XBOX REVIEW: TAK: THE GREAT JUJU CHALLENGE

It's a testament to innovative thinking that the brilliant developers at Avalanche Software are able to find a way to breathe new life into an old premise and a series that most gamers would probably imagine has run its course. Tak: The Great Juju Challenge is a platformer that isn't stuck in the Stone Age, even though the characters are.

Tak and Loc are back and this time they aren't battling the evil Tlaloc. He's history or should I say prehistoric? The boys are now involved in taking the Great Juju Challenge which includes competing against other tribes in a series of races, obstacles courses and mini games. I know this might sound like a generic kart racing concept, and there are some generic events to be sure, but overall the humorous storyline links all of the games into a cohesive, yet varied, style of gameplay.

Getting from point A to point B within a given time limit may seem as simple as peeing into a diaper. Sure, the premise is easy but there are plenty of obstacles to look out for, platforms to navigate, enemies to destroy, doors to unlock and items to collect. There's no shortage of things to do and while the collecting stretches things a little thin there are some benefits to finding some of these goodies not to mention that it also involved exploring.

Tak is a sorcerer and is capable of casting spells while Lok is a warrior and manages to survive using brute strength. Each of the characters' powers are upgradable and since you'll be playing both of them at virtually the same time, you're going to need all the help you can get.

Yes, both characters run the levels at the same time. You can switch between them at any time by pressing one button. The character that's not being played will be controlled by the CPU and will follow you around, mainly staying out of your way except for some comic relief. At times the screen will split forcing you to play each character a little at a time while you alternate separate tasks attempting to accomplish a pair of goals. This is a great idea for a single-player mode but another player can also jump right in at anytime and begin to take control of one of the characters. This works great in the event that you happen to be showing someone the ropes where they can actually join in at anytime. The controls are straightforward enabling anyone with a decent bit of skill to pick-up-and-play with only the barest of instructions, making this a great game for young kids although the humor and gameplay is sure to interest adults alike.

Levels include mountainous areas, deserts, jungles, caves and underwater environments. All are striking with cartoonish colors and exaggerated Flintstone-style detail. The characters move smoothly and precisely although there are times when you have to be in a very specific spot to activate some of the puzzles or when hitting some of the enemies. There is some slowdown but nothing that cripples the gameplay. Voiceovers bring the characters to life and the writing ensures that you'll get a few good belly laughs out of the interaction of these two goofy but loveable losers.

I would heartily recommend this game to anyone but I hesitate to recommend a purchase because it's not huge on replay value unless you're into the whole "high score" competition thing. But definitely go out of your way to rent it.

System: Xbox, PS2 (shown), GC
Dev: Avalanche
Pub: THQ
Release: Sept 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Dan
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
2.5