tak has returned for a second go-around with this Nickelodeon-based platform character. And like was noted last year, Tak does bring a certain freshness to the platform genre when it's needed the most. Tak, a scrawny doofus of a boy who was turned into a savior of his Pupunanu village. Now, Tak's back and ready for his next adventure like all platform heroes always are. Introducing the one and only platform sequel of a game that has Tak in its name, this is Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams.
You all remember Tak, don't you? Short tribesman kid with face paint, bowl cut hairdo, large schnoz... Well, if these descriptions aren't ringing any bells, let me point out that his people were in trouble. The overly jealous Tlaloc transformed every last Pupunanu person into a living, breathing sheep when he was denied the right to be the village's next High Shaman. That was of course all but Jibolba, the rightful heir to the shaman throne, and Tak, the unlikely "ultimate" hero. So with Tlaloc defeated in Tak's arduous journey past, Tak has become the known protector of his people. But, one question on everyone's mind is, "Why the heck has Tak been unable to wake from his dream for sixteen days in a row?" The answer is given to Tak through a dream spirit of some kind, who informs Tak of the task at hand: that he's to rescue a princess locked away in an evil guardian's prison, or else he cannot escape from the recurring dreams that have for the time being ensnared his vision.
It comes of no surprise really that a second Tak game is upon us this year. After all, last year THQ's Tak and the Power of Juju brought a colorful character to the picture in a time like this when the platform genre is limited but to a few notable franchises. Tak, though, brought players last year some interesting innovations -- such as coercing with animal inhabitants of Tak's island, to wearing the chicken suit and chickening out. One year later, Tak 2 offers some of that same stuff that the original Tak game had (minus the chicken wear). Additionally, Tak 2 expands on these familiar aspects. And as what one would expect, Tak will experience some unseen qualities that weren't available to his travels the first time around.
One of the better differences that's realized in Tak 2 is that the type of intersecting island that Tak explored before is now compressed into a more linear route for Tak to follow. Not that the actual construct for his progress is replaced, but the symmetry in which Tak had to return and retread certain access points is now gone. Instead, Tak's experience here is setup so that he finds a fresh jungle gym to swing, bounce, and get tossed across every time. In fact, Tak 2 doesn't even return to the levels of the first game. And the reason for this is because Tak will have to intervene in not one but two entirely contrasting environments. Across the island Tak knows and lives in and a plane of dreams, Tak must embrace two distinct areas where the challenges and enemies all differ. The way it works is that when Tak enters a new level starting point, he'll make his way around the path that leads him to the finale. Ending and then beginning from there on, a new path will open before him every time he finally completes a different section of the game. In continuing this process, levels are filtered back and forth between Tak's normal world and then dive into the land of dreams. Where Tak will have certain goals and abilities applying to him in one district, he'll have others that may exist or not in the next.
Take for instance Jibolba, the Pupunanu elder Shaman, who this time tags along with Tak on his quest forward. Stop what you're probably thinking, and then picture Jibolba as having transformed himself into a flea. Then imagine Jibolba aiding Tak in his island home world by getting spit out of Tak's mouth and onto the bodies of animals you can once again exchange passing motions with. Once more these beasts of the wild will serve Tak to open up entry points he could not have on his own. Often Tak will come across somewhere where say a bee hive, a skunk, and a bear resolves a formula for making a leap to higher ground. Bears love honey, if Winnie the Pooh has taught us anything. But let's say you put the bear elsewhere away from the swarming bee hive, and he'll become unaware of the gooeyness leaking from the bottom of this sweet pot. Bears also hate the smell of skunks, if well...I guess you could assume they do. I mean, who really gets a kick out of sniffing that foul aroma? The question still on the table then is...how do we put the skunk, the bear, and the bee hive together? First, the idea is to get Tak stunk up. This is where Jibolba can come in handy. Firing Jibolba at animals gives Tak two options. The first is to bite them and get them riled up, and the second is to put them to sleep. If catching up to a running skunk is a problem, Tak can aim Jibolba at the skunk and put the moving critter to sleep, thereby giving Tak enough time to run up to it, whack it, and then get himself sprayed. Once the repulsive stink hovers around Tak, he can head over to the bear and chase it away from its peaceful idleness. The bear will turn over to the bee hive and lay back down and stomach up, permitting Tak to hop on its belly up, up, and away.
