Tak and the Power of Juju Updated Impressions

We get an updated look at THQ's upcoming platformer.

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The last time we saw Tak and the Power of Juju, THQ and Avalanche Software's upcoming platformer, the game was coming along pretty well. It featured solid gameplay mechanics and an art style that placed it on the cuter end of the platformer spectrum. However, after looking at a more recent version of the game we're pleased to see that it's developing a distinct personality.

Tak's story revolves around the plight of the Pupanunu people, a mellow bunch of folks under siege by a disgruntled shaman named Tlaloc. It seems Tlaloc is bitter at being passed over for shamanhood by the current shaman, Jibolba, and has opted to express his displeasure in a variety of unconstructive ways. By the time the game starts, Tlaloc has stolen the source of the local protecting spirit's power, the moon stones, and has used them to turn most of the villagers into sheep, and that's just his opening act. The good news is that Jibolba has managed to use his powers to shield some villagers from Tlaloc's magic and has even prepared for such a dark day by training a mighty hero to save the day. The bad news is that said hero is currently grazing in a nearby field and sporting a luxurious coat of wool. Despite the fact that the allegedly wise old shaman has never heard of a backup plan, all is not lost. As luck would have it, a young shaman in training named Tak was one of those shielded by Jibolba's magic and is available to lend a hand. While Jibolba's initial request of Tak is to help him un-sheep the preferred hero, the game is called Tak and the Power of Juju, so you can imagine how things end up. The aforementioned story is told via a very tongue-in-cheek intro sequence that highlights one of the game's winning traits, its sense of humor. Developer Avalanche Software is complementing the game's solid platformer gameplay mechanics with a strong dose of humor.

We were able to check out a variety of levels in the game, which gave us a good idea of what to expect from the gameplay. The game is basically a third-person platformer in the Jak and Daxter vein. You'll travel to various locations, defeating foes and solving a variety of puzzles. Your main goal in each locale is to contact the native juju spirit for tips on how to progress on your journey to defeat Tlaloc. To do so you'll have to collect tikis in the levels and take them to the juju's shrine. While it sounds pretty easy, you'll soon discover that jujus are a pretty fickle lot with a very diva-like temperament. As a result, you can expect some involved demands from the spirits before they'll help you. For example, one of the jujus demanded that we furnish him with pets before he would give up the goods, so we were forced to go off in search of suitable creatures. Fortunately, despite all the demands of his quest, Tak is a pretty agile fellow with a variety of moves. In addition to the standard running and jumping you'd expect from a platform hero, Tak will be able to use a club, a blow gun, and a "spirit rattle," which is essentially an enhanced club, and he will eventually earn up to 17 spells to help him out. However, probably one of the most important gameplay elements is the various animals you'll come across in the game. You'll be able to ride some, like a rhinoceros, to barrel through obstacles, and you'll be able to use others, such as apes, to fling yourself to new areas. You'll also be able to use sheep to distract surly rams.

The graphics in Tak and the Power of Juju are shaping up nicely. The game has a stylized look with exaggerated character designs that fit its loopy tone well. Tak's model offers a good amount of detail and animation, highlighted by humorous flourishes. The rest of the game's cast, namely the animals and the mystic foes you'll be facing off against, don't sport quite as many polygons but make up for it with strong animation that conveys quite a bit of personality. The environments are expansive and showcase quite a bit of variety, and you'll notice little touches that add to the atmosphere, such as chicken-shaped cloud formations over Chicken Island.

From what we've seen so far, Tak and the Power of Juju is looking pretty good. The mix of solid gameplay and humor certainly looks promising. The game is currently slated to ship this October for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. A Game Boy Advance version is slated to ship this fall as well. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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