Many games developed for the consoles have had a version developed for the GBA. Although the GBA versions don’t feature the same 3D graphics or musical score, the spirit of the game remains intact. Such examples of this are Splinter Cell and Tony Hawk. Tak and the Power of Juju is another example of this trend. Does the GBA version retain the same spirit as its big brothers? Let’s find out.
Tak and the Power of Juju follows the adventures of a member of the Pupanunu people named Tak. A shaman named Tlaloc has turned all the members of the tribe into sheep, except for Tak. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to defeat Tlaloc and rescue everyone from becoming mutton mince meat.
While the GBA can’t offer 3D graphics, the GBA is perfect for side-scrolling adventures such as this one. The animation is done well for a GBA title. Tak’s hands move while climbing a rope. A bird flying across the screen will have its wings flapping. The background seems alive with butterflies fluttering their wings. However, some items just didn’t seem to have any detail at all, such as a special bomb you can pick up from a plant.
Tak is well animated, but the characters in the game could be done better. Only a few frames of animation are used for each character. Most of the characters hop around, so they don’t need many, but a little more variety would have been nice.
The graphics are varied, but some of levels use the exact same graphics for certain items. However, the levels are varied enough that this isn’t an issue. The problem lies in the difficulty to determine what is in the foreground and what is in the background. When I started the game, I started running and got stopped for what I thought was no apparent reason. Eventually I figured out there was a thorn bush there and it needed to be jumped over. Something like this should be easy to spot.
The GBA isn’t going to give great surround stereo sound, but Tak does a good job on the music front. Tribal beats provide the music for the game, and this tribal sound really helps to set the mood. However, it could get on the nerves of someone not playing the game, as it repeats over and over. The sound does sound much better through headphones than the GBA speaker though.
Sound effects are peppered throughout the game. When rescuing a sheep, the sheep will baa and then disappear from the screen. While using the blowgun, a short “pffft” is heard. Whenever Tak is hurt, the same sound is heard whether he is stung by bees or he runs into a thorn bush. When Tak dies, it sounds like he is coughing up a hairball. A little more variety on the sound effects would have been nice.The controls are well laid out for the GBA. A jumps, B shoots your blowgun or swings your magic rattle, and L switches between the two weapons. The controls seem to be responsive, but there are times when the controls seemed to be too sensitive. Trying to land in the correct place is difficult, especially when you are landing to avoid an enemy or to grab a rope. It’s not too bad though.
The gameplay is fairly typical of a platformer. Jump to get over an obstacle, use the blowgun to shoot enemies from a distance, and hit enemies in close range with a Spirit Rattle. Collecting enough orbs called Yorbels will give you an extra life. Animals can be ridden when found on the screen, and special suits will be given to you to give you the ability to fly or breathe underwater. All of these conventions never seem to bring anything new to the genre.
Also, GBA games are generally aimed for short bursts of gaming. The first stage I encountered was a jungle stage in four parts. I had to leave after completing the third part of this stage. When I came back to the game, I had to start all the way from the beginning again. Some people call it adding replay time to the game. I call it frustrating. The game has three save slots, but it doesn’t have much functionality. Saving only occurs at the beginning of a new level.The game has eight “worlds” in it. Although the game does have its challenging parts, it really isn’t a very difficult game. Power ups are scattered through the level, and there are enough Yorbels to get an extra continue fairly quickly. Each world takes around an hour, as long as you don’t have to stop in the middle and start at the beginning of the world again. However, once the game is completed, there isn’t much reason to play it again.