Tak and the Power of Juju
We take a closer look at THQ and Avalanche Software's upcoming PlayStation 2 platformer.
Tak and the Power of Juju is the upcoming third-person platformer from THQ. The game marks the multimedia debut of an original character named Tak. Tak is a tribal shaman-in-training whose entire village has fallen under an evil curse. Interestingly, Tak will also star in a licensed Nickelodeon cartoon show. The game is mission-based, and, as you may have heard, features the inventive game mechanic of using animals to manipulate the environment and to solve puzzles.
Tak and the Power of Juju seems to have a pretty stylized look that's clearly intended to appeal to younger players. The updated version we played seems to have improved on this look with a deeper color palette and a better frame rate. Younger players, who may not be familiar with the game's controls, can also use the game's optional tutorial level, or they can choose to bypass it entirely when starting a new game. You'll eventually come to use Tak's home village as a hub area where you can return from time to time between missions. Over the course of the game, Tak learns up to 17 different magic spells, powered by "juju" which he collects in the form of feathers. Tak can collect either juju feathers, to increase his magic reserves, or health feathers, to heal any damage he has sustained. The feather atop Tak's head actually indicates his health, and when it completely blackens, Tak is defeated and must restart from his last save point.
We've also gotten a better sense of the gameplay, which often involves solving specific puzzles to move on to new areas. For example, in the burial ground, one of the early areas of the game, Tak must find a hidden tooth and place it in an idol statue. Once you get the hang of this mission, it's revealed later that Tak must then recover teeth for the surrounding circle of idol statues.
Another key element in Tak's gameplay is the way animals (and their specific tendencies) can be used to solve problems. Animals are very important to Tak. The sheep are especially important to Tak as they are actually his fellow villagers who have been affected by a powerful curse. For instance, orangutans seem to like springy palm trees, and they dislike sheep (and Tak apparently). Orangutans use their favorite springy trees to launch any nearby sheep (or shaman-in-training) high into the air and to the next point. This means you can use palm trees to transport Tak and/or his villagers across chasms that are too wide to jump. Tak can also rouse the ire of monkeys by tossing stones at them. These angry monkeys then retaliate by attacking the nearest creature (or shaman-in-training) by hurling rocks themselves. This ability can sometimes be used to distract other creatures. Some animals actually act as obstacles, like angry rams that block certain paths and fiercely head-butt anyone (or any shaman-in-training) foolish enough to walk in front of them. In these cases, Tak can pacify the rams by putting a sheep in front of them or by distracting the disagreeable critters by placing the rams' favorite fruit nearby. Tak can even hitch a ride on the backs of some animals, like swift-running emus or huge rhinos, which can crash right through certain obstacles and open up barriers.
Tak's gameplay seems like it should be pretty intuitive for anyone who's played a third-person platformer on the PS2. Tak can run, jump, and double-jump, and, as in other third-person action games, he can also re-center his view behind his back to keep the camera following him. Tak can also grab and swing on vines, to cross chasms, in a way that seems reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the GameCube. Not only can Tak climb up and down, but he can also swing backward and forward to build momentum.
Tak and the Power of Juju seems to be coming along well. The game is scheduled for release this October.
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