Developer: Avalanche Software
Release Date: October 15, 2003
In a move to raise awareness and perpetuate hype for an up-and-coming TV series, Nickelodeon and THQ have collaborated to create a videogame based on the protagonist of said television series. This may throw some people for a loop as usually the game is released only after the TV show has been infused into consumer's collective consciousness. But while this process of reverse marketing may seem a bit skewed, rest assured it is every bit as thought-out and money-minded as that of traditional marketing gimmicks. Nevertheless, Tak and the Power of Juju for the GBA is a solid platforming game that features some pretty interesting story elements. Sadly, though, the repetitive nature of progression and a few nagging play mechanics bring the game down to only mediocre status.
Following the plot in the GBA version of Tak and the Power of Juju is akin to making sense out of a lava-lamp as most of the effective storytelling methods of its console brethren did not make the transition to the small-screen. The full-motion video cut-scenes that propelled the story along in the GameCube and PS2 ports is expectedly MIA, leaving only a paraphrased intro and occasional dialogue sequences to acclimate the player with the world of Juju. From what I could gather, an ancient Pupanunu prophecy foretelling the fall of the beloved Moon Juju is about to come to pass. Apparently, the world is split between two dimensions: our version of reality and the magical world of Jujus. The aforementioned Moon Juju is the Pupanunu's goddess protector, whose sacred Moonstones have been stolen, rendering the Moon Juju helpless while the thief uses his newfound powers to transform the tribe into wildlife and himself into the world's most powerful being. Tak's goal is to get these Moonstones back. I think.
While the story may be befitting of a drug-induced, kaleidoscopic vision trek, the game itself is nothing out of the ordinary. Tak moves along at a brisk pace through sidescrolling, multi-leveled environments, jumping over lots of thorny bushes and using his handy blowgun to upset beehives that, in turn, destroy nearby enemies. Later on, Tak will receive a spirit rattle, which is basically a more powerful melee-based weapon. Get used to these weapons because they'll be your only source of offensive gadgetry in the game. You can switch between the two at will, though most will find that the rattle is vastly more effective than the puny blowgun that barely stuns opponents. There is some variety thrown into the mix from time to time, such as animals that you can ride on and an underwater level, but for the most part these elements are only worth mentioning because the majority of the game is so similar.
But that's not to say that just because Tak and the Power of Juju doesn't bring anything new to the table (in terms of platforming dynamics) that the game is without any sense of entertaining value. The simple gameplay ensures that old-school platformer fans and new generation gamers alike will instantly adapt to its oft-used running-and-jumping logic, and the level design is solid enough to avoid plenty of the pitfalls of other, less cohesive, GBA romps. The enemy placement, hazardous obstacles, and various platforms that pepper any given level in the game are smartly integrated, often making for some pretty exciting moments that revolve around near-misses and perfectly-timed jumps.
But then there are the downfalls of the game that make the experience less than what it could have been. For starters, when you are injured your character will temporarily be invincible - this is fine and good, except for the fact that when you are reverted back to your default vulnerable state only a split second after you are hurt, well .. let's just say that things can get frustrating. One example is an area pretty early on in the game where you must navigate floating platforms over a thorn-laden ground. Falling to the ground and injuring yourself on the thorns pretty much ensures a quick death since you are simply not given enough time to jump to safety before your health is completely diminished. Jumping is also pretty inconsistent as sometimes Tak will easily make his way over gaps while at other times he seems to be less than enthusiastic about jumping.
Overall, Tak and the Power of Juju just feels unfinished and rushed, though it is technically playable thanks to the few elements of platforming that it manages to get right. Most levels in the game are of the straightforward and overly-easy variety, and since the show on which it is based is aimed at a younger demographic, its easy-to-overcome difficulty curve can be easily forgiven.
Visually, Tak and the Power of Juju is a pretty good looking game, sporting plenty of sprite art representing lush rainforest environments and background additions such as surprisingly well-animated butterflies. There is plenty of animation to go around for both the titular protagonist and enemies alike. (Though the enemy character sprites tend to repeat quite often.) The whimsical world of Juju is highly conducive to lots of bright, vibrant colors, almost to the point of excessiveness. (Who ever heard of a bright pink rhino, anyways?) While the graphical presentation is nowhere near the level of the console ports, the aesthetics are tight and right on par with most other good-looking GBA side-scrollers games currently on shelves.
The sound in Tak and the Power of Juju doesn't fare as well, however. The soundtrack consists of simple little tribal ditties that, while perfectly in line with the on-screen proceedings, do little to make you turn the volume up. Sound effects are equally underwhelming, serving their purpose respectfully but with little or no flair. For a game that looks this good you'd think the developers would go to the effort of making it sound good, too.
Overall, Tak and the Power of Juju offers a handful of semi-entertaining game hours but isn't nearly diverse enough to keep the attention of most well-played gamers. The younger crowd will certainly find a lot to like here, entertaining themselves with the game's straightforward level design, colorful motif, and bountiful (albeit pointless) item collecting, but chances are if you're old enough to read this review you're probably too old to enjoy Tak and the Power of Juju to its completion.