Australian biodiversity strikes again in Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, from publisher EA Games. Two pieces of information that can be gleaned from the box for this platformer turn out to be particularly apt: one, that it has as much polish as you would expect from a developer named Krome Studios, and two, for a game with a mascot based on an extinct species of animal, Ty has a similarly limited life span. Easier when compared to other games in its genre, Ty's difficulty is tuned for younger or casual gamers, but it also attempts to appeal to older players, who should still be able to appreciate the quality of the game even if it's a little on the easy side.
Ty's plot revolves around collecting five talismans that will free Ty's fellow Tasmanian tigers from the Dreamtime, where they were trapped a long time ago as a result of trying to stop a cassowary named Boss Cass from sending all mammals to the Dreamtime. To get the talismans, Ty has to jump, bite, and use his collection of boomerangs to recover thunder eggs from the various levels so he can give them to Julius, a koala who can use them to power his talisman-locating invention. Along the way, Ty gets help from Maurie, a crotchety sulfur-crested cockatoo that gives advice and information. Meanwhile, Boss Cass has also been looking for the talismans, although without a device like Julius', he's had a much harder time. Certainly Ty has a standard platform back story, and gameplay is similarly unremarkable at its core. There's not a lot of variety to the action, and aside from scattered exceptions, the game is mostly moving and jumping, with boomerangs and a bite attack providing a small amount of depth. Often, though, obstacles can be passed only in one way, and puzzles also have a single solution.
Although all that probably sounds pretty typical of the platform genre, Ty is at least presented earnestly and doesn't come off as trite. A lot of this feeling comes from observing the effort that was put into the game, which comes across right from the opening cinematic sequence. In-game graphics are on par with the best that this genre has to offer, maintaining a smooth frame rate throughout, and the art direction is uniformly great. Levels are very large and open, with diverging paths and natural-looking layouts that take full advantage of 3D. They're also dense with detail: Land has lots of grass and scrub sticking up; the ocean is full of coral, schools of fish, and tortoises; and rain forests have huge trees dotted with mushrooms and thick ferns. Each object in the levels and the levels as a whole have a very high attention to detail that is directed toward making the environment look natural. There are a few odd floating platforms, and some rock formations seem awfully convenient, but for the most part levels maintain a natural feel. Sound is also well designed, with background noise and sound effects lending to the lifelike environments. The game's music is top notch as well. Each level has a different theme, featuring some Aboriginal instruments as well as some great slide guitar playing.
Ty's main draw, though, is the supporting cast, which in addition to Julius and Maurie also includes anthropomorphized wombats, platypuses, frogs, and various other Australian fauna. The character designs are nicely done, thanks to some costuming to convey the characters' personalities. For instance, Julius' role as the doddering engineer is enhanced by his wearing glasses, a bow tie, and a workman's apron and his having a pencil behind one ear. It's well executed, if perhaps a little clichéd. The same can be said of the voice acting, for the most part. While Ty himself is little more than a walking collection of Australian idioms like "Ripper!" and "You beauty!" the game's dialogue for the other characters is more involved, well written, and superbly voiced. While their lines function primarily as a gameplay mechanic to bookend tasks that will net Ty a thunder egg, they don't come off as forced or strained, and they complete the personality of the characters.
The only blight on the cast is the villain, Boss Cass. Compared to villains in other platform games, Boss Cass isn't quite satisfying as an antagonist. As birds go, a cassowary is pretty tough, growing up to 5 feet tall and with a large bony protrusion on its forehead, but in the game, Boss Cass isn't much of a worthy foe. The goal was perhaps to make him more of a source of comic relief than a real villain, but he's just not very entertaining, and the plot never gives him a position of advantage over the good guys, so he's not much of a success either way. It's a minor gripe since he's only one questionable character out of so many good ones.
The milquetoast villain is part and parcel of Ty's attempt to extend the lower end of its age range, and this may put off those whose primary enjoyment of a platform game comes from its difficulty. Ty is easy compared to other platform games, like Super Mario Sunshine. While the game is mostly a cakewalk, one sticking point for some will be the boss battles. There are three boss battles in the game, and though the methods to defeat each boss make sense once you figure them out, they are initially somewhat indirect and obscure, especially for a game looking to include younger players in its audience. There's only one way to defeat each boss, and the first two battles don't even offer any hints as to how to go about it. To top things off, once you do figure out how, each boss actually turns out to be much too easy to defeat--the method of defeating these foes is quite easy to execute, and the entire fight boils down to just repeating the method a few times. In fact, the variety and low difficulty level of the rest of the game make these obtuse and repetitive fights stick out like a sore thumb.
Ty was released simultaneously on the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox. The Xbox version is technically the best of the three. The variations between versions are mostly minor, though, and involve only the graphics. Colors are a little more vivid in the Xbox version than they are in the GameCube and the PS2 versions. Alpha textures are blended a bit more smoothly, making grass and leaves look better. The frame rate is also smooth throughout, and level loads are a bit faster too.
What ultimately may influence your decision to purchase the game is its length. There are only 17 levels in the game, and while the nine main levels are very large, the others aren't very complex. Trying to find all the optional collectible items, of which there are many, will take some time, but ignoring them and making a dedicated run from the start of the game to the final battle will take less than 10 hours and even as little as four or five hours for some. The short length is somewhat justified by the game's $39.99 price point and the high quality of the game's content. Ty the Tasmanian Tiger is great for younger players and can provide a satisfying experience for teens and adults as long as they don't mind their replay value coming from finding every last collectible in the game.