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star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)

by Infogrames

Taz is a character I’ve always enjoyed in small doses. He really has no personality to speak of. His purpose in life consists of grunting, burping, and lots of spinning. Let us consider the Bard himself for a moment. Even though Falstaff was one of Shakespeare’s most popular characters, there was something that kept the author from centering a play on him. He belonged in the supporting ranks. Does anyone remember what happened when they tried to give Enos from the Dukes of Hazzard his own show? Disaster. Taz looks just like his cartoon incarnation, and acts just like him too, but if they had tried to develop an entire movie with him, the project would have been abandoned before the first storyboard. As the line between videogames and television/film grows thinner and thinner we need to start asking some important questions about character, setting and plot that we really didn’t need to ask when games were no more than a bodiless head chomping at dots and phantasms. But that’s a discussion for another article.

The premise of Taz: Wanted isn’t completely unimaginative, but it’s not terribly engaging either. Yosemite Sam has opened his own theme park in Tasmania and has captured Taz as his main attraction. Not one to allow himself to be caged for long, Taz breaks out and wreaks havoc on the theme park. Yosemite has put up wanted posters all over the park and environs in an attempt to hunt him down. Like an old west outlaw, you want to get rid of all the wanted posters as soon as you get to town.

Taz: Wanted is a standard platformer with all of the expected conventions. Instead of collecting stars or coins in each level, Taz munches on floating sandwiches to unlock bonus games, and you’re rewarded for smashing as many smashable objects as possible on each level. In an effort to build a little replay value into the title, there are some mini games and a multi-player level. While I applaud the inclusion of a multi-player level in this game, it feels more like an afterthought than in a game like Bomberman Generations.

As a platformer, Taz is not a horrible game, but it comes in the wake of Mario Sunshine. I know that I should judge a game based on its own merits rather than hold it up against others, but I just can’t help myself. Taz’s range of actions and movement are limited at best. Jump, spin, burp and spit. You also have the ability to wear Taz disguises which add a little bit of variety to the gameplay, but not enough to warrant a strong recommendation. The controls in the game are more than adequate. I didn’t really detect any moments of unresponsiveness or lag. After the short training modules at the beginning of the game, you’ll be belching in no time.

The cel shading is adequate, but not spectacular. This is a game that might have been pulled off on the Psone or N64. I generally love cell shading, but in the post Jet Set Radio Future world, it sometimes comes off as almost lazy rather than innovative. Cell shading doesn’t beg for accurate lighting effects, or careful attention to color and design. It’s blocky by nature, which can be a good thing at times, but sometimes, like in this game, it can just be blasť.

When I look at the seemingly endless hours of gameplay promised by a game like Mario Sunshine, I have a hard time recommending a game that’s replay value is so limited. This is not a game that you’ll keep going back to again and again once you’ve completed it.

I have a fond place in my heart for the Loony Tunes characters. They are cartoons that grew up with me. Unlike He-Man, GI Joe, or the Transformers, I never outgrew Bugs or Daffy. It felt like every time I watched them, I discovered something new. With such rich source material, I would have hoped that a little more time and care would have been placed into a franchise that has given me so much. I thought I liked Taz more than I did. His utter one dimensionality makes Carl on the Simpsons seem like a fully fleshed out character (but then again, I think Carl’s the greatest).

The technology is there. Videogames are at a point where they have the potential to move, involve, provoke thought, and excite us in all the same ways that movies do. In fact, because of the interactivity inherent in games, they can move us more. I’m not willing to settle for games that use out dated models to appeal to the masses. Asteroids was a great game in much the same way that films of the penny arcade era were great films. Space Invaders was a necessary first step; it’s not the destination. We need to get beyond the superficial aspects of the games and get into the heart of storytelling and the potential of interactivity. Until we do, videogames will continue to have even less respect than prime time sit-coms.

Taz is available on the Gamecube and X-Box, and there is no discernable difference between its two incarnations. As I mentioned, this is a game that could have been pulled off on systems with much less computing power and probably would have been more satisfying on platforms where our expectations were inherently lower.

Jason Frank   (11/01/2002)

Snapshot

Ups: Looney Tunes characters; some decent cartoon humor.

Downs: Graphics; gameplay; Taz is no leading man.

Platform: Xbox, Gamecube