Matt Keller
14 May, 2005

Tak 2: Staff of Dreams Review

PS2 Review | The Staff of Dreams provides a great cure for insomnia.
If you've ever had the (mis)fortune of having to sit through a marketing lecture in your time, then you'll know how much marketing people love to ramble on about branding - especially about the importance of branding, as well as successes and failures in the area. Last year's release of Tak and the Power of Juju is a fine example of how to create a cross media brand, with the game selling over a million units worldwide (and scoring a generous 7 from PALGN). To maintain the strength of a new brand such as Tak, you have to be quick with the sequel, which is why now have Tak 2: Staff of Dreams in our hot little hands, just over 12 months later.

Tak is now considered to be saviour of the Pupanunu people after defeating Tlaloc, restoring the Moon Juju, and preventing his fellow villagers from spending the rest of their days as sheep. After waking up from a lengthy nap (16 days, despite every effort of Jibulba and Lok to disturb his slumber), Tak reveals to his mentor that he has had recurring dreams about a quest to rescue a princess from a demented dream guardian. Upon hearing Tak's story, Jibulba decides that they must visit his brother, JB, who is something of a guru when it comes to dream interpretation. Unfortunately for Tak, not everything in the dream world is as it seems.

Tak gets ready to put the hurt on some foes

Tak gets ready to put the hurt on some foes
From the game's outset, it is fairly easy to deduce that very little has changed since Tak's last outing, with the focus of gameplay aimed squarely at straightforward platforming and light puzzle solving. The major change is that the item collection elements of the first title have been toned down – which is a step in the right direction, given that the sheer amount of collection required in the first game held it back. Collection is still a part of the game, but most of the stuff is now optional, usually unlocking bonus content outside of the game.

Tak still retains all of the usual platform game abilities, but Avalanche Software have included a few unique (and humourous, depending on your level of maturity) moves to spice things up. The most frequently used ability is the Jibulba flea, where Tak throws his mentor (who is in flea form for plot-based reasons) towards an animal, after which the player is provided with an option to bite the animal, or put them to sleep – as you could probably guess, this makes up a lot of the puzzles in the earlier parts of the game. Other abilities are more general purpose powers which drain your juju, such as gaining a short burst of speed. Later in the game, you gain the ability to transform into various different animals for short periods of time to assist in otherwise impossible tasks.

The main problem with Tak 2 is that it doesn't do anything to try and set itself apart from the pack. The game feels like it has been developed based on generally accepted principles for developing platformers from a couple of years ago. The approach used for the game's combat is a little too minimalist, making the process of defeating enemies seem like a real chore. The flow of Tak 2 is the second biggest problem, as the game often gives little or no clue of what to do or where to go after passing a certain puzzle or challenge, which is something that could easily frustrate the younger audience which the game seeks to target. The regular levels are rather large, with a lot of areas being quite irrelevant to the actual goal of the game, while the dream levels can just be outright confusing at times.

Tak 2 offers a somewhat brief single player campaign when compared to most entries in the platforming genre – the average gamer shouldn't take any more than 10-12 hours to plough through the game's single player mode. There's a few secrets to unlock, as well as a handful of single and multiplayer mini games, some of which are surprisingly competent for extras, but are only really minor diversions in the overall scheme of things.

One of the many dream world sequences

One of the many dream world sequences
The visual style of Tak and the Power of Juju remains relatively unchanged in the sequel, apart from a few sequential changes, such as Tak's hairdo. The game puts you through the cliché platforming environments – the jungle stage, snow stage, etc. and these levels don't particularly stand out. However, some sections of the game, such as JB's house, have a very unique design and prove that the developer is capable of a lot more than they let on throughout the rest of the game. There are a few attractive special effects in the game, such as the effect that surrounds the screen during the dream world sequences, but these have a tendency to take their toll on the game's frame rate, which is prone to dropping to unacceptable levels throughout play.

Sound in Tak 2 doesn't really stand out, with most of the sound library consisting of various animal sounds. Voice acting is fairly good, with talent such as Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld, Family Guy) providing voices for the characters. The script is funny when it needs to be, and the actors' delivery is quite good. The music tends to take a back seat in Tak 2, with a variety of ambient tribal beats making up the majority of the soundtrack.

Tak 2: Staff of Dreams feels too much like a sequential update to Tak and the Power of Juju. While it manages to fix some of the problems of the original game, it doesn't address some of the more serious issues, such as the horrendous flow, inconsistent difficulty and haphazard level design, and the good ideas that the game does introduce are well and truly overshadowed by these problems. In the end, Tak 2 fails to provide any sort of really engaging experience, and is probably better left on the store shelf for all but those really desperate for a non-threatening platforming experience.
The Score
Tak 2: Staff of Dreams fails to provide an engaging platform experience, and would be better used as a cure for insomnia. 5
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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