Tak: The Great Juju Challenge First Look

We get an early look at Tak's latest adventure, courtesy of THQ and Avalanche.

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THQ stopped by today to give us a look at the latest entry in its platforming franchise starring Tak, the bulbous-nosed, pun-spewing shaman-in-training who first burst onto the console scene in 2003's Tak and the Power of Juju. Whereas the previous games in the series have been clear-cut platformers, returning developer Avalanche Software is taking a different approach this time around. For this latest entry in the series, entitled Tak: The Great Juju Challenge, Avalanche is putting a cooperative spin on its solid Tak formula.

Tak: The Great Juju Challenge's story is a bit more straightforward than its predecessors, which all revolved around young Tak saving his people from the machinations of some evildoer. This time, Tak is all about pimping himself out. The game's narrative follows Tak as he competes in a competition among all the local tribes, the goal of which is to win all the events, which will curry favor with the Moon Juju.

The story translates into a decidedly different sort of gameplay for Tak's third adventure, as he'll be joined by Lok, and the two will work together to progress through the various challenges that present themselves. You'll be able to switch between both characters on the fly as you make your way through the adventure, which will be an integral part of playing the game. Tak and Lok, while very capable on their own, will ultimately need each other to make it--think a bizarre version of The Amazing Race." Tak will have all the moves you've seen in the previous games, although he's been tweaked a bit. In Juju Challenge, the tiny warrior will specialize in magic and swimming. His magic staff has been replaced by mystic knives for melee. He'll also gain upgradable shaman abilities that let him freeze enemies and conjure objects, such as barrels. You'll gain the abilities via potions you'll discover on your adventure.

Lok, in his first playable appearance in the series, will offer a set of moves that complement Tak's. As the larger member of the team, Lok will be the team muscle. Although he's also the slower of the two, Lok will be stronger than Tak and be able to carry items and climb walls, which will make up for his inability to swim. Lok will wield a hammer for melee combat and gain the ability to create shields and heal when he finds the proper shaman ability potions.

You'll face new foes, like this rocker, in Tak's latest adventure.
You'll face new foes, like this rocker, in Tak's latest adventure.

As we mentioned, you'll be able to swap control of the characters on the fly as you play the game. Though the artificial intelligence will control your teammate, you'll be able to issue simple commands, such as follow and stop, as the need arises. A cool feature of the co-op play is that anyone can hop in or out of the game at any time, which automatically switches to a split-screen setup when a live person takes control of your AI teammate. Swapping characters becomes vital to solving puzzles, some of which make use of local wildlife, as we've seen in previous versions. In our demo, we saw some new critters help out with puzzles, namely a water-spewing mammoth you'll use to fight a boss, and a baby rhino you'll use to rouse his sleeping mother so you can ride her through some obstacles. The demo also showed how you'll play Tak and Lok off each other, such as switching to Lok and having him carry Tak, or pitching him like a stubby javelin to new areas he can't climb to. The demo also showed some of the new enemies you'll face, including rocklike creatures called--wait for it--rockers, who are essentially earthy counterparts to the woodies you've faced before.

The game's structure will be broken up into hubs that feature platforming levels and a final destruction derby segment in each area. The platforming levels will take place in environments with different themes. You'll use Tak and Lok to get through the various obstacles and to light torches that are strewn about. There will also be bosses you'll have to defeat, as well as the animal puzzles, which will have you interacting with the colorful wildlife. The derby levels will be set in the Juju realm's proving grounds and they'll offer some basic car combat. You'll choose from one of several different vehicles, and then set out to smash all your opponents in the ring. Though it wasn't working in our version of the game, it appears that your wheels may come packing weapons of some kind.

The presentation is looking sharp and is on par with the previous games. The visuals also maintain the same appealing look. We got a look at three environments, including Silverstone Coast, a rocky area filled with cliffs and steep drops; Parchlands, an arid desertlike area; and the proving grounds set in the Juju realm, which was a pretty straightforward dome area amid the clouds. The audio has a familiar feel to it, thanks to the return of the game's core voice cast, including Patrick Warburton of Seinfeld and The Tick fame. This lends the cinematics, always good for a chuckle in the previous games, the same charm.

Members of the animal kingdom will be on call to lend a hand...and a horn.
Members of the animal kingdom will be on call to lend a hand...and a horn.

Based on what we saw, Tak: The Great Juju Challenge is shaping up to be an interesting new twist on the platforming action we've come to expect from Tak games. The new gameplay and multiplayer elements seem interesting and should add to the game's appeal. The visuals look good and the humor should please fans of the series. The Great Juju Challenge is currently slated to ship later this year for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. In addition, the title will appear on the DS and GBA. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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