Retro Review: Tak 2 – The Staff of Dreams (Release: 2004 / Platforms: PS2, GC, Xbox)



The 3D platformer is a genre of games that has been coming back the past few years. However the genre was very popular during late 90’s and early 2000’s, with all kinds releasing. One series stood out to me personally growing up was ‘Tak & the Power of Juju’. Published by Nick Games/THQ and developed by Avalanche Software, this series started out as a modest success.

It later got two sequel games and in the mid 2000’s, a cartoon series. With that said, how does the series hold up today? I will be looking at a personal favorite from my childhood called Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams. With upgraded combat and a slightly older Tak, does this sequel fix the issues the original game had and did the game age over the years?


The Story

A few years pass after the first game and Tak is growing as a shaman, but he has been falling into a deep sleep. In this sleep, he is told that a princess needs saving and if he is to wake up from his deep sleep, he must save her. He tells this to his mentor Jibolba and after turning into a flee, he goes with Tak on a grand adventure. Oh, and the ‘Warrior’ Lok tags along for some reason.

That sounds like a very basic set up and it is, but what makes the story hold up years later is really strong writing. The entire game feels like a cartoon through how characters interact with each other, the animation characters have during cut-scenes and just the way the voice actors nail the lines they say.

I honestly feel like I’m watching a great Nicktoon while playing this game as the game itself is a cartoon that just happens to be a playable one. My favorite characters are the lovable doofus Lok played by Patrick Warburton, stealing the show every time he is on screen. Tak himself is a charming main character and other supporting characters like Party Juju and Jibolba offer great humor as well.

The ending to the story is disappointing with no real pay-off and the writing while strong, doesn’t mask the really basic plot set up. But the end result is a surprising strong story for a 3D platformer despite the weak ending and basic story.


The Design & Gameplay

Unlike the original Tak where it was set-up more like a Mario 64-styled game, Tak 2 is a more linear adventure. You have semi-open levels with a lot of secrets to find like bugs and berry’s that can be used to unlock mini games and cheats. However the main focus is completing specific tasks to continue level progressions; defeating a bunch of Woodies blocking your path, saving a captured animal, riding down a massive waterfall in a barrel, and more are tasks you complete across you adventure.

This design works thanks to mostly good level design where you use animals to complete simple puzzles. One of my favorite examples is early in the game where you annoy a honey bear by bouncing on his belly to the point he grabs you in frustration and chucks you across the map. Or another where you throw Jibolba in his flee form to bite a squirrel to make him toss nuts at a Woodie you cannot hit. These mini puzzles are very simple to solve but do enough to mix things up.

Tak has a lot of abilities, using a wooden stick (and later the Staff of Dreams) to hit foes. You have a surprising amount of moves to pull off, like upper cuts, basic kicks from the air and even a spin attack. But you can also charge all your attacks with Juju. Tak is a shaman in training and the result of this is that he can use magic-like abilities. Tossing large balls of energy across gaps and even turning into animals are some of the moves he can use with Juju.

With all these abilities, the game offers a lot of gameplay variety and it results in a mixed package. Some parts of the game aren’t the most balanced and later levels can get very annoying with what they ask you to do. But for most of your adventure, the combat and platforming is quite fun. While far from perfect, the general gameplay and design works well enough to offer an enjoyable gaming experience.


The Lasting Appeal

This game has a decent amount of content, as you can unlock a few mini games you can play with friends like snowboarding that has a trick system not unlike Tony Hawk games for example. They are fun and make making every potion worthwhile from the bugs & berries you find in the main game. You can also unlock concept art and music as well.

Beating the game can take about six to eight hours and each playthrough lets you experience a ‘special’ power that Tak can get late in the game. You can only pick this power once and that is it for that save file. They aren’t that impressive but it is cool that the game gives you something to push further replays.


The Presentation

When you look at the name of the publisher Nick Games you instantly think ‘Oh, this will be some cheaply thrown together game’. But that is far from the case, as this is one of the better looking games from it’s generation. Water in particular looks beautiful and the animations across the game have this great cartoon-like feel to them that makes everything look great.

The game has a nice color pallet and every level looks visually unique, giving the game world a sense of place. Various effects like electricity and slow-down at key points look great as well. This game also is strong with it’s audio as well, with both the voice actors sounding great and the music being enjoyable.

It has this earthy vibe to it that makes exploring the forests and other locations offer a nice sense of atmosphere. But when the game needs to be exciting, it picks up the pace with tracks to support that as well.


Overall: 3.5 out of 5

This game is far from the greatest 3D platformer of all time and it has some issues holding it back. But Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams is a solid experience that any fan of the genre can have fun with. Offering a fun story, great presentation and enjoyable level design, this is a platformer that anyone who loves the genre can have some fun with. The quality on display with Tak 2 is an indication of the great work Avalanche Software would offer in the future and it is a game I personally have a soft spot for.

This game was reviewed using the Nintendo GameCube version.

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