That of course is just one tiny fraction of how Tak can tame these types of creatures. Jibolba is actually handier when it comes to dealing with other kinds of animals like perched squirrels who pose a threat to Woody enemies (wooden warriors Tak will encounter in the real world), when in one example the Woody things stand post at a draw bridge of sorts. Shooting Jibolba at the squirrel and biting it will drive the animal crazy, and turn its acorn-spitting attention toward that of the Woodies, making the drawbridge drop down. Another example of this comes at a time when Tak must cross an alligator infested swamp. Diving in the deep water is a no-no. Go in there, and you're gator meat. Launch Jibolba at each individual sheep on the gigantic hamster-like wheels though, and you'll get them running in a sequence where individual hidden platforms will ascend from underneath the swamp water below. When not in a conscious state of mind, Tak will find himself dozing off into a dream state from time to time in the story where the screen blurs, the land masses Tak is on turns a purplish color, and a guiding light is Tak's only contact here. Enemies transform over from your typical Woody into clay blobs and demonic forms -- such as flying, head sucking things to lavender energy tossing monsters. Usually the main goal throughout Tak's dream consists of destroying prickly vines that represent the power of an evil dream inhabitant, and also beating all enemies in individual spots so as to make a set of platforms appear for Tak to jump on and get to the next area. Another task though comes in the form of placing Tak in a moveable energy catapult, letting Tak drive around to defeat any serpent-like tentacles that he comes across.
Yet, most of what's been explained here are just a small variety of what's in store for Tak. Tak will also find ways down rapid rivers, dodging boulders, logs, and even enemies in both means of barrel and canoe. At one point Tak will have to carry explosive barrels past switch activated dart booby traps. And from multiple other points, Tak will swing across vines, slide down zip lines, and even show enemies how tough he is with the mighty weapons and abilities his ever-growing arsenal carries. Starting out with a staff weapon called a thwark, Tak can whack enemies with ease in his old ways. But over time, Tak will be instructed from his mentors (Jibolba and a mysterious light source in the dream world) how to perform devastating combos, and get some handy tips in the process. Certain Woody enemies carry shields. Using a spin attack (square + circle) is one method of busting through these enemy walls. Another way is by powering up Tak's staff (by holding down square) to break through the lines more easily. Several other Juju powers will enable Tak to enact properties that harm all those around him (like hopping into the air to pound out an energy field). Then there are items like the bola weapon (which can be used to grapple Tak across gaps and can tie up enemies) and Tak's dream shaker staff (which uses Juju powers of its own) to think about, and the ability to transfer Tak's body into various animal incarnations too.
Much later in the game, Tak will learn how to become different animals of his world just like Jibolba became the flea. By manipulating these animal representations, Tak can access certain level passages that deny for his human form to challenge. For example, devolving Tak from boy to squirrel propels his body into the air and lets him glide across greater gaps using a series of steam pipes. Becoming a boar or even a bear just as well, Tak will have to try his life with these changes as he does without them. Apparently it would seem that between the animal shifting, the enemy onslaughts, and all the many platform puzzles, that there'd be some tough times ahead. And there are. At least there is. Tak 2's general difficulty changes from time to time. Enemy encounters will get harder as you get farther into the game naturally, as you'll start out facing smaller things, and later toughen up against brutes that can blast you or smash their spinning mace into the ground to give Tak time to attack from the back. Jumping objectives, like the enemies, start off more simple and get rough at certain points. Lots of the level designs are clever in nature, but sometimes they get to be extremely painful when it comes to specific sets of feats Tak must complete. Not a toughie in the sense like, "Oh man, that looks hard!" More like, "I've tried this single jump fifty times already and I'm still not making it -- ARGH!" One such incident occurs when you're tasked with jumping off a cliff, onto a bear stomach, and latching onto a cliff ledge very high up. It may look easy. However, when you find out that only targeting the stomach, double jumping into the air, and luckily (keyword: luckily) floating over to the side of the cliff gets Tak to be high enough to touch it (which is the hard part), the repeated attempts get you fired up. Partially, the problem has to do with Tak's jumping abilities not being the most fluent you could say. The camera at times can also be a problem, as it's able to fixate itself in such a way that it'll misconstrue the right perception in cases like this.