Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams Hands-On

We take an updated version of Tak's latest adventure for a spin.

Though we got to see Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams just last month, THQ showed off an updated version of the game at its recent press event, and we took it for a spin. The PlayStation 2 version let us have a look at new areas in the single-player game and gave us a taste of the game's multiplayer modes. Although the game is still in development, quite a bit of progress has been made since our last look at it.

The single-player content we checked out offered a taste of the varied levels you'll go through in the game. We caught a few rough versions of the cinematics that showed off the game's trademark humor and a few familiar faces. The first cinematic we saw featured Tak chatting with the Caged Juju from the original game, while the second showed off Lok and a skeleton with which he adventures in the game.

In terms of gameplay, we saw an updated river segment that found Tak sailing down a river and waterfall at high speeds. A shaman level, wherein Tak is able to learn new moves, was demoed, as well as a bit of the combat system, which pitted Tak against a horde of woodies. The altercation let us check out the game's combat system, which was pretty involved for a platformer.

The most striking element of the combat we saw was its pacing. Tak 2's combat is frenetic and faster paced than most games in its genre. We also had a chance to check out a river level set in the alternate dream world area where you'll spend part of your time in the game exploring as Tak works to solve the mysteries of his dreams. While the areas are similar in feel to the real-world segments, the trippy visuals, especially the lava-lamp look of the edges of the screen and downright surreal design, help give the segments a unique feel.

The final dream world area we saw was a forced scrolling sequence wherein Tak bolted at high speed to try to evade a black hole-type phenomenon that is steadily sucking up the platforms in his dreams. The gameplay will have you run at the screen in a sequence that is reminiscent of some of the classic Crash Bandicoot sequences from the early games in that series.

The multiplayer component of the game, called Dinky Games, is where you'll play games you've unlocked in the single-player game. The mode will feature 25 different games to play and 11 selectable characters that you'll also unlock in the single-player game. You'll be able to play the games with or against a friend in one of three modes--versus, challenge, and free--or by yourself. We tried out a few of the games. Some of them featured a nature theme, and others had a gladiatorial twist. Feather Frenzy is a rousing game of chicken tennis. It's a timed poultry smackdown that requires you to smack chickens to your opponent's side of a net. Whoever has the most chickens on their side of the net when time runs out loses. Mummy Shuttle follows a similar principle and requires you to guard mummies while taking out your opponent's as you both share space on a platform surrounded by lava. Victory is achieved by having the greater number of mummies kept safe. In addition to these games, you'll be able to participate in catapulting, frog races, and snowboard competitions, to name just a few more.

The graphics in the game are looking great on the PlayStation 2 and are a testament to developer Avalanche's powerful and versatile graphics engine. On the technical side, the game offers improved performance across the board compared to the original Tak. The other key component to the visuals is the game's artistic style, which features a slicker and more assured look that's rich in both color and detail. The juxtaposition of the real and dream worlds is well done and is a fine showcase for the unique art styles in the game.

The audio was a little tough to hear in the demo area, but we distinctly heard Patrick Warburton providing the voice of Lok in the game, which is a good fit of character and voice actor. Tak and the rest of the crew appear to retain their original voices. The music is in the same vein as the music in the original Tak but has a richer sound.

Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams looks to be headed in a positive direction. The modes we checked out and the improved visuals are looking good and easily surpass those of the original game. If you dug the original game or feel like trying out a new platformer this fall, you'd do well to keep an eye on Tak 2. Given the level of polish we're seeing, the game is likely to surprise you. Tak 2 is currently slated to ship for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox this fall. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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