"Itís charming for younger gamers, but not really worth more than a rental thanks to its brevity."
In 2003, THQ released Tak and the Power of Juju. It was a quaint platformer that went on to spawn several sequels. Nickelodeon was interested enough by that point that in 2006 it acquired the rights to Tak and produced a CGI animation (also called Tak and the Power of Juju). Somewhere along the line, the people in charge of the license seem to have decided that the franchise should be milked for all that itís worth. Even so, Tak and the Guardians of Gross for the Wii proves that the series is still worth your time.
With this being the fourth installment in the series, newcomers may have difficulty understanding the story at first. To recap, the series revolves around a shaman apprentice named Tak who acquires and utilizes Juju power with his magical staff. He uses these powers to protect his village from evil. This time the plot appears to be a side story. Tak is exploring the Spoiled Shrine and accidentally destroys a crystal that harbored the essences of the four Grosstrosities. Itís now up to Tak to right his own wrongdoings.
The gameplay borrows from multiple games of varying genres. Excluding the introductory level that explains Takís moves, the four main levels take place on, in, and around the four giants and definitely present that Shadow of the Colossus feel. The boss battles fail to be as epic, however. When he's not battling giants, Tak will spend his time jumping across platforms, climbing ledges, and sliding down rails in typical platforming manner, plus heíll also run up and along walls like the hero in the Prince of Persia games. Throughout, Tak's general movement is controlled with the analog stick, jumping is done with the A button, and heíll attack with his staff with the B button. Context-specific actions such as wall climbs are performed by pressing the 'Z' button. Additionally, Tak can run along walls by holding down that button for the duration of the run.
Besides these action-platforming sections, there are point-and-click sections that include a rail-shooting chase sequence with Tak firing rocks at a pursuing guardian. There also are four mini-games players must play through at the beginning of each level. These mini-games vary from a Connect-Four style contest to a tower defense game. Completing these challenges will allow Tak to receive a unique Juju power that is needed to complete the respective level.
Juju powers are what make this title stand out from the sea of generic platformers. The four varieties include Lumpy Juju for creating platforms and activating magic devices and Slime Juju for turning Tak into a ball of slime for traversing over slimy terrain. Cheesy Juju modifies the chemical composition of blue and green cheeses, where if one becomes a solid, the other melts into a liquid and vice versa. Finally, thereís Smelly Juju that gives Tak the power to create whirlwinds for powering devices that react to wind.
Knowing when to use these powers is by no means difficult, as can be said of the whole game. This is due to Takís constant chattering. Heíll often say things along the lines of ďMaybe I should use Cheesy Magic now.Ē In addition, thereís always a breadcrumb trail of blue orbs to follow. These orbsí purpose is twofold. One, they lead you to the exit of the level; two they are used for recharging Takís Juju gauge. When filled, the Juju Gauge will start glowing and Tak can unleash a powerful attack that destroys all enemies in the vicinity. However, the gauge depletes when Tak takes hits from enemies and disappears completely upon falling fall off a cliff. With that said, there's no fear of total defeat. Tak will lie unconscious after taking a few hits, but wonít die. This is a blessing as youíll often end up taking blind leaps of faith when the camera constantly gets obstructed (and thereís no way to control it). Since the title is directed towards children, itís no surprise that the average gamer will find it to be very easy and will be finished within three hours.
After completing the game, you can replay through the stages in Challenge Mode. This allows you to collect any Nanu Pieces you may have missed in the first playthrough. After collecting eight from a level, youíll unlock artwork that can be viewed as well as a host of other achievements for personal satisfaction. You can also replay the mini-games with another player for some brief entertainment. Another nifty bonus is the inclusion of an episode from the animated television show.
Earlier, I mentioned how annoying Takís constant commentary is. Well, itís not that the voice acting is bad (itís not), itís just he wonít shut up. The audio in general is okay but forgettable. The visuals, on the other hand, are very good. Itís a slight step up from the previous games and looks great on Wii. Presentation was at least a good effort.
In conclusion, Tak and the Guardians of Gross is a simple and short-lived platformer. Itís charming for younger gamers, but not really worth more than a rental thanks to its brevity. The Tak series did well for itself over the course of the previous console generation and perhaps what it really needs to do now is die a quiet, peaceful death before future installments tarnish our memories of the series to date.
Freelance review by Matt Olsen (November 06, 2008)
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