Publisher: Activision Value
Developer: Krome Studios
Release Date: October 11, 2005
Something that's too easy to forget when reviewing video games is the role price plays; after all, we reviewers usually get our review copies gratis. But for most gamers, it's not the quality of the game so much as what the game offered relative to price. A title that might be panned at a $60 price point is decent at $50 and suddenly great at $19.99. The Ty series was always intended with gamers on a tight budget in mind, and most new copies of Ty 3 will retail for $29.99 or below. On top of that, the series is pretty obviously targeted at very young gamers, probably in the 6-11 set. While Ty 3 is hardly a transcendent gaming experience at any price, it's hard to frown quite so hard at the games when you have the original price point and audience in mind.
The storyline is written in pure Saturday morning, Hanna-Barbera spirit, but throws a few nods toward the tendency for platformers to go angsty lately (as seen in Jak 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog). After finishing up their last adventure, Ty and gal pal Shazza have a run-in with a new enemy called the Quinkan before leaving the mystic Dreaming dimension. The Quinkan are built up as horrible destructive forces of darkness, but in-game seem like nothing so much as the Heartless' non-union Mexican counterparts. Ty is able to seal them away with a magic glove, and stays for awhile in the Dreaming to get some extra training and a tougher new look. When he and Shazza do finally return to their home dimension, they find the Quinkan have long since invaded it and begun making a mess of the place. So, Ty reforms the Bush Rescue team as a sort of anti-Quinkan paramilitary group, and goes about trying to get rid of the Quinkan menace forever.
With this excuse in mind, you can move on to the real meat of Ty 3, such as it is. You've given a large Australian-themed overworld to move around in, where you can use Ty's boomerangs to beat the crap out of zombie Frills and roving Quinkan. Once beaten, these foes explode into clusters of Fire Opals, which you can cash in for improved boomerang chassis, mecha weapons, and elemental Stones that enhance your boomerangs. You can go on foot or, later in the game, drive around in a handy amphibious vehicle called the Crabmersible.
Your locations on the world map are the areas you need to go to in order to complete missions, which unlock hidden map areas and mini-games. Most tend to involve adding some special condition to adventuring - you'll be roaming around fighting Quinkan in one of Ty's mecha, dog fighting with flying enemies in Starfox-like airplane sequences, racing go-karts, or running along on-foot with one of Ty's AI friends fighting alongside you. A lot of missions also have gimmicks attached, like locating so many widgets or killing so many specific enemies. Many missions end with a fight against some sort of gigantic pattern boss.
This all sounds like pretty standard fare, and well, it is. If anything, you may notice that the difficulty level is sometimes appallingly low, often with only fussy camera controls or sloppy hit detection getting in your way. This former is somewhat excusable given the game's target audience, but the latter less so. The game also suffers from fairly inconsistent controls as a result of the missions bringing together so many different types of game. Generally, you'll use X for ranged attacks, A for jumping, Y to swap weapons, and B for melee attacks, but the airplane controls and go-kart controls are wholly different, and there's no warning about this offered to the player.
Of course, this is a sequel of a sequel, and it's entirely possible that Krome expects players to already be very familiar with the control schemes. When you are aware of what you can do, it's pretty easy to move Ty around, but his floaty jumps make certain platforming puzzles more irritating than they should be.
Going through the missions and buying stuff adds a lot of welcome variety to the game, which generally emphasizes combat over puzzles in the level and mission design. Missions start off simple and gradually get more difficult, which is fine for everything except the air and kart missions. There, you suffer from a distinct inability to practice any of the skills needed for the more difficult missions before you're doing them. Of course, there's no real penalty for failure in Ty 3; you can die limitlessly just about anywhere in the game, and usually Ty will immediately pick himself back and throw himself back into the fray with a full health bar. However, some missions can't be passed until you meet a certain goal, like gathering up widgets or fighting off a dragon in a city. These gimmicky missions you'll end up repeating long after the point where they were at all interesting to clear, and then go back to blazing through the combat-oriented missions.
Combat in Ty 3 is a deeply odd experience. Ty's moves are fairly limited, although the range of customization you can achieve with slotting Stones into his boomerangs is genuinely impressive. However, for all that they're supposed to be a world-ending menace, the Quinkan never pose the least threat to Ty. Even the supposedly nastiest breeds of them are little more than walking piñatas, stuffed full of Fire Opals. There are some enemies that fire projectiles on the overworld that can be troublesome, but the overworld is where death has the least amount of consequences for Ty. It all points toward the game being intended for children possibly so young they can't really grasp the idea of enjoying challenge in a video game, but I have to wonder what the point of offering a video game to them is in the first place, then.
Ty 3 is a game with very basic but largely attractive graphics. It doesn't really push the Xbox hardware much and, in fact, features some highly suspect lipflap animations in the cut scenes, but makes up for these deficiencies with some gorgeous backgrounds and loving detail on Ty's various mecha. The Shadow Bunyip and Gunyip look particularly good, as do the overworld locations. Individual levels vary a lot, but some of the magma levels and beachside levels are quite attractive. The snow levels are probably the worst of the lot, as the "snowing" effect the game uses amounts to scattering the screen with stationary specks of snow that make focusing on what Ty is doing difficult. Fortunately, there are only a handful of snow levels in the game.
Character animations on the whole aren't great, but the characters have a weird, interesting sense of design to them. There are a lot of anthro desert lizards and such to go along with more mundane designs like the two palette-swaps of Ty and Dennis the zany fey gecko. Some aspects of the art style translate oddly into 3D, such as the fact that Ty can only speak out of the sides of the his mouth, but that doesn't hurt the cut scenes much.
Sound in Ty 3 is a very mixed bag. There's not a whole lot of variety to the background music, but each track by itself is interesting for a while. Given the game's Australian theme, there is, of course, a lot of mournful acoustic guitar and abuse of didgeridoos. It would be an entirely adequate soundtrack if there was simply more of it. Sound effects for the most part are exactly what you'd expect, with some cartoony zippy effects mingling with the satisfying crunches of your mecha as they tromp over the landscape. The voice acting is striving to sound like a Saturday morning cartoon and has no trouble succeeding, marred only by a tendency to have characters repeat "witty" lines ad nauseam during escort missions.
Basically, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 3: Night of the Quinkan targets an incredibly narrow but lucrative and under-served gaming demographic, and does so in a reasonably successful manner. The game itself is a fun distraction, though nothing you want to find yourself playing marathon sessions of, and great for very young gamers. Serious platformer fans will probably not be too pleased with it, but they probably know better than to expect the next Mario 64 from a $30 budget title. It's not possible to really say it's good, since low expectations are almost required to enjoy Ty 3, but it is distinctly not bad. Sometimes that's good enough, at least until something better comes along.
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