Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams PS2 Review
Platformers in a nutshell: play as a cute hero, save the princess, jump around, solve puzzles and perform simple combos to destroy funny looking enemies. Tak 2 starts off the same, but it doesn’t take long before the plot twists and turns with humour at every corner. The game is aimed for a younger audience yet it takes an adult mind to appreciate the dry humour in the game. If you want games that are all about challenges then you might as well not bother with either my review or the game. This game is made for those who want simple fun in form of a platformer, and it succeeds at doing exactly that.
So for those of you who don’t know me: I believe graphics are the most overrated aspect of any game out today. Games looking good simply has nothing to do with how much fun it is to play. However, after playing Tak 2 I have realised the same thing I realised after playing Mario Sunshine or Resident Evil 4: Graphics (along with sounds) play a huge role in the atmosphere in a game. The game is divided in to 2 worlds: the dream world and the real world. At first the real world plays in a jungle, the atmosphere is fantastic with trees and animals looking colourful, the enemies looking funny and some great effects as well. Chances are you won’t be doing much more than your basic platformer at the first few levels but you will play it with a smile anyway, the levels just make you happy. The dream world however is an entirely different cup of tea; the enemies are straight from a nightmare and the landscape looks the same way. Although it does not look scary or depressing; every time I had a dream world level I wanted to complete it as soon as possible so I would get back to the world of bright colours.
So the atmosphere is fantastic. The graphics themselves are definitely way above average. The game runs smooth most of the time although there are some slowdowns, none of which bother gameplay however. There is a very common issue though: the camera. Although most of the time it is great for platforming, it is not so great for combat and neither is it when you just want to look around just for the hell of it. Except for the occasional frame rate drop and the common camera issues this is one very pretty game however. On top of all this comes some very nice animating, so keep this in mind when watching screenshots.
Earlier I mentioned how people that want a challenge should not bother. To clarify, Tak 2 is indeed a rather easy game but it does have its moments of difficulty. This game almost made me throw my controller out of the window because I got stuck at one point, which is why I would advice people that like challenges more than anything else to stay away. The game starts off easy and builds up more and more diversity and challenges as you progress. These challenges however are all trial and error based. This is my main concern with the game and therefore I can’t point this factor out enough. I can’t see how anybody would enjoy these challenges. However the good parts of the game definitely make up for this. Before I scare people off I should also state that these so called trial and error challenges don’t show up more often than 5 times in total during the game, so it definitely isn’t so bad at all. Since it is the biggest issue in the entire game it deserves some attention though.
Enough about the issues, time to discuss the beauties. Let’s start off with dying in The Staff of Dreams: it is dramatic (Tak looks so sad when he is dead) but at the same time it won’t ever bother the player. The game will remember where you were just a moment ago and load back from there. If you would die at any point, you won’t go back more than 2 minutes (and this is during boss fights). This definitely helps out during the challenges since you can literally complete them step by step. Fighting off enemies is very easy most of the time. The rule of the thumb applies here: when you know the weak spot of an enemy, he doesn’t stand a chance. The platforming puzzles are well thought of: I had quite some fun bouncing off the belly of a bear, jumping on alligators, turning in to various animals and jumping from rope to rope. I really don’t want to say much more about this part of the game since about 70% of it is very basic (but fun) and about 30% is so funny I don’t want to spoil anything.
Furthermore the gameplay is varied, from basic jumping around to playing a deadly game of pong with a boss, to going down a river in a canoe to chasing your enemies as a flying squirrel. Every time you get tired of doing the same thing the variation sets in at exactly the same moment.
Combat in Tak 2 is so easy it really doesn’t deserve attention, but thanks to some very nice controls button bashers should have just as much fun as people trying to learn new moves all the time. Most enemies, especially at the beginning, die from a simple 3-button combo. There are some enemies with shields that require a more powerful combo than a basic one to be defeated as well as enemies with other nifty defensive tricks. The rule of the thumb I mentioned earlier combined with a very nice set of controls makes defeating enemies a very easy job indeed. I don’t think the easy combat makes the game any less fun to play though.
Overall the sounds in Staff of dreams are very, very good. The voice acting adds a lot to the experience (especially humour) and the music fits the atmosphere perfectly. The sound effects are great, although after a while the combat sounds will start to bore you. I don’t know what else to say, the sounds in this game are simply excellent.
The main quest took a lot longer than expected, mainly due to plot twists. You will already get your money’s worth out of it by completing the main quest, but then there are mini games and other extras waiting for you. Everybody loves mini-games, combine the great diversity of these mini-games with the length of the main quest and you will have a lifespan that will satisfy virtually everybody. Most people probably will finish this game a lot quicker than I have and because of this I can’t be too exact about how long it will take you to complete the main quest. This is a guess but platform veterans probably are capable of finishing this one in 8 hours while my first go lasted at least 18 hours. I don’t think too many people will be playing it again, but the mini-games definitely are for everybody.
It’s hard to tell people that a game that is aimed for the youngsters is probably more suited for adults that want a simple game. Especially when I mention that this is because of the humour without actually saying anything about the humour. Keep in mind though that the reason why I didn’t mention anything about the humour is so that you will have the same fun as I did when I was playing through it the first time. I can promise you a few things however. First of all, if you enjoy platformers, you will enjoy Tak 2. Second, if you do enjoy this game then you will enjoy it for a great many hours. Last, but not least, it’s for everyone and not just the kids.
Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams is fun, and that is what it is all about.