Tak: The Great Juju Challenge
THQ nearly ruins its game with a presentation only Rise of the Robots' developers could love.
One of the worst parts of my job is going from a fabulous game, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, to a not so fabulous one because all of its faults immediately stand out. This time, the role of the mediocre product is being played by THQ's Tak: The Great JuJu Challenge. Whereas Konami's stellar 2D slash fest contains solid dialogue, an interesting story, and fun gameplay elements, Tak pretty much contains none of those things. The result is a bone dry adventure title that would have benefited from some extra polish. However, it's not a total waste.
Much like its console counterpart, The Great JuJu Challenge revolves around Tak and Lok and their quest to defeat a few other tribal teams in order to win the favor/protection of the Moon JuJu (whatever the hell that means). On the console front, the game revolves around switching between the characters to solve mind bending puzzles.
Unfortunately, such entertaining puzzle solving does not exist in this game. The developers were unable to put both Tak and Lok on the screen at the same time (you switch characters by tapping the touch screen), so all of the puzzles that require them to work together have been completely cut out, and what's been left behind isn't exactly thrilling. Take, for example, Lok's fear of fish. The guy thinks all fish have it in for him so he won't get into the water. In the console version, you have to use Tak to swim across and hit some switch that'll activate a bridge or something of that nature. But here, all you need to do is swim to the other side and Lok automatically takes the trip. How does he do this? Through unimaginative game design, that's how!
The more I played, the more I discovered that there are other "could've been cool" moments, racing being one of them. There are points where Tak hops into a "car" and you have to beat three other opponents to the finish line. The engine is surprisingly smooth and there's a decent sensation of speed, but the tracks are just oddly designed (no need for those sharp turns) and you don't have to place first in order to move on. To that I say, wha!?!
Then there's the rest of the game, which is just the standard issue hit this switch to activate this and open that and beat up on some rock monsters and collect a bunch of items that do all sorts of strange things and blah, blah, blah. None of its awful, and truth be told (because I've been lying to you the whole time...this game is amazing), it's actually fun, but it's also been done a millions times before.
Where the developers really faltered is with Tak's presentation. All of the cut scenes are still frames that have been loaded with text that contrasts with the background (break out your glasses), and the story itself is just plain meh. Jokes are cracked, nothing is funny, the characters lack emotion, the narrative doesn't make much sense, there are too many screens to wade through, things are poorly explained, and objectives are unclear. This is basically a text book example of a good, solid adventure title being nearly murdered by its presentation. I say nearly because after slogging through all of that garbage I had a decent time hopping across chasms and attacking bad guys.
Finally, I come to the 3D engine, which is one of this game's brighter spots. Not only do the graphics look good, but controlling the characters by simply using the d-pad (alas, poor thumb strap, I knew thee well) is simple to the point where it poops all over the shoddy work that is Super Mario 64 DS. I'm not saying that this is the pinnacle of portable game design, but the characters look good, the environments are colorful and rather large, and there's no slow down to speak of.
I really wanted to award Tak with a 3/5, but the longer I played the more I found things that anger me. Kudos to THQ for the pretty graphics, the boring but solid platform elements, and several mini games that make good use of the touch screen and microphone (Lobster Rock and Chicken Suit Tak being two of my favorites), but The Great JuJu Challenge isn't nearly as cool (and I use the word "cool" loosely) as its PS2, Xbox, and GameCube cousins. In the end, Tak rhymes with wak, and that's what this game is...yo.
What's Hot: The attractive graphics and solid (yet dry) platform mechanics.
What's Not: The story really sucks, the font is ugly, and it's sometimes difficult figuring out where to go