Taz really feels out of control!
Taz! Stop tornado-ing off that cliff!
Despite only appearing in five of the original Looney Tunes shorts, the Tasmanian Devil became one of the brand’s most popular characters, even spawning his own television series in the early 1990s. Unsurprisingly, Taz has also appeared in numerous video games over the years, spanning across NES, Super NES, Game Boy, Genesis, PSX, and Xbox, both as protagonist and villain. Taz’s latest offering is WayForward Technologies’ Galactic Taz Ball, in which he puts his white hat back on and faces off against longtime Looney Tunes villain Marvin the Martian.
One of most noticeable aspects of Galactic Taz Ball is an updated character design for Taz. While Marvin’s appearance is much the same as his other outings, Taz has a unique new look that gives him a more animalistic, even cat-like appearance. This transfers over well to the DS screen, too, where Taz, Marvin, and the robotic enemies are animated capably and comically where appropriate.
As Marvin is stealing portions of the Earth’s landscape in order to beautify Mars, Taz is accidentally vacuumed up along with some of the chunks of land. The story unfolds in short, nearly wordless cut-scenes, although official Taz voice actor Jim Cummings is on hand to lend the requisite grunts, shrieks, and broken sentences that are the devil’s trademark.
The “ball” in Galactic Taz Ball comes from the trackball on the DS’s bottom screen, which is the primary input method for the game. Taz is guided by rolling the virtual trackball with the stylus, and can break into his signature whirling tornado if enough speed is built up. Combat is primarily either smashing into or avoiding obstacles or enemies, although Taz can also do a Mario-like ground pound move. Since Marvin has taken chunks of the Earth into space, it makes sense that the levels are built up of hovering platforms, viewed on an isometric scale. On the whole, it feels reminiscent of games like Marble Madness or Kororinpa.
There is also a second type of gameplay where Taz descends into the bowels of a spaceship, and the player has to guide him (blind) through a series of 2D conveyances and hazards. If the main game feels like Marble Madness, this would resemble something like Lemmings or Mario vs. DK: March of the Minis, as Taz is completely out of the player’s direct control, save for three commands: Go, Stop, and Change Direction. The touch screen can also be used to interact with the belts, fans, and switches in the area.
In both play types, Taz feels almost out of control, something which the developers have said was a conscious design choice and based on Taz’s character. While this could have resulted in a game that felt lazy and half-finished, it actually works in this case. Taz isn’t just the player character — he’s an unstoppable force of nature, and playing the game is basically making the best effort possible to rein him in and keep him on task. Fortunately, much like in the actual cartoons, there is no penalty for flying off a cliff, other than being sent back to the last checkpoint. Hidden collectible Golden Kiwi Birds (not Ivy) and time-attack goals also provide a reason to replay levels.
Galactic Taz Ball is just one more licensed game that WayForward has turned into something of a sleeper gem. Everyone’s talking about Shantae: Risky’s Revenge right now, but this is another of WayForward’s games worth talking about, especially for Power Players still using DS Lites.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.