reviews\ Nov 1, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Tak And The Power Of JuJu - GC - Review

If you like surprises (and who doesn't?), then get ready for Tak and the Power of Juju.  It's based on some Nickelodeon property that most gamers have never heard of before (including myself).  The box art shows a picture of the starring character, Tak, who looks like he's wearing purple eyeliner (did I mention that Tak is a he?).  And when necessary, Tak will even don a chicken suit.  Is this a nightmare waiting to happen?  In most cases it just might have been.  But this is far from your typical licensed property.  Underneath the frightening exterior is a game that's entertaining enough to get adults hooked.

Tak begins his adventure with the usual list of gameplay explanation.  They're so silly (example: "To walk, push the control stick") that even the tour guide makes fun of them.  As predicted, the tour guide is female, and is of a different species than the main character.  She's a spiritual thing called a Juju, and will help you in your quest from time to time.  Her words a bit annoying at first, but be patient, because she will shut up after you've progressed to a certain point.

As you test out the controls and figure out all that this game has to offer, your eyes will be impressed by the organic level designs.  From the sky to the ground, everything is treated with the nicest of textures.  Facial expressions and mouth animations are better than most of the big-budget, ultra-realistic games we see on the PC.  That's partially because Tak uses lip-synching software that helps developers match the words more accurately.  However, it is a little choppy in comparison to Jak II or Ratchet and Clank.

Also worth mentioning is the variety of characters, their designs, and their animation.  You'll encounter lots of different kinds of animals, including a guerilla who like to bend trees.  If you stand on the branch of a bent tree and wait a few seconds, the guerilla will let it go, catapulting Tak into the air.  This gives Tak a quick and easy way to jump back and forth between platforms, especially those with huge gaps.

The gameplay is classic 3D adventuring, but it's not at all the Mario knock-off that you'd expect.  There are items to collect, like big teeth (which act as four keys to unlocking a new area) and Magical Nubu Plants, but that's not what the game is about.  The levels are on more of a set path than the ones in Mario or Jak II, but the game is not nearly as linear as Crash Bandicoot.  What you end up having is a game that is somewhat open-ended, but presents the player with a clear and fairly easy path to decipher.

It's not always easy though.  The enemies are a bit more vicious than most kiddie games.  The Magical Nubu Plants aren't too difficult to beat since they stay in one place at all times.  Rat-like creatures are more common though, and they follow Tak wherever he goes, mumbling creepy words just to taunt him.  Several may attack at once! 

Boss battles are another threat.  The first boss fight is broken down into three separate battles with three giant Nubu plants.  They're impervious to standard attacks when their neck is fully erect, and are impervious to jump attacks when their neck bent.  The strategy to defeating them is not a hard one to figure out, but completing the task is far from easy.  It'll take more than good timing to beat these and the other bosses in the game.

While Tak and the Power of Juju plays like an action/adventure, Tak's attack moves are more like Link's from The Legend of Zelda.  He starts out with a club, swinging it back and forth like a sword but with less precision.  Tak is then quickly awarded a Blowgun, followed by a weapon called the Spirit Rattle.  The Blowgun is a great alternative to the club.  For starters, Tak can use it to whack enemies to death.  It's a stronger weapon, so enemies die even faster.  Second, the Blowgun is a blowgun!  Hit the Y button to switch to the first-person view, pick a target and shoot.  Very Zelda-ish, wouldn't you say?  Third, the Blowgun changes Tak's jump from a single or double hop to one giant leap.  He uses the weapon to launch himself higher into the air.  He can reach further distances with this new jump technique as well.

As you should fully understand by now, this kiddie game is so much more than a childish exterior.  Truth be told, the sound effects really aren't that annoying.  Adding to the surprises is the music, which turned out to be well worth listening to.  It's so deep and involving, just like the music of a game should be.  Even the voice-overs, which are geared at children, are not done in the usual, ultra-cheesy way that turns gamers off.  Best of all, the gameplay is entertaining all the way through.  This is a worthwhile experience for all fans of the genre.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.4
Not at all what I expected.  I didn't expect this game to suck, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect a game based on a kiddie property to be able to compete with the big boys.  This game was developed not with haste.  It was created by a dedicated team who really knew what they were doing.  That is evident throughout the game.


Tak's control mechanics are simple (duh, this is an action/adventure), but the game is not a weakling in the difficulty department.  Whether it's a tough boss battle or just a series of relentless rat-like creatures who wish to taunt and chomp, Tak and the Power of Juju is a fairly challenging game.


The magical Juju powers add even more Zelda-ness to the game.  Eagle Eye, one of the Juju powers, can turn the Blowgun into a telescope.  Another Juju power adds the essence of thunder to your attacks.  Still another works as a compass and points you in the direction of the nearest magical item.


Whether you're a kid by age, a kid at heart, or not a kid at all, you've got to play Tak and the Power of Juju.

Graphics: 8.5
Mario Sunshine aside, you won't find a prettier action/adventure on GameCube.  It doesn't pull off any new graphic tricks, but it packs several of the effects you've seen spread out in a number of other GameCube games.  Overall the game has a very polished look.

Sound: 8.5
Shock upon shock!  It was one thing to be entertaining, but to have good sound was out of the question.  Or so I thought.  The music is very fitting to the mood.  This could be the first game that makes younger gamers realize how important music is to gaming, and how good it can be when done right.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
Tak and the Power of Juju is anything but an average marketing ploy.  This game builds brand awareness and expands it into a market that was previously unaware of its existence.  But unlike the average movie or TV-based game, Tak is fun!  And unique.  And addictive.  It's what an action/adventure should be.  Like Vexx but with less frustration and more creativity.

Overall: 8.4
Calling all parents: when you go to the store to pick up a surprise game for your child this Christmas, consider the power of Tak.  Tak and the Power of Juju appears to be a kiddie game, but it's much more than that.  It's safe for the kids but it doesn't play like A Bug's Life or any other kiddie game.  When the kids are sleeping you might want to carefully open the game, play it for a few minutes, re-seal it and stick it back under the tree.  Or you could just leave it open and tell the kids that Santa brought it for you.  Whatever you choose to do, chances are you and your family will really enjoy this game.


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