Tak: The Great Juju Challenge Review

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Developer: Avalanche Software Publisher: THQ
Release Date: September 19, 2005 Also On: DS, GCN, PS2 and Xbox

Odds are if you’re reading this you own a DS. And odds are that if you own a DS then you are aware that there are not yet many 3D platformers for the system. Other than Super Mario 64 DS, there has yet to be a 3D platformer of any consequence on the DS, and, to my knowledge, Rayman DS is the only one even in existence. While Tak: The Great Juju Challenge is not going be to become known as the latest killer app for the DS, it is certainly well worth a look for fans of 3D platformers who own a DS. I should note that the DS version of this game is completely unique from both the GBA version and the console version, so if you are considering getting or have already gotten one of those two versions that shouldn’t prevent you from getting this version.

The plot of this version, however, is the same as that of the console version, and I imagine that the GBA version carries the same plot as well. Basically, Tak and Lok are the representatives of their tribe in the Great Juju Challenge, an event held every 60 years to determine which tribe will get the favor of the Moon Juju, and they are up against three other teams. Essentially, the game plays out around Tak and Lok’s efforts to win this challenge.

So far as graphics go, this game is excellent. Yes, there are obviously differences between the console version and this version of the game in the graphics department due to the difference in power between the two systems, but you’ll have to look very hard to see them. If you’re not picky, you’ll hardly be able to tell the difference at all. If you’ve read my review of the console version, you’ll know that this isn’t the case because the console version is totally pathetic graphically either, so my saying that differences can hardly be told is paying it a major compliment. With that said, however, I must clarify that I’m speaking of the foreground. Sometimes objects in the background when you get closer to them have larger polygons and look quite bad, but it is rare that you’ll get close enough to any such object to notice or care, so such is a small complaint.

The sound, however, is a different story. I really enjoyed the cutscenes in the console version of this game, yet the opening of this game, while almost exactly the same story, plays out in picture stills on the top screen and text boxes on the bottom. All of the cutscenes and conversations are text boxes in this game. Don’t try to tell me that the DS can’t handle speech. Madden 2005 and Super Mario 64 DS both have speech samples in them. I can accept the lack of full video cutscenes due to memory restraints, but a few speech samples would have been nice. Anyway, the music is unobtrusive and the sound effects sound like the same set of generic platformer sound effects found in the console version of the game. So, average, not atrocious, but a few speech samples would have improved the experience.

Like its console brother, the DS version of Great Juju Challenge is a linear 3D platformer, but let me reiterate again that it is unique from its console brother, not just a port of the console version. As much as I hate to say it, this version is actually better in the gameplay department for a plethora of reasons. First of all, although the bottom screen does keep track of how much time you take to do some levels, it doesn’t seem to impact your ability to get through the levels like it does in the console version, so you can move slower and more methodically and not have to worry about speed. Second, although both Tak and Lok are playable in the DS version, you only need to control one at a time, and there is no need to maneuver both of them anywhere, as each replaces the other when you switch between them. They each have the same strengths and weaknesses as in the console version though

Also, instead of the optional side quests of the console version, this version has mini-games interspersed within the game at predetermined points that seek to diversify the game away from being just a linear 3D platformer, a cloning of the unlockable mini-games of Super Mario 64 DS perhaps, as they can be unlocked for free play as you progress through the game. Just like the ones in Super Mario 64 DS, they aren’t going to bring you back to the game again and again with their addictiveness, although they will be good for a little time occasionally, at least for some people. Among these are a minigame where you throw Tak at torches on the top screen and try to light them all and one where you actually blow into the mic on the DS to propel Tak in his chicken suit across a large gap. So both the touch-screen and the mic are used for these, an evidence that THQ was really trying to maximize their use of the DS’s capabilities.

In a nutshell, The Great Juju Challenge is not the latest AAA title to grace the Nintendo DS, but it is still quite far from being just another platformer. The mini-games might provide some lasting value for the title, but other than that, there’ll be little reason to replay the game after you’ve beaten it. However, there are very few good 3D platformers on the DS, and this is certainly one of the best, probably the best if it weren’t for Super Mario 64 DS. If you are a fan of 3D platformers and you own a DS, I heavily recommend giving this game a try.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 7.5
Written by Martin Review Guide

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