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Gamecube Review - 'Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2'

by Gordy Wheeler on Nov. 18, 2004 @ 12:35 a.m. PST

TY the Tasmanian Tiger 2 picks up where the original popular action platform game left off. The cast of characters from Down Under has grown, and so has the action! Evil Boss Cass has broken out of Currawong Jail and hatched a plan to take over the world with an army of Uber Reptiles. It's up to our boomerang-wielding hero, TY, and his newly formed team of Burramudgee Bush Rescue mates to stop him!

Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Krome Studios
Release Date: October 11, 2004

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Ty The Tasmanian Tiger 2 has one of the best introductory scenes I've seen in a platform game in a long time. As an emergency call rings through the Outback, the members of the just-barely-formed Bush Rescue League mobilize via helicopter, jeep, and good old fashioned paw power. With the help of the local police force, Ty and his friends, family, and co-workers plow through the streets on their way to stop a prison break. Several large explosions, an attack from mounted artilery, and a climactic hand to hand battle in a pair of mecha suits later, Ty makes the choice to save his friends instead of finishing the bad guys and the infamous Boss Cass escapes from jail.

Ty 2 is obviously the sequel to a rather undernoticed game that popped up a couple of years back on all the major systems. I really didn't think very much of the little I played of the prior game in the series, but I have to say that this take is considerably better. Let's break it down a little, shall we?

Graphically this game is only about middling for the Gamecube hardware, but that's still pretty darned good looking. Things can get a little grainy in color and look sort of muddy in spots, and occasionally it's because of a deliberate graphical filter effect. There's a few areas dark and washed out because of heavy smoke hanging in the air, for example. Ty himself and the residents of his neighborhood, Buramudgee Town, are all pretty cute and cartoony. There's a lot of attention paid to enviornmental details as well, which is good in a game like this. Weapon effects look great, you can always tell what you've got in your hands just from the unique look of each boomerang.

The impressions I mostly got from the looks of this game were of scale and playfulness. The Outback is a wide, rolling place full of grasslands, swamps, beaches, and forests. Running around it can occasionally get a little choppy framerate-wise, but it's all looking good, and there certainly is a heck of a lot of it. Ty isn't the only person wandering around either, occasionally you'll come across construction workers hanging about, random travellers roaming the wilderness, tribal felines who are a little curious about this tiger they've heard about, and a host of other odd characters. Not to mention the enemies. The bad guy character designs are largely variations on the theme of "lizard", and they oddly don't seem as detailed as the good guys. Still, if you're stopping to stare at them you're probably about to get smacked by one. Don't do that. It makes you die.

The background music in Ty 2 isn't awful either, and in fact special mention should be made of one of the helicopter minigame tunes, which made me stop and blink by virtue of being the most laid back electric guitar take on Ride of the Valkyries I've ever heard. Ty has his own distinctive theme, there's music for most of the specific missions with only a handful of repeats between them, and the tunes catch in your mind for humming later on when you're trying to do other things.

Voice acting comes with a price: Australian accents thicker and gooeyer than Vegemite. Some of the characters have slightly annoying voices, but most of them sound pretty good. All the principal cast seem to actually be voice acting instead of just reading off their lines. Sometimes it's clumsy, sometimes it's not. Mixed bag, is what I'm getting at.

(Speaking of their lines: Egads. The jokes. I have no words. Broad vaudville humor has refound its niche here in Ty 2. Not that I didn't laugh, you understand, I just feel slightly guilty because of it.)

(They even trot out the old "I'll take my Plutonium Rod and go Fission" joke here. I twitched.)

(Yeah, and then I laughed, I confess. Let's get back out of parentheses again and back to the game.)

Where was I... okay, yeah. Corny jokes, bright cartoonish anthromoporphic tiger hero in his swim trunks, silly light atmosphere... you're thinking 'kiddy game', aren't you? I sure was. Stop it right now, because Ty 2 may be an easy game to finish, but it's not quite just for kids.

