Ty the Tasmanian Tiger Preview

Look for colorful settings and good-natured charm in EA's Australian action adventure game.

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Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, a new multiplatform console game from Australian developer Krome Studios, aims to be a good-natured action adventure title geared mostly toward younger audiences, though it also endeavors to have enough depth and creativity for all. The game consists mostly of accepted action adventure elements, like exploring, combat, minigames, puzzles, and the everlasting quest to collect various items. But that's not to say that Ty is completely traditional, as the game has a unique Australian inspiration that yields a fun setting and style, plenty of humor, and levels that are full of interesting things to see and do.

First, let's get this out of the way: Ty the Tasmanian Tiger has nothing at all to do with the famous Warner Bros. character Taz the Tasmanian Devil. At least, not officially. But Ty actually has a lot in common with his fellow Tasmanian--they both have similar names, hail from Down Under, and appear in cartoony settings. However, Ty has his own style, and his world features different characters and a different story. Besides, unlike its cousin, the Tasmanian devil isn't extinct.

The game picks up when Ty learns that several members of his family--once believed dead--are in fact alive but trapped in a parallel realm called "dreamtime." Ty learns that there is a portal to dreamtime that can be opened if he finds five talismans. These talismans were dispersed throughout the land when the evil Boss Cass, the game's antagonist, sent the family of tigers through the portal after nearly losing to them in battle. Think your mission is to find the talismans? It's not--at least not directly. Luckily for you, there's a wacky Koala Bear inventor by the name of Julius who happened to be working on a machine that teleports the talismans to one convenient location. But unluckily for you, it's not finished yet, and Julius needs a number of thunder eggs to complete it. So your mission, really, is to find enough thunder eggs to allow Julius to complete the machine so the talismans that open to the portal to dreamtime can be reassembled.

And how do you find thunder eggs? By exploring, of course! Adventuring through the levels consists mostly of engaging in combat and searching for collectable items. In combat, Ty uses boomerangs, and a constant goal throughout the game will be upgrading your boomerangs and acquiring new ones. For example, you will be unable to use your normal boomerangs when you arrive at the first water level, but you will quickly be able to find a new pair of boomerangs to use when swimming. Additionally, once you collect 15 "golden cogs," Julius will upgrade your boomerangs to fancy "techno-rangs."

In addition to the golden cogs and thunder eggs, there are two other main collectable items. The most common item are opals, which are much like the coins found in a Mario game. Opals are usually placed along the most common paths through the level, but they can also be found elsewhere, like in boxes and secret stashes. In effect, opals will actually lead you through the levels, as you can quickly find unexplored areas merely by searching for new strings of opals. The fourth main collectable, and the most unusual, are "bilbies," which are the creatures that raised Ty after his parents were trapped in dreamtime. Bilbies are little blue dancing creatures, and they have been imprisoned by Boss Cass. If you're a good Tasmanian Tiger, you'll free them. But, of course, there are also other incentives for you to rescue them. Five bilbies are trapped per level, and if you find them all you'll receive a bonus thunder egg. You're rewarded for collecting the other items, too. If you find all 300 of the opals in each level, you can visit special opal machines at the end of the level to get another thunder egg. If you're looking for still more ways to find thunder eggs, know that, like opals, they can also be found in hidden stashes, earned from NPCs for completing quests or minigames, and won by completing certain puzzles.

Did Someone Call for a Boomerang?

But don't think that's all there is in the world--there are dozens of other items around for Ty to use. Some are power-ups, others bestow special effects or bonuses, and still others are simply helpful objects. Most of the items in Ty are quite original and visually unique, like springboard lawn chairs that launch you into the air. Even save points have a unique look this game--they're basically wooden outhouses called "dunnies," and they appear whenever you pass one of the frequent auto-save locations. Here are more examples of useful objects found in Ty: Food, which is found in picnic baskets and replenishes health; magnets, which bestow a charge on Ty that attracts nearby opals to him; "Ty heads," which give you a bonus life; framed pictures, which can be viewed in a gallery once collected and also bestow special prizes if all of them are found; mushrooms, which teleport you back and forth from the beginning to the end of the level; bubbles, which restore oxygen underwater; and flowers, which send you high into the air. And that's only a partial list.

The game's levels, which are in full 3D, are bright and colorful and lead you through interesting locations like seaside lagoons, waterfalls, snowcapped peaks, rainforests, a barrier reef, and the outback. Progressing through these varied locations helps keep the game interesting and also allows for a variety of gameplay elements. Each location brings with it not only a change of scenery, but also totally different adventuring hazards, minigames, and puzzles. In one level by a waterfall, you'll find a minigame that involves flinging boulders at gigantic monsters in an attempt to knock them off a bridge they're crossing. In the same level, you can ride the waves of waterways and brave jumping puzzles to scale waterfalls. Other levels feature underwater segments complete with sharks, and some take you into the snow or up into the hills. The five main zones--Rainbow Cliffs, Bli Bli Station, Pippy Beach, Lake Burril, and Gate Zone--include portals to each of the many individual levels.

The game's graphics and sound impress, thanks to their charm and quality. The textures are clear and detailed, and the levels are built with interesting features and good design. The artistic style is generally bright and full of cheery visuals, and the animations and textures to focus on being colorful and cartoony rather than being realistic. The result is a game that looks like it was pulled straight out of a classic Warner Bros. cartoon, all the way down to signature cartoon effects like white motion lines in water. Furthermore, certain buildings in the game are even colored with the trademark "flat" textures seen in cel-shaded games and are designed with the same wacky architecture that is familiar to traditional cartoon settings. The game's loveable talking animals are also reminiscent of the Warner Bros. classics.

The control scheme works much as you'd expect, and it's explained in-game using tutorials. Of particular note is a lock-on feature that can be used to zero in on the closest enemy and keep Ty pointed toward him or her for fool-proof aiming. However, the standard, on-the-fly auto-aiming does a good job of directing attacks on its own, sending boomerangs thrown close to the enemies in for a hit. Furthermore, though you usually play the game in a third person-perspective, you can also pop into first-person mode to direct the attacks by hand, as well as to tweak your position for a perfect jump. The camera will not always automatically keep the view focused on what is in front of Ty, so on all three current-generation systems, one of the analog sticks can also be used to focus the view without changing Ty's direction.

The outlandish inspiration spreads throughout the game, including to character design and dialogue. The characters are all based on real, indigenous Australian animals, and creatures like koala bears, kangaroos, cassowaries, and lizards are just a fraction of the 50 types of friends and enemies in the game. All these characters speak with full Australian accents, and none of them sound hokey. Instead, the dialogue and character design truly complement the game's world and style, as do the music and sound effects, which feature a customarily strange Australian beat.

Even though Ty the Tasmanian Tiger plays by a familiar action adventure formula, the world it immerses you in is certainly interesting to explore, and the objects, characters, and dialogue are consistently unique, unusual, and original. Developer Krome Studios still has some balancing to do and some levels left to flesh out and polish. But Ty the Tasmanian Tiger isn't set to ship until this winter, so there's plenty of time left for work to be done.

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