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Tak and the Power of Juju was one of the most overlooked titles of 2003. Mostly by the press, though, since the title went on to sell over a million units across all three platforms. Due to the licensing from Nickelodeon and the ingenious design team at Avalanche Software, Tak became a fairly popular name and has already found his way onto the GameCube once again in Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams. With much less mindless collecting and more of the brilliant character design from the original, Tak 2 surpasses the original in many ways. It's easy enough to say that this game is aimed at younger gamers, but it's developed to such a caliber that the game is accessible to all ages.
If you've been reading the site for a while, you'll know that I love a good visual design. Anything that brings a mystical, mysterious world to life, I'm all for. This unique take on an entirely new world is mostly why the original appealed to so many people. The world is brought back in this game with even more detail. It doesn't feel as if you are confined to one specific area, but that the area you are in is part of a much larger realm. This is done with beautiful background matte paintings and vivid, amazing textures found throughout each level. As for the characters, they all look amazing, especially in the CG animated cut-scenes. The water effects in the rapids levels are great and the mischievous Woodies look devilishly cute and scary at the same time. The game runs fairly smoothly, but the frame rate manages to hitch up from time to time. It's noticeable, but it doesn't really hurt the overall game.
With platformers generally come cutesy voices, annoying sound effects and equally unpleasant music. Such is not the case with Tak 2. The voice actors, who are all reprising their roles from the original, sound even better this time around. As a fan of Patrick Warburton's work, it can easily be said that the dialogue is sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious. The sound effects are great and compliment each character with precise detail. The Woodies themselves almost steal the show with the clack-clack-clack effects as you beat them down. While the music isn't generally memorable, it does its best to fit into the overall feeling of the game with rhythmic tribal beats and steady percussion jams.
For the most part, things haven't changed since the series began last year. Some of the biggest changes would have to be the increased emphasis on combat, decreased emphasis on collections, and much more animal interaction. The play mechanics have been finely tuned, but not much is different in controlling Tak than last year's title. With a small arsenal of weaponry and plenty of acrobatic moves, Tak is a pint-sized powerhouse capable of taking on up to twenty different enemies at any given time. As he progresses through the game, his shaman abilities, through Juju magic, increase and he learns new, more powerful physical abilities. About half way through the game, Tak gains even more abilities. With the power to turn into a handful of different animals such as a squirrel, bear, frog, or boar, the gameplay kicks up a notch making the remaining hours refreshing.
There are a few problems here and there while controlling Tak through each level. Most revolve around the camera, which can be a little flimsy from time to time. It isn't exactly detrimental to the game, but it can be frustrating when the camera gets hooked onto a wall for a couple of seconds. While the camera may lead to some unnecessary deaths, the game limits your number of lives to infinity. While it could be argued that infinity isn't a limit, this take on distribution of life is welcome for this sort of platformer. Sometimes you'll have to take chances in the form of trial and error. If your theories don't work out, you'll respawn nearby with no real punishment. Think of it as a slap on the wrist and a shaken finger. Even with infinite lives, the game offers up a nice challenge to both platforming veterans and younger gamers alike.
After about fifteen hours of play time, there are still a few things left to do that involve friends. If you play your cards right, you can unlock multiplayer dinky games. While some of these mini-games are single-player only adventures, the real fun is to be had in the multiplayer. There are 25 dinky games in all and the experience can be summed up in two words: Frog Derby.
Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams is a rare gem this year. How many games that are developed for kids actually good? Not many. With a great, easy-to-follow storyline, brilliant visual designs, and memorable characters, Tak 2 is one of the most impressive third-party platformers on the GameCube this year. If you need something to keep you occupied for a week or so, this is definitely a game for you. If you've been searching for a quality game to entertain the younger human being in your life for the past year, this is a must buy.
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"If life's not beautiful without the pain / well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again"