Release Date: October 13, 2008
I'm usually pretty down on the Nicktoons titles that THQ typically pumps out for just about every system under the sun, especially a few of the games that have been put out on the DS in recent years — and for good reason. They're usually pretty terrible, just squeaking by quality control into something that's playable enough for kids to get into, but awful enough that adults realize it's not really fun to play. However, with the newest Tak title from THQ, Tak: Mojo Mistake, I'm genuinely surprised with how much I enjoyed this title.
First off, it eschews the horrible 3-D style of some of the other Nicktoons titles and goes with a more a DS-friendly 2-D approach. Large character sprites are pretty well-animated and set against a small platforming approach that works well for both kids and adults. Your repertoire of moves is pretty simple: You can jump, double-jump and swing your staff to attack enemies. Shortly after starting, you'll gain magic abilities, and you'll start to uncover a neat crafting system that allows you to gain new weapons, abilities and ways to power up your magical staff.
There's a decent enough story in place for Mojo Mistake, which has Tak becoming overwhelmed as the village protector and trying to use his magical abilities to create little helpers around the village. The plan backfires, and the helpers quickly overrun the small town, and then it's up to Tak to make things right. It's a plot that could have easily been lifted from any number of episodes, but from what I can tell, it's an all-new plot created specifically for the game. It works well, and it's a good way of introducing the quest system as opposed to playing through individual levels. The story also lasts a while, and the game might only take experienced players six hours to finish, but it will obviously provide more playtime if you're interested in gathering materials and crafting new items. For younger players, certain areas might be a bit too challenging at times, but I can't see the game being overly frustrating for them.
The game is littered with characters from the TV show, so kids will find something to enjoy in the story. The characters are pretty well represented and stay in tune with how they're shown on TV, but unfortunately, there's no voice acting to keep things more interesting on the story side. All of the cut scene work is done within the game, so there are no animated sequences or anything like that. It works well the way it is, though, and I'm sure it'll keep the kids and other fans of the show entertained throughout.
For a 2-D platforming throwback, Mojo Mistake isn't without its faults. Instead of taking a level-by-level approach like most games in the genre, it's set up to have a couple of hub locations where you can take on quests. Once you accept a quest, you're whisked away to the location you'll need to explore to finish it. Rather than offer up new locations for each quest, you'll find yourself stuck going to the same four areas over and over again, and while there is something new to overcome or see during each visit, it does end up being a bit repetitive. We've seen titles handle hub worlds before and do a decent enough job with the idea, but in Mojo Mistake, you really feel limited by the time you finish, and I think the game could have benefited from an almost Metroid-like approach to gaining powers and access to new areas as you upgrade your abilities. The levels that you get to explore are at least pretty well-designed, and they are littered with objects for you to gather and use for the game's crafting system.
For the most part, the controls rely entirely on the d-pad and face button setup, and they're easy to get the hang of right from the start, even for younger players. However, there are some touch-screen-specific areas, most notably when you enter the Juju realm, which will have you flipping Tak about the screen using the stylus, along with some mini-games that are well integrated into the main game. These areas help to break up the monotony of platforming and bashing enemies with your staff, and they're a solid addition the overall gameplay.
As I mentioned earlier, Mojo Mistake makes use of a pretty cool crafting system, giving purpose to all of the various items you can collect in the stages. You have a recipe book that usually clues you in to which items you'll need to collect in order to create new weapons or spells, and the game does a solid enough job of letting you know how many of a particular item you have on hand at any given time, which allows you to search out the appropriate items to finish a recipe. Once you're ready to put something together, you go to the designated hut in the hub world, select the necessary objects, and use the stylus to swirl them around or "mix" them together, and then you'll be granted the fruits of your labor. The system is easy enough to figure out, and thankfully, it doesn't skew the gameplay balance in any way.
I'm definitely happy to see the Nicktoons titles head into the 2-D realm, as I think the cartoon characters are far better suited for games like Tak: Mojo Mistake than the last few titles I've played on the DS. Imagine a SpongeBob or Jimmy Neutron game in the same vein as this title, and I'm sure you could agree that this is a much better format. It's not a perfect platformer, but it's definitely one of the better Tak titles I've ever played, and that's including the debut game on the GameCube from 2003, Tak and the Power of Juju. I had a lot more fun with Tak than I suspected I would, so Mojo Mistake is definitely worth picking up for younger and older fans alike. Even if you're just a general platforming fan, you should give this one a shot.