Ty's gameplay is open-ended and free roaming. The hot ticket is to compare it to Grand Theft Auto, it's the kind of game where you get a laundry list of missions to do when you feel like it and a free ticket to wander the countryside while you try to decide what to do next. Ty 2's developers have done a pretty good job making sure that every few feet of the Outback, in a mission or out of it, is peppered with stuff to do. Hunt down and rescue lost children, go looking for lizards sabotaging construction sites in disguise, crocodile hunt until Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin go greenish-brown with envy, hunt down shiny things or pictures for the unlockable concept art gallery, or just relax with some Go-Kart Racing. Yes, Ty 2 includes a kart racing game with six or seven tracks that can be played either alone or against a friend. If you're into kart racers, this is a decent extra. However, if you're really into kart racers, or just observant, you'll notice that not only is the steering in this minigame questionable at best, the AI players are also all keeping an emergency supply of backup Turbo boosts off in the back of their pants to whip out just in case you start to win.

Getting to your job assignments means cruising around in the official Bush Rescue Mobile, a 4x4 truck that cruises along the highways and mudways of Buramudgee's outskirts handily. There's a lot of highway out there, and while some of it is blocked off when you first start the game, it soon opens up nice and wide for your exploring pleasure. Even on the highway you're not really safe though, as you'll be attacked by motorcycle-riding lizards. Luckily, Ty's Australia is a land without traffic safety laws, and Ty can casually flip exploding boomerangs at them from his perch on the side of the truck, something I'm pretty sure isn't legal even on the Autobahn of Germany. It's surprisingly fun to just cruise around and go all Mad Max on a group of begoggled lizards.

(Mad Max, Paul Hogan, Croc Hunter, Vegemite... I think the obligitory Australian references have all been made.)

Once you get into missions, there's just as much variety going on. From submarine rescue missions to delivering lunch to hungry workers, Ty is a local hero and he's called on to do pretty much everything. One gets the feeling that his brother would be in his (lack of) shoes if Ty left town. If they both went away I think Buramudgee society would crumble into anarchy. Ty runs and jumps through missions armed with a host of upgradable boomerangs, from ice and fire models to grappling hooks and homing shots. One of the more fun things to do is to take all your upgrades at the end of the game and run back through the assorted earlier missions, hunting down secrets Metroid-style. Another fun thing to do is hop into a Bunyip and cruise around. Bunyips are suits of mechanized power armor, built to survive dunks in lava or to do heavy lifting, and in a pinch they can all knock a herd of stampeding lizards absolutely silly. Ty also gets to bite enemies, handy in a pinch and often more effective than slapping them in the head with a 'rang or three.

There's the occasional oddness with platform jumping, the soles of Ty's paws have had a liberal splattering of Polygon Grease to ensue that he gently skids off edges he by all rights should have landed on, but the game is gentle about punishing you for missed jumps. That's not to say that all of these jumps are gonna be easy to nail down, mind you. Trying to go secret hunting will end up with teethmarks on your controller more often than not, as a moving platform zigs instead of zags yet again.

Speaking of Buramudgee society by the way, everybody knows and loves Ty. This was a welcome change, as he wanders down the street people call greetings after him, everyone greets him by name and knows him well, and the atmosphere of the game is generally upbeat and friendly. Even the bad guys are fairly goofy and not really threatening.

What I'm trying to get across here is that Ty 2 isn't just a kid's game, it's a great example of how to do an action-platformer game right. Sure, your average ten year old can plow through it in less than a weekend, but it's also a good game for casual gamers and people who just want to relax and have a good time for a bit. Ty's world is packed full of cute details, surprisingly tough platforming to get at secret items, and engaging sidequests, and the dialog is a guilty pleasure to listen to. Most of all, it's just plain unpretentious fun in a lighthearted, silly way, and we could do with more games like this on the market. That's not to say it couldn't do with a little fine-tuning, mind you. A lot of skills and upgrades go either almost unused save for extras, or get used once and then ignored. (I'm thinking of the Lifter Bunyip here, in particular.)

Still, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2 really is a lot of fun if you just like to play your games, roaming about aimlessly and seeing what's around the next corner. One downside is that there's a heck of a lot here that's pulled together from other games, if you're up on your gaming history you can play 'spot the element' here and rattle off a good five or so games that do bits of Ty 2 better than Ty 2 does. All in all, I'm looking forward to a little more detail, a few more new ideas, and a little more challenge when it comes to the hopefully inevitable part 3.

Score : 8.5/10

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