06 Dec, 2005

Tak: The Great Juju Challenge Review

DS Review | Tak makes his Nintendo DS debut.
When was the last time a platformer was actually just a platforming title? The recent "platformers" have consisted more of action segments, rather than the typical elements we were so used to. The Tak series (which has never really reached the popularity of characters such as Spyro and Crash Bandicoot) has been around for a little while, and was the game I came to rely on for a true platforming fix. So, is the Nintendo DS game serious competition to Mario and company or or should the developers look at taking a break?

The bad news (or good depending on your taste) is that Tak is no longer strictly just a platformer. It seems that the developers have folded and Tak: The Great JuJu Challenge now features racing, mini games and believe it or not, some platforming elements. The main single player mode relates in some way to a challenge involving a JuJu, with the narrative told through some still images that aren't exactly exciting and the story lacks guidance. So much so that after playing through the game in its entirity we're still not exactly sure what we achieved.

Tak is always lying down on the job

The main single player mode is fifteen levels long and spread out over four themed worlds. The main appeal of the Nintendo DS version of Tak: The Great JuJu Challenge is that you can swap characters at any time by tapping the bottom screen of the Nintendo DS. This means you're freely able to choose between playing as either Lok or Tak. There is a reason for swapping characters though, as each character has their own abilities. Tak is able to swim in shallow water and upgrade his magic, whereas Lok is able to move obstacles. The two character element works well, and isn't as gimmicky as we thought it would be.

In between each level there is a racing challenge with go-carts that just isn't any fun at all. Each race is one lap and winning is mandatory to progress, but if you lose then you can simply attempt the challenge again. These challenges seem really tacked on and pointless simply because they feel like filler material. However, considering there are only a few races in total they become an afterthought once you finish them.

As you play through the quest mode you actually unlock mini games, of which there are ten, each of varying quality. Once a mini game is completed in the quest mode you can return to it from the main menu screen at any time. The mini games are surprisingly fun though and we'd expected them to feel a little like more filler material. In the end they are enough of a motivation to want to fully complete the quest mode.

The combat racing is one of the lowlights of the game

With the jump to the Nintendo DS the gameplay has changed a fair bit. All of the on screen display is on the bottom screen, which makes the top screen less cluttered. In the console versions both Lok and Tak appeared on screen at once, whereas now it is a tactical decision as to which player to control. This means that whilst there are some times where you have to choose which character to control to solve a puzzle. There were some creative puzzles in Tak and the Power of JuJu for the consoles, so we're a little disappointed by the change of direction, because it just doesn't work as well.

The graphics are just incredible, and some of the best we've seen yet on the Nintendo DS. The levels are all very detailed and includes details such as rocks and some incredible water effects. The detail in the game is great and even the draw distance is to be commended because we didn't encounter any problems on that front. Even the mini games have had an extra layer of gloss, and if anything Tak pathes the way for future Nintendo DS titles. Even more surprisingly the frame-rate stays at a consistant 30 frames per second, despite the high level of detail.

The sound is fairly basic and doesn't repeat that often. As the narrative is told via text there is no real voice overs, which is disappointing as this could have fueled the story a little more. It's disappointing that the music isn't as atmospheric as we'd hoped either.

Only Tak can swim...

Completing all fifteen levels in the quest mode is simple, and doesn't take too long. Overall the game just seemed very easy, and there is no real reason to return to the single player mode. The mini games are the saving grace of the game and are the real reason you're likely to return once the quest is completed. However, the ten mini games will also get a little repetitive after awhile. It would have been good if the developers added a bit more to the single player mode and gave an incentive to play through it again, but unfortunately that is not the case.

The Tak series has been stuck in mediocrity ever since the first title, and unfortunately this game isn't going to change the perception of the Tak series. However, there are glimpses of the game that really show promise, but unfortunately these moments are few and far between. The Nintendo DS is starting to get some really good platformers, and in the christmas rush it is likely that Tak will be left behind. With a poor story, short quest mode and no real reason to come back to the game there could be better choices for those in need of a platformer for christmas.
The Score
Tak: The Great JuJu Challenge is still not a memorable platformer, it's disappointing and with a little more length it could have been a more enjoyable game.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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