Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams Updated Hands-On
We get hands-on with the latest PS2 preview build of Avalanche's dreamy sequel to Tak and the Power of Juju.
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We've recently taken delivery of a preview build of Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams, which is currently in development at Avalanche Software. The game is the sequel to last year's Tak and the Power of Juju, and it will see you reprising the titular role of Tak, a young shaman's apprentice who's determined to use the powers he developed in the first game to defeat the evil shaman Tlaloc once and for all.
The first level in Tak 2, entitled Tak's Dream, is one of many interactive dream sequences that, while levels in their own right, mostly serve as tutorials by schooling you in the progressively more advanced combat techniques that are required to defeat certain enemies. The dream levels have a suitably surreal look, and you'll notice that the edges of the screen are blurred as you play them--reinforcing the fact that the onscreen action is taking place in Tak's head rather than in the quite beautiful world filled with trees, waterfalls, and useful animals that he's trying to save.
Initially, you'll find that the combat in Tak 2 is pretty basic, amounting to little more than running and jumping around while performing either your melee or your projectile attack. As you progress through the game, however, you'll learn a number of additional combo attacks, area-effect attacks, and suchlike. The more-advanced combat techniques in the game will invariably require you to press or hold two or three buttons in a specific sequence, most of which we've found to be very intuitive. You'll also add more-varied and powerful weapons to your arsenal, such as a bola that can be used to both attack enemies at range and allow you to reach otherwise inaccessible areas (when it's employed as a makeshift grappling hook).
In between all of the platform-jumping, swinging on vines, and combat that makes up much of the gameplay in Tak 2, you will occasionally be required to solve a puzzle of sorts. None of the puzzles we've encountered thus far have been particularly taxing. In fact, most of the puzzles we've "solved" during our time with the game have actually been variations on the same one--that being to coax a bear into lying underneath a bees' nest to drink honey so that we can use his belly as a trampoline. The main ways that you'll be able to influence animals in the game, at least based on our experiences to date, are by making yourself smell bad (by attacking a skunk or walking into some stinky plants) and then moving toward the animals until they run off (or, in the case of warthogs, until they allow you to mount them), or by throwing your pet Jibolba flea at them and having it either bite them (they'll go into a frenzy and attack something other than you--with any luck) or put them to sleep. Animals that we've encountered and interacted with in the game, in addition to those already mentioned, include beavers, who will chop down trees when your flea bites them, and squirrels, who will throw nuts at anything that moves after they get bitten.
With all of the fantastic contraptions that you'll encounter as you progress through its lovingly created environments, Tak 2 actually looks like a game that should offer a lot more in the way of puzzles than it actually does. More often than not, when you encounter an elaborate-looking obstacle that has you scratching your head for a second, you'll actually find that the only thing you need to do to proceed is to kill all of the enemies in the area. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that, of course, it's just that certain areas of the game look like they want to get your brain cells working as well as your fingers.
Breaking up the regular third-person gameplay on occasion will be a number of "river" levels in which you'll find yourself negotiating rapids in either a barrel or a canoe. We've encountered three of these visually impressive and fast-moving levels so far, and each one is more difficult than the last, and each puts an extra move at your disposal. The first, for example, sees you traveling in a barrel with only jump and duck moves available for avoiding rocks, low branches, and suchlike. Later in the game, you'll also have to attack enemies that will pull up alongside you in canoes of their own, but, luckily, (since you're a shaman) you can hover over chasms too.
In addition to the river levels, Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams features a number of single- and two-player minigames that you can unlock as you progress through the game. To unlock the numerous minigames available, you'll have to spend a little time exploring the main game to uncover potion recipes that, once you've collected the necessary ingredients, can each be used to add one minigame to your options screen. Minigames that we've played thus far include Phoenix Fight, Snowboard Race, Sandboard Trick Score, Mummy Shuttle, Balloon Head Showdown, Feather Frenzy, and Flea Flyer. Some of them we've enjoyed, some of them we haven't, and some of them have had us scratching our heads while wondering what on Earth is going on.
Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams is currently scheduled for release on all current-generation consoles next month. Expect more coverage on the game in the coming weeks.