I came into Tak and the Power of Juju not really knowing what to expect. After playing it, I don't really know what I was expecting, but I sure didn't get it.
The first thing that struck me about Tak was the striking similarities to Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. The sprawling jungle filled worlds and collection-based gameplay were quite obviously Jak inspired, and the picturesque environments even improved upon The Precursor Legacy on some levels. But the game quickly crosses the line from homage to blatant rip-off; even little things like the pause menu screen and Tak's exclamations upon completing an objective seem taken directly from Jak. It's one thing to be inspired, but it's another to steal the design of a game wholesale.
I strongly agree with Dan that the local wildlife is one of the high points of Tak. Much more than simple gameplay constructions, the animals actually seem like living, breathing parts of Tak's world. If Tak hits an ape with a stick, for instance, the ape will reach out a lumbering fist and punch back with a comical swing. Little touches like these make exploring and experimenting with the game's environments a lot of fun.
But for each positive bit of detail to be noticed, there are other little negatives that emphasize Tak's wasted potential. Between shoddy hit detection and repetitive, overly annoying enemies, there are some definite technical issues to be dealt with. As Dan mentioned, it can be hard to tell when your health meter is low or when you're about to fall into a pit. Infinite lives prevent these problems from making the game frustratingly hard, but they remain frustrations nonetheless.
On a larger scale, there are definite problems with the level and goal design. As Dan alluded to, it can be quite easy to spend hours wandering around wondering what to do or where to go next. The game might give you some vague instructions like "Find the Tiki and place it in the shrine," but without knowing what the Tiki looks like or the general area it might be in, the goal becomes even worse than finding a needle in a haystack. The out-of-the-way item placement also leads to a lot of backtracking, making gameplay more of a chore than anything resembling fun.
I can see Tak being used as a decent "Introduction to 3D platforming" for young children who will appreciate the Nickelodeon-infused humor. But more mature gamers will only see wasted potential; a beautiful, detailed world that contains little in the way of interesting gameplay.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
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