Tak: The Great Juju Challenge is the first title in this series for the Nintendo DS and the third in the series itself. In this game you play as both Tak and Lok of the Pupanunu tribe as you take part in the Great Juju Challenge against teams from other parts of Tak’s world. Not having played anything in the series before, I didn’t really have any preconceptions as to what to expect, other than a simple platform game. Also, coming out at the same time as Tak 3 for all consoles as well as the GBA, I didn’t know whether to expect a port of the GBA title or something created solely for the Nintendo DS.
With this in mind, I set down to review Tak: The Great Juju Challenge. Let’s see what I discovered, shall we?
The first thing that you’ll notice when playing Tak: The Great Juju Challenge is that it’s in full 3D. It’s not blocky, the characters are smooth almost as if they were on a PS2 or Xbox. While the rest of the graphics aren’t at that quality, obviously, there’s no blockiness to the characters’, really. While there are some clipping issues, especially when close to a wall, for the most part the camera hangs close enough to the characters to get both a good view of the action as well as give good detail on the environment itself.
The environments are varied and quite nicely populated. You can look around and definitely see things both in the background and foreground with details on each. It’s really quite impressive honestly, and things happen on both the top and bottom screens at the same time.
There’s a fair amount of music in the game, all generally having a rather primitive beat to it, befitting the fact that these are supposed to basically be cavemen. The songs are rather upbeat and keep you going through the game. However, after more than a few minutes, the music becomes rather repetitive and you almost want the ability to turn it off.
As far as the sounds go, they’re all very crisp, thanks to the dual speakers of the DS. Tak and Lok’s attacks sound different from each other and just about every action taken in the game has an accompanying sound. Hardly atypical to the platform genre, perhaps, but still not bad at all.
The controls in Tak: The Great Juju Challenge are basically pretty simple. In normal mode, Y attacks, X does a power attack, B jumps and A climbs (when you’re Lok). The only thing the touchscreen is used for is changing the camera view or changing characters, while L and R rotate the camera around the character. In minigames, things change a bit, but each minigame describes the controls at the beginning, so it’s not too bad.
In the racing sub-games, L and R drift, the directional pad turns the car, A accelerates and B brakes. The major problem in this sub-game as well as in general is that the controls feel very soft. You’ll find yourself pressing harder on the keys because of a lack of responsiveness at times, and this can lead to very sore fingers. Granted, this is somewhat excaberated in the car sections due to numerous dropoffs which are hard to see and avoid, leading to many replays of the same section over and over again.
The story of Tak: The Great Juju Challenge is pretty straightforward. In it, Tak and Lok are attempting to win the Great Juju Challenge to win the power of Moon Juju for the Pupanunu Tribe. They face off against three other tribes: The Jibba Jabbas, The Grammazons (Amazons who…well…it’s best left unsaid) and Black Mist (the bad guys, naturally). The game begins with Tak and Lok attempting to gain a phoenix feather so that they can enter the Challenge. The game uses this level as a tutorial, showing you what each of the two characters can do and how to switch between them, which is a nice touch.
After the feather is obtained, the game goes to a simple race. Unfortunately, the race isn’t very fun, can’t be repeated and it’s extremely easy to fall off the track due to how the camera is situated here. It’s almost as if they had tacked on the race mode at the very end, and were unable to lavish the polish that the rest of the game had.
The game cycles between a number of platform areas, complete with jumping puzzles and minigames followed usually by a boss monster and then another race. There are a number of ‘cut scenes’ interspersed, and I use that term loosely, as all they are are words on the bottom screen with a still image on the top. This really kills the immersiveness at times. Another drawback is an utter lack of any description about what to do in the platform levels. There are no arrows, no map, no objective screen. It’s just run along until you find the entrance to the next area and hope that you’re going the right way.
The other major drawback to the game is the length. It’s very short, easily beatable within five hours if not sooner. Luckily, there’s always the ten unlockable minigames to replay as well as Shaman games. Unfortunately, though, the minigames wear thin after a few tries and the Shaman games are basically a Bejewled clone.
This just goes to show that no matter how pretty and polished a game is, if the game play isn’t there, it all falls apart.
It’s a good thing that Tak: The Great Juju Challenge is only $30 because honestly, there’s not a lot to offer. It’s a nice little platform game which is very pretty to look at, unfortunately, there’s not a lot outside of that. The minigames are nice every now and again, and Shaman Games can be entertaining in short bursts, but there’s really no reason to sit through the game more than one playthrough and not a lot to reccommend it afterward.
This is a great rental game, but not so great to purchase unless a monster deal is in the offering.