The PS2 has several series of great platformers, such as the Jak series, Ratchet and Clank, and Sly Cooper.  While the Xbox has had some original platformers like Voodoo Vince, there haven’t been many available.  Ubi Soft is hoping to fill some of that void with Tork: Prehistoric Punk.


In Tork, you play, oddly enough, Tork, a prehistoric caveboy.  Tork’s father has been kidnapped from the caveman village by an evil sorcerer.  After this happens, Tork seeks Yok, a caveman shaman, who Tork believes can help him find his father.  Yok reveals that Tork can transform into different spirit animals.  These different spirit animals will assist Tork’s journey to find his father.

The graphics in Tork aren’t very impressive.  The characters and environments have low polygon counts.  Statues throughout the game look more square than round.  Creatures that you battle in the game are decently animated, but it would have been nice if they were a bit rounded as well.


The environments are rather static.  There isn’t much activity going on through the levels.  While there are occasional lava flows that spurt out, the levels look rather dead.  Water doesn’t flow.  The textures throughout the environments have little detail.


However, the game does have a few nice lighting effects.  Crystal shards that you need to collect sparkle in the light.  Fires glow and steam gas rises.  These effects are actually well done.


The designers of Tork should be commended that they have provided several different environment types.  They include an ice level, a rock level, a lava level, and a forest level.  While they are fairly standard, it’s nice to see the variety included throughout the game.


 

The music in Tork fits the theme of the game well.  The foundation of the music is bongo drums, which matches the prehistoric setting.  However, it doesn’t change all that much and gets repetitive.


The sound effects in the game don’t fare as well.  During the game you can destroy enemies for combos.  The combo bonus points sound like something that you would find in a pinball game.  The short range attack sounds a bit like bonking an enemy with a rattle.

The controls are fairly simple.  Tork moves with the left thumbstick and the right thumbstick controls the camera.  A jumps and double jumps.  X performs a short-range attack.  B performs a long-range attack that can be charged up.  Y transforms Tork into a spirit animal.  Pulling both triggers performs a special attack.


Tork’s controls are responsive.  The jumps and double jumps are performed easily enough.  However, transforming Tork seems to take a bit longer than I would expect.  Also, while the camera can be moved with the right analog stick, the camera can’t be moved all that much.  It is frustrating when you can’t move the camera where you want it to go so you can line up a jump properly.

Tork goes around bashing obstacles, collecting power ups, and defeating enemies.  Throughout the levels there are gongs that you will be able to hit as checkpoints.  These are fairly standard items for a platformer.  He has five lives that he can use to get through the game.  However, if you lose your lives, you head back to Yok’s hut and have to start over again.  However, if you hit a special gong about half-way through the level, you can start at that point.


Power ups are contained within “Good Statues.”  These contain points, extra hearts, and combo score multipliers.  There are other special bonuses.  A Life Statue gives Tork an extra life.  The Fury Statue is used to increase Tork’s Fury Meter.  Crystal shards are collected, and when 50 shards are collected Tork earns a special attack Tork uses while transformed.  Some other statues are bad and can cause harm, such as a Cannibal Statue that tries to eat you and a Spike Statue that spins around and tries to cut up Tork.


The hook of Tork is the fact that he can transform into three spirit animals.  These animals are a Yeti, an armadillo, and a squirrel.  The Yeti is big and strong and has a Shockwave special attack.  The armadillo can roll around and rebound off of enemies.  The squirrel is very fast and can hit enemies with his tail.  To transform, Tork must fill his Fury Meter by destroying enemies or hitting Fury Statues.


Unfortunately, the levels feel too empty.  The amount of activity within the levels is disappointing.  There aren’t that many obstacles to tackle, the levels are fairly linear, and the number of enemies is fairly small.


Tork definitely skews towards young gamers.  The difficulty of the game is rather low, and most of the jumps will seem fairly easy.  However, you have three out of five life points that you start the level with each time.  This design choice is a bit odd.

Tork is a fairly short game, especially because of the skew towards younger gamers.  Tork allows you the ability to replay any level you want, but there isn’t much reason to go back except to increase your score in each level.  You gain access to bonus levels at Yok’s hut when your score reaches certain levels.  However, you’ll have to earn a lot of points to gain access, and you’ll probably move on to other games before finishing this one.

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