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game: Tak
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: THQ
date posted: 12:00 AM Sun Jan 11th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Sun Jan 11th, 2004

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I have to admit that I had never heard of Tak before it showed up on my doorsteps, but both my kids knew him well. Ah, the power of advertising. In fact, it was high upon their Christmas wish list. I tell you, Christmas happens all year round when you review videogames for a prestigious site like gamesfirst. Now, when I popped Tak into my system, I was reminded a lot of the first time I played Rayman on the Dreamcast. That's a very good thing; however, when I was playing Rayman, so much of it felt new and innovative. Tak, on the other hand, feels like a great tribute to Rayman. The gameplay is solid enough and the premise is entertaining enough to recommend the game, yet I would likely recommend a lot of other platformers before this one.

The game starts off as a mission to restore the village's true hero to his place so that he can battle the rising evil in the land. It was a nice twist not actually being the hero of the game, but at things progress they get a little more conventional. I was surprised that there was so much attention paid to the cut scenes and the plot. I'm so used to platformer running and jumping without reason. It was kind of a nice change to have some semblance of narrative. The cut scene animation is top notch with some really nice voice acting throughout. Even your sprightly guide, Flora, gives directions with more enthusiasm and emotion than you'll find on most network dramas. Patrick Warburton, who I can't think of without blue antennae anymore, really ups the ante here.

Although this is a game that is obviously aimed at children, it's likely to frustrate really young gamers. There's a lot to learn and it's easy to get lost amid many of the larger levels. I became disoriented on a fairly frequent basis. I would always find my way eventually, but it felt like I had to run around in a few circles first. Some day, someone's going to create a platformer that gives you the illusion of freedom of movement, yet clearly lays out the goals and objectives. This game would have been immeasurably helped by a map system, or a level introduction screen a la Mario that told you exactly what you had accomplished and what was left for you to do.

Tak's weapon of choice is a blowgun/pole-vaulting wand. It took me a little while to get used to jumping with the pole-vault, but it was a well animated sequence and made for a nice change of pace. I also enjoyed the numerous cute furry and feathered animals spread throughout the game,they're more than just set dressing. Tak makes it clear that sheep are for more than shearing. I really enjoyed the use of livestock in some of the game's simpler puzzles.

One of the more novel aspects of the game is its health meter. Instead of the usual bar at the top of the screen, Tak uses the feather on his head to indicate how close you are to extinction. I'm so used to having all the corners of my screen taken up with health bars and such; it was nice to have a rather sparse screen. It actually helps to further the illusion of being in a cartoon. It's a little detail, but when you've played as many platformers and me, you tend to obsess over the details.

Probably my biggest beef with the game was the fact that there was a real lack of consequence. I never really worried about dying because whenever I did, I was miraculously resurrected right on the spot and whatever damage I had done to an enemy remained intact. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it sure made life easy for me as a reviewer. I found myself working my way through levels a lot quicker than I usually do (for as much as I love videogames, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very good at them, so it tends to take me much longer to work my way through them).

The graphics are great throughout the game. Again, there's nothing that really sets the look of Tak apart from so many of the platformers on the market, but it's obvious that time was taken to polish and refine this game before its release. I didn't notice any real collision errors. Some of the camera work was a little tricky, but I haven't encountered a 3D platformer where this isn't an issue. I wasn't a big fan of the lighting in the game. It seemed like I was in shadows more often than not, which made it a little tricky to see what was going on.

THQ's making a big deal about the chicken suit in their advertising and on the box art,it's become their hook into the game. It's a fairly entertaining addition to the game, but with all of the build up, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when it came time to dawn my feathers. It was a nice diversion, but I think it would have been a lot more effective had they kept this as a surprise. Another nice diversion was the snowboarding, or sandboarding, levels. Don't go into this expecting the depth of SSX, but as a mini game within a game, it's really quite satisfying.

I like the idea of the videogame preceding the cartoon. In some ways, it would have been easier for the folks over at Nickelodeon to wait until the cartoon hit the airwaves before releasing the game, but they were obviously confident enough in Tak's ability to stand on his own two feet as a gaming experience. And it does for the most part. The animation is nicely detailed, there are some clever puzzles throughout the game, and the controls are pretty tight. It may not be all that well suited to the very young, but Tak does everything it sets out to do. No, it doesn't really break any new ground, but it doesn't try to. I can't imagine a single person being let down with this game. Everything's right there on the box. No real surprises, but no real disappointments either.