So, one day, me and me mates were sittin’ down at the billabong takin’ back a few. It was a real pearler of a day, until we got a call on the phone. Some chap on the other end said me possum was in a bit of strife with a couple cheeky buggers. Well, time to set those ruddy scamps straight. I grabbed me ‘rangs and ran off to her place. There she was, surrounded by a couple of wicked characters. No time for gasbagging, I reckoned, so I smacked a few upside the head with me ‘rangs, and kicked the rest away. But I didn’t expect these farmies to have extra blokes hanging around. So, I grabbed me possum, pulled a runner and off we headed to Bli Bli for some R&R. It was some hard yakka, but a ripper of a time!
Sorry about that – I had a few Foster’s before I sat down to write this one, and I guess the flavor of Down Under affected me. However, channeling Crocodile Dundee does have a certain benefit, that of fully getting me into the Australian spirit, something that EA and Krome studios attempts to do with their release of Ty the Tasmanian Tiger for Gamecube, Xbox and PS2. (For all you dinkum Aussies, I hope I did a bottler of a job on your slang. I am just a bloody Yank, after all.) Mascot titles have been a notoriously tricky concept for platformers. After all, you have to create a character that people will identify with and care for, as well as provide action that is interesting and engrossing. For every Mario, Sonic or Crash that makes superstar status, there are easily three times that number that have fallen to obscurity. Even more important, there has to be a storyline that’s creative, engaging, and hopefully, out of the ordinary titles.
First off, Ty manages to succeed in the obscure storyline department merely by setting the game in the wilderness of Australia (an environ that’s not too often touched by games, mind you). One of the last Tasmanian Tigers around, Ty enjoys running through the Outback, having fun with his friends, and hanging out. One day, during a high-speed game of tag, Ty falls into an abandoned cave, where he meets the Bunyip Elder, a wise and ancient spiritual figure who knows who Ty is, and, more importantly, what his destiny is. Years ago, an evil cassowary named Boss Cass tried to steal the five mystic talismans of the world, items that would give him power over the earth and banish all mammals to a netherrealm known as the Dreamtime. Mounting a counter-offensive, the mammals, including Ty’s parents and family, managed to scatter the talismans to the four corners of the world before they were exiled to the alternate dimension. Not one to let this “temporary” setback stop him, Boss Cass and his armies have commenced a search for the talismans. Ty is beseeched by the Bunyip Elder to save the world and his family from the evil clutches of Boss Cass.
Fortunately, Ty is not alone in his search to fight off Boss Cass’ forces. A very popular guy, Ty’s friends are more than willing to help him out along the way, especially if it means taking Cass down. Maurie, Ty’s best friend and mentor, is always willing to lend a hand with some helpful advice, comments, or tutorial info. Julius, an incredibly smart Koala bear, has also joined in the fight, deciding to build weapons and machines for Ty to use. The majority of his friends, however, are not so fortunate. His girlfriend, Shazza, often finds herself placed in jams that require Ty’s assistance. Some of his other friends have also mysteriously gone missing, so Ty will often be tasked with investigating their disappearance. That’s not counting the numerous bilbies that are scattered throughout the levels, all of whom have been captured by Cass and placed in cages. Considering that each level is swarming with enemies, it seems like a very steep uphill battle Ty faces.
However, Ty is not completely defenseless. Not only can he run faster and jump higher than most of his enemies, but he has a powerful set of teeth that he can use to inflict serious damage on anyone that gets too close either on the ground or in the air. Of course, his most effective weapons are his boomerangs, which he can use to take out distant enemies, break items, or glide from heights. Plus, thanks to Julius and his scientific knowledge, Ty can acquire new boomerangs with elemental, technical, or mystical abilities. For instance, he can unleash fire or ice boomerangs to burn or freeze enemies, use boomerangs with sniper or infrared scopes, or even slow time around his enemies. Most of these new weapons are created by collecting golden cogs that are scattered around levels, although even more important are collecting opals that dot the landscape. An important commodity, opals can be converted into thunder eggs, powerful geodes that Julius can use to find and teleport the mystic talismans to safety.
Graphically, Ty is smoothly drawn, with very slick animation found on Ty’s 3D model. He’s got a very polished, hi-resolution look to him that makes him rather appealing, and maneuvers believably within his environments. There are moments when you’ll notice him wading through water, for example, only to shiver and shake excess water off his coat. You’ll also notice a lot of transparencies and smooth ripples, primarily with water textures, and a lot of particle effects that make environments standout. Ty’s reflection on the surface of ponds and other bodies of water is one particular standout that comes to mind, where you’ll actually be able to see his trademark smirk reflecting off the surface. Most backgrounds are also well defined, with very close attention paid to detail on tufts of grass, trees, and rocks. Each level has its own distinctive look reminiscent of the Outback, and you can get a sense of what adventuring out in the wilds of Oz is like. If anything, there’s one major downside that quickly comes to mind. That is, while some of the main characters, such as Ty, Maurie or Shazza, have plenty of modeled detail, there are other characters that exhibit very few. The bilbies are one quick example of this. Upon first glance, not only could I not tell what they were, but I also didn’t know that I was supposed to help them out or save them.
Much of the sound within Ty feels appropriate and aboriginal, something that draws you into this Australian adventure. Yes, you’ll actually be able to hear the dialogue that I brought up at the beginning of this review in its native dialect, spoken by actors who know what they’re doing with the language. You’ll wind up hearing, “You beauty,’ quite a bit while you’re playing the game, which will seem quite repetitive, as if the script ran out of lines and the actors were instructed to improvise. Otherwise, environmental sound effects and action mesh rather nicely together to provide an active backdrop to the game. You’ll be able to detect where a thrown boomerang is by the sound of it in flight, even if it’s off-screen. Musically, Ty delivers a raucous Australian soundtrack, one that would feel just at home in the Outback as it would in the game. With a bouncy beat supplemented with additional drums, djeridoos and other objects, Ty sounds great.
Ty controls just as good as he sounds. You’ll be able to run, stop and throw both 'rangs on a dime, jump away from an enemy and bite him when the opportunity arises with no problems. This tight control extends to just about everything you do, including the “mini-games” that arise with levels, such as the time trial races or during specific events. In fact, I’d like to step away from the control and focus more on the gameplay, which seems to be a double edged sword for Ty. While there are some engrossing levels (in fact, some of the levels are quite large), most of them appear to be way too easy for any serious platform fan. There are only 13 levels that comprise the entire game, and that’s including bosses! It isn’t necessarily one of those titles that’s going to instill fear that you’ll never finish the game. Not including the attempts to search for side objectives, such as saving bilbies or collecting every opal on a level, Ty can be blazed through in merely a few hours, leaving its amount of replayability in doubt. Tracking down all the quests only doubles, maybe even triples the amount of time necessary to fully complete the game. Hell, there’s even a bonus mission for PS2 and Gamecube owners once they save every bilby they can find, but it is so completely inconsequential that it doesn’t matter. Considering that starting a new game can be completed in less than 12 hours, it’s not too hard to consider recommending this one for kids looking to get into platform play on the ground floor. You may also notice that I hadn’t said anything about the differences between PS2, Gamecube and Xbox. They’re relatively nominal and not worth commenting on, because it’s pretty homogenous across the board (except for that missing Xbox level.
All in all, Ty is a decent game for beginners looking for a solid platform experience. While it has good graphics, awesome sound and decent play, the brevity of gameplay winds up selling this title short in the end. This may be perfect for your little brother or sister as you try to indoctrinate them to the world of game playing, but for wily vets looking for a solid platform, you’ll probably wind up looking elsewhere.