For a supposedly extinct marsupial, Tasmanian tigers certainly do keep their paws busy trouncing evildoers of all shapes and sizes. Actually, that's probably just Ty, but the gung ho hero throws himself into his work with gusto, and that's still the case with his most recent adventure in Night of the Quinkan. We got to spend some quality time with the boomerang-bearing beast and his best buddies on the PlayStation 2, and this accessible action game seems to be coming along quite nicely.
The game's opening sequence sets the stage for the dangers to come and accustoms you to Ty's controls both inside and outside of special vehicles. Ty and one of his friends, the winsome dingo Shazza, gets pulled to Dreamtime realm by the Bunyip Elder to assist with his people with their quinkan relocation program. Quinkan are beings made of darkness that like to ruin everyone else's good time, so Ty is only too willing to ply his twin boomerangs in an effort to send them all packing. He neutralizes the threat through a mixture of combat prowess and classic Aussie catchphrases, slinging his dual weapons with the square button. He can shoot off both 'rangs, and they'll home in on any targets from a distance. But if his enemy is up close, the weapons make good bludgeoning devices. The X button makes Ty jump or glide a short distance, and the circle button lets him chomp someone nearby--to take a bite out of crime. That's not all his teeth are good for, though, as he can traverse areas by latching on to floating objects with his mouth, munching his way to new heights. The controls are simple to learn and are extremely responsive, with only some slight pauses for camera maneuvering that get in the way.
Ty's vehicle, the shadow bunyip, is similarly easy to control. It's a mech suit for Ty that he can use to either punch enemies or fire at them with a gun attachment. You can pick additional attack upgrades for the shadow bunyip and then use the triangle button to switch midbattle. One such attachment is the powerful shadow beam, which we used to blast open some doors and destroy some artifacts that were generating power for the quinkan's transportation device. Once we destroyed the device, Ty and Shazza ended up in a portal so they could head back home...but a few quinkan got caught up in the mix. When Ty finally arrives back home in Burramudgee, he discovers that not only was he apparently gone for a long six months, but also while he was away the quinkan have been setting up shop on his turf. His friends in the Bush Rescue team are scattered to the four winds, so his next job is to reform the band.
Finding your way to new missions and objectives to forward the story is simple: Just pull up your area map, and any available missions will have their locations marked--and you'll notice flashing circles around missions you'll need to target to advance. The earliest missions have you collecting your friends once more, then progressing to the more serious business of stomping quinkan. When you have to travel the dangerous roads in the Southern Rivers area, you'll do so via the crabmersible, a many-legged machine with sharp pincers for up-close battle and missiles to take out remote targets. The roads are littered with mines, mysterious slime, zombie lizards (no, really), strange and violent plants, as well as quinkan. As a result, the crabmersible's abilities definitely come in handy. Plus, there's something inherently amusing about skittering around in a giant robot crab.
The kart-racing component returns in Night of the Quinkan, though it's immediately accessible this time when you start the game. It's also incorporated into the gameplay missions, as to convince the dour cockatoo Maurie to rejoin your group, you have to defeat him in a demolition derby to thwart his plans for retirement. The kart races feature all the normal control options, like hopping and powersliding, as well as pickup items to use on your opponents. These run the gamut of fiery mines and electrical storms (that can shock foes) to items that let you warp ahead to an amusingly over-the-top laser beam that annihilates everything around you. We approve.
The gunyip is an all-new vehicle for Ty that lets him take his battles to the skies. It handles pretty well, and it also makes avoiding danger pretty easy with an evasion button that lets you execute either loop-the-loops or barrel rolls depending on where you hold the directional pad when you press it. It's outfitted with some standard vanilla guns for midair strafing and bombs that you'll use to attack giant, hulking quinkan and other enemies roaming the ground underneath you. There are also a number of power-ups floating throughout the stages that you can pick up to augment the vehicle, like the always-popular laser beams. Aerial battles are crowded and feature lots of targets, from flying vessels to large floating stations to the aforementioned behemoths on the ground. Gunyip battles support multiplayer, and it's another minigame that's already available when you start Night of the Quinkan up, so you don't have to mess around with unlocking anything.
There was a nice variety to both the areas we visited and the types of gameplay we encountered. Some missions were straight-out slugfests with Ty on foot, while some involved kart racing, and some involved the agile gunyip. As well, there were escort missions, search-and-rescues, and arena battles in the mighty shadow bunyip. Killing enemies yields lots and lots of opals, which are in-game currency that you can trade for upgrades to your vehicles and weapons. Bunyip stones can be used to augment your boomerangs, which have slots for the gems. You'll collect bunyip stones in the field, or you can purchase them along the way. Furthermore, you can swap them in and out of your 'rang by accessing the menu. There are different chassis for your boomerangs available that change the number of stone slots you have open, and you can combine different types of stones to create some unique weapons.
Visually, the game continues to develop nicely. Character animation is extremely smooth, and there's barely any loading in the game, with transitions between areas usually marked by gates or elevators that Ty can run through with no break in the action. Character designs are simple, with a heavy cartoon influence, but are well-made and look right at home in any of the game's varied environments. There's a lot more voice implemented in this build, and the Aussie-accented speech sounds good and really helps cement the whole Down Under atmosphere. The music in the game so far seems to be soft and usually understated guitar strumming for most areas, with more-pumped-up battle tunes for bosses and dangerous areas. Mostly you'll be hearing the game's sound effects rather than its music, and this matches up well with all the monster whacking, opal collecting, and general cheeky character chatter.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger: Night of the Quinkan seems ripe and largely ready for its release on major consoles later this year. Fans of the series will be treated to their favorite familiar faces, and the simple and fun gameplay makes the game easily accessible to platformer fans young and old alike. Keep your eyes on this gamespace to satisfy all your considerable marsupial needs.