All the authentic cartoon characters in the world couldn't make this game fun.
The voracious Tasmanian Devil (or "Taz" for short), who's famous for his loud, incoherent gibbering, his ability to turn into a hyperactive brown whirlwind, and his love of eating pretty much anything, has been a member of Warner Bros.' classic Looney Tunes cartoon cast for years. So it would make sense for him to eventually become the star of his own game. And Taz Wanted gets off to a good start: The game features colorful, cartoon-style, flat-shaded graphics, a decent soundtrack, and voice acting ripped straight from the cartoons. But after you play Taz Wanted and struggle with its terrible camera angles and repetitive tasks, you'll probably agree that all the authentic cartoon characters in the world couldn't make this game fun, even if Taz Wanted does come packed in with an extra free game.
The "story" behind Taz Wanted, such as it is, involves Taz and his hapless girlfriend, who are both captured by the rootin'-tootin' cowboy Yosemite Sam and placed on display in a zoo as prize exhibits. Taz eventually escapes, but not before the ornery Sam grabs his lady friend and flees, so it's up to Taz to chase him down through the game's 15 levels and save the girl. But you find out about this story only after you start the game. In the introduction sequence, you'll actually see Taz accidentally crash into such Looney Tunes luminaries as Sylvester the Cat, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd--but you'll see hardly any of them throughout the actual game. In fact, other than the game's tutorial, which is given by Tweety Bird, and an occasional cameo from Yosemite Sam, the appearances by other famous Looney Tunes characters are few and far between, so if you were looking to pick up Taz Wanted in hopes of visiting all your favorite characters, you'll probably be disappointed.
Unfortunately, Taz Wanted's actual gameplay is worse than disappointing. The game is a third-person platform-jumping action game that has frustratingly bad camera angles and repetitive, boring tasks. In each of the game's levels, you play as Taz, and you must destroy seven "wanted" posters, as well as complete optional goals like collecting 100 sandwiches, destroying 50 percent of the destructible objects in each level (which come in the form of crates, treasure chests, or lunch boxes, depending on which level you play), or collecting a secret golden Yosemite Sam statue. Regardless of the task at hand, Taz Wanted's camera follows Taz much too closely--it's practically glued to Taz' back and doesn't let you zoom in or out to get a better view of your surroundings. The camera also jerks about wildly whenever you try to make any kind of turn.
And the camera just doesn't work in Taz Wanted's multitiered levels. Taz has to run up walkways, drop down sinkholes, climb through tunnels, and jump up different series of stairs and platforms, and the camera tends to get stuck behind walls or high over his head, sometimes completely obscuring him from view. Many of Taz Wanted's tedious jumping puzzles, which involve Taz simply jumping to the next platform to reach the next wanted poster (or the next springboard to boost him to the next wanted poster, or the next cannon to shoot him at the next wanted poster), aren't even that challenging. But the clumsy, spastic camera makes them needlessly difficult, so much so that you'll find yourself repeatedly walking around that same corner, climbing up those same steps, and hopping up to that same ledge until you finally make the jump. You can stop everything and rotate the camera around Taz when he's standing still, but you can't successfully do this while he's jumping or when he's trying to avoid getting captured by Yosemite Sam's goons.
Luckily, if Taz gets captured or falls in a lake or gets gobbled up by a passing shark or alligator, he doesn't die--he just reappears nearby, and if he's captured by an enemy, he just loses money. For some reason, Taz earns thousands of imaginary dollars for destroying wanted posters, which he can use to unlock such uninteresting secrets as storyboard drawings of himself and of some of the buildings and platforms he jumps on. Taz Wanted also has several minigames that you can unlock either by collecting 100 sandwiches in a level or by fighting the boss of each area, but none of these are especially fun, and several of them (especially the ones that require you to smash a number of items within a certain time limit) have the same camera problems as the regular game.
It's too bad that Taz Wanted plays so poorly, because the game actually looks and sounds surprisingly good. Taz Wanted is a very colorful 3D game that uses cartoon-style graphics for its characters, like Taz and Yosemite Sam, and Taz's movements, mannerisms, and his trademark whirlwind look very authentic, even though the game's environments, and some of its enemies, look plain in comparison. Taz Wanted's music generally consists of generic, upbeat pop-music-style tunes that turn into electric-guitar remixes when Taz uses his whirlwind ability, while the game's voice actors are the same ones that are used for modern-day Looney Tunes' cartoons. Some of the voice samples do tend to run together, and in other cases, the sound at the end of a voice sample drops completely, but by and large, Taz Wanted actually looks and sounds as you'd probably hope from a game like this.
Normally, the review would end right about here, but in this case it must be noted that the retail PC version of Taz Wanted also packs in a free bonus game--a port of the 2001 PlayStation game Sheep Raider, which stars Sam the sheepdog and Wile E. Coyote as Ralph the wolf. In this game, you play as Wile E. (who plays as Ralph) and use stealth and gadgets to get past your burly sheepdog nemesis. As you'd expect, Sheep Raider for the PC looks and sounds like a spruced-up PlayStation game, featuring simplistic flat-shaded characters and environments, generic music, and sound that has a tendency to skip, mainly because you don't even install the game on your hard drive, but play it off the CD instead. Then again, it's a free game, and considering that solving Taz Wanted's repetitious puzzles tends to be pretty time-consuming, you've got a suite of games that can actually keep you busy for quite some time--if you can actually stand the games themselves.
Who should actually get Taz Wanted? Parents who want to occupy their very young children--children who are so young that they don't know enough to find Taz Wanted's poor gameplay to be frustrating, maybe. Or fanatical Looney Tunes fans who have to collect every last little Warner Bros. souvenir, maybe. Everyone else would probably be better off giving it a pass.