Krome Studios
Electronic Arts
Platform
1
10.10.02

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger


What do Tasmanian tigers and Italian plumbers have in common? Well, in the real world, nothing, but apparently in the video game world, their adventures are uncannily alike. Aussie developer Krome Studio’s and EA team up to take gamers down under as the tough but lovable Ty, a Tasmanian tiger who after falling into a hole in the ground is told by a spirit about a battle between Ty’s family and the evil turkey Boss Cass. Seems Cass is bitter about the domination of mammals, and was fighting to gain the magical talismans Ty’s parents were protecting. Cass somehow activated the talismans and a portal sucked the Tasmanian tigers all into Dreamworld. Fortunately on the way through, one of the tigers threw a ‘rang which knocked out all of the talismans causing a great explosion, and scattering them. Now Cass is after them again, and it’s up to Ty to find them all and save his family!

Gameplay

Players begin the game in Rainbow Cliffs, the ‘hub’ world, with only one basic ‘rang, and few abilities. After a quick message from your tutor and good friend Maurie, a wise old cockatoo, you set off to the first stage, which is more of a practice stage than anything else, with Maurie popping up every turn to give you advice, or tell you how to do something. Stages have a great mix of exploration, combat, puzzle solving and collecting. It keeps the flow just right for a game like this, so you rarely get bored with a level until you’ve done just about everything necessary to progress. Most of your abilities are learned by Maurie, or supplied by ‘rangs, but you do learn to swim and dive later in the game from your mate Rex.

Gamers weary of a treasure hunt will not appreciate it, but there’s just the right amount of collectibles in Ty. First there are rubies, these are basically like the coins in Super Mario 64, collect them all, and get the main collectable, thunder eggs. These are the same thing as Mario’s stars; collect enough to progress to new areas. There are also golden cogs which unlock new ‘rangs with new abilities. And also, though totally optional, invisible boxes you can break open to collect pictures, which unlock the pictures in the gallery. This adds a lot of replay for gamers who like unlocking everything, as there are over 200 of these hidden boxes scattered around levels.

‘Rangs. If you haven’t figured this out by now, ‘rangs is short for boomerang. You start with a basic ‘rang at first, but as you collect enough cogs, or open new areas, you can get 8 more. There’s a very special 10th one, but that isn’t until the end. These ‘rangs; Aqua, Flame, Frosty, Zoom, Multi, Infra, Kaboom and Zappy; are key to solving certain puzzles and getting certain collectables. This gives you good reason to backtrack to previous levels to explore things you couldn’t previously. Some enemies also have a weakness to only one certain ‘rang, giving initial encounters with a new type of enemy, a momentary sense of strategy.

Enemies range from weak, frilly lizards and metal clad variants, snowball throwing ‘roos and crocodiles. Unfortunately even the strongest regular baddy is never a challenge. You could play the game from beginning to end and not die once because of a non-boss enemy. The bosses can be fairly challenging though, requiring quick reflexes or in the case of later bosses, a moderately complex strategy. Just figuring out the ‘trick’ to a boss will take some good old trial and error. But until later in the game, still, this only results in lost health, and rarely death. Experienced platform veterans will breeze through the bosses pretty quickly.

The tasks and puzzles set before Ty are varied. You may be hunting for a bunch of little koalas that are cleverly scattered around a level, take a post and shoot something, race one of your friends or find a well placed switch to hit. Finding something or seeing it from the right angle is generally the trick to figuring out a puzzle, which can sometimes get a bit frustrating, but usually the task is given a name, and you can get an idea where you should be in a level. Also, you can tackle these tasks in any order you please as long as you have any required ‘rangs or abilities.

The controls are extremely easy to master. The default control scheme (you can choose from 4 preset configurations) have the left analog stick controlling your movement, and the right turning the camera. The D-pad cycles through your ‘rangs, A jumps, B chomps, X shoots your ‘rang. Left trigger puts you in first person mode to aim ‘rangs better. The right trigger button locks onto enemies. The back button takes you to your progress/options/map screen. The black button can shift the camera further or closer, but only a little. This is where some of the mild camera issues come in. While the camera is fine most of the time, it can be in too close, even at its furthest, preventing you from landing correctly on a ledge or platform. It can also make turning corners a pain if there are enemies there. It’s certainly not any worse than most cameras in 3D platformers, but like in most, it can result in some frustrating spots, and leave you having to try to do something a few more times than might be fun.

Graphics

Visually, Ty is a mixed bag. On the plus side, the world always feels like an organic living place, with birds, insects, etc all scurrying around the environment. The water in close range is usually soothing to look at with its smooth wavy surface. When high up vertically in a level, you can see around very far, virtually the entire level. The characters are all animated nicely, with their own little nuances and idle animations. Most levels are very bright and colorful, in a earthy way. It’s not all sunshine in the graphics department though. Shrubbery and grasses are all flat and extremely pixilated textures that rotate along with your view around them. Although they don’t move, the leaves and tree branches are all pixilated and flat as well. Although you can see hills and basic things from one end of a level to another most the time, you cannot see detail very far, even with your zoomarang. Boxes, enemies, collectibles and anything animated is either not visible, or like the water, a cheap static image is there to replace it. Considering the size of the levels and the number of things going on in each one, not to mention this game was simultaneously developed for three consoles, these problems are largely forgivable.

Sound

The music can at times be catchy; rhythm based ethnic sounding instrumentals, but is usually cheesy soft rock sounding guitar over uncatchy rhythm based ethnic sounding instrumentals. The best way to approach the music in Ty is to turn it down to a level where you can hear it, but it never gets intrusive, as it can when it’s at the default level. Sound effects range from the generic ‘thud’ of your regular ‘rang hitting something solid, to the really cool sounding ice formation you get when hitting an object with your frostyrang. Not always outstanding, but never anything less than good. Then there are the voices. Let’s put it this way, "It’s a me, Mario!" has nothing on a spunky orange tiger throwing out phrases like "You beauty!", or "You ripper!" done with a more stereotypical, but believable, accent than Mr. Dundee and the Crocodile Hunter combined. The entire cast of main characters is great, but I can’t help but wonder about the voices of the koala children; some of them sound right, but others distinctly sound like a grown man imitating a child. Never-the-less, the voices are a very strong aspect that pulled the Australian theme together so well.

Bottom Line:

In the end, this is a solid platformer that borrows a lot, well, most everything, from past games in the genre, but it pulls it together in a fun, rewarding, convincing package, with none of the superfluous gameplay gimmicks that complicate the genre these days, in an attempt to stay ‘fresh’. It’s the simple things that has sustained the genre for fans since Pitfall, and Ty the Tasmanian Tiger does most all of them, with style. This game would be a recommended purchase on any console for fans, and definitely so with the Xbox, which is still fairly lacking in the genre. If you enjoy platforming games at all, you owe it to yourself to pick this up.

-Damian Miller




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