Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (2002)
By: Krome Studios / EA Studios Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Microsoft Xbox
Also Available For: PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC
It's interesting that they've actually gone for an extinct animal for their game but the Australian setting in which he dwells immediately opens up a number of possibilities. The story is as silly as you might imagine and involves Boss Cass, an evil cassowary (a kind of bird if you didn't know) who wants to become the supreme ruler of Australia. This, he will apparently achieve, by activating 'the Dreamtime' for which he has stolen the five mystical talismans. While attempting this, Boss Cass traps all but one of the thylacines (Tasmanian tigers) in a portal to the Dreamtime before his plan is foiled and the talismans are scattered across Tasmania. Unfortunately, this still leaves the thylacines trapped, however.
Well, except for Ty who becomes the last of the thylacines still free. He is raised by a family of bilbies (a type of bandicoot) and when he is older they explain what happened, tell him of his heritage, and reveal Boss Cass's plans to seek out the talismans and finish what he started. Spurred into action, Ty resolves to beat him to it and save his family, and indeed all of Australia in the process, with a bit of luck. It's no small job though - in fact, this could be one of the biggest platformers I've yet played, both in terms of the area to cover as well as stuff to collect.
There are four main areas in the game - Bli Bli Station, Pippy Beach, Lake Burril and Gate Zone. The first three of these consist of three large levels followed by a boss stage while the last only has two levels and a boss stage. Most of them are kind of like huge arenas with various paths through and/or around them, and the object is to collect 'Thunder Eggs' which are apparently needed to power a device which can locate the talismans or some such nonsense. There are eight of these on each stage as well as a ton of other stuff to find and grab, but more on those later.
Ty's moves and abilities are typically varied for a game of this type, although many of them are 'learned' (i.e. unlocked) during the course of the game. Obviously he can run and jump with great agility and can also swim, but his offensive abilities are at first limited to a short-range bite attack or a longer-range boomerang attack. Later on, both of these can upgraded - the former by way of a charge meter and the latter, first by way of an additional 'rang' (as they're known), and eventually various different types of rang which all have unique abilities of their own.
Each level is pretty big and gives you a lot to do. As well as the Thunder Eggs there are also a ton of other things to look out for. Most numerous are the Opals of which there are 300 per level. They are found all over the place; some are in crates, some are hidden, many are in plain sight, and collecting them all will give you an additional Thunder Egg. There are also five Bilbies trapped in cages throughout each level, freeing all of whom these will give you another Thunder Egg, and ten Golden Cogs which are needed for making some of the fancy new rangs.
Some areas even have other stuff too, like Rainbow Scales in the level 'hub', plus you'll need to find those Talismans that Boss Cass so desires at some point as well. Somewhat less helpful are the the many henchmen (or henchanimals) of his which also populate the levels. These include lizards, kangaroos, beetles, crabs, and bats on dry land as well as sharks, eels, and various kinds of fish in the watery areas. All can be defeated using either attack method and Ty himself can take a few hits thanks to his energy meter (represented by a paw). Fortunately there are several restart points too, which are represented by 'dunnies' (toilets) for some reason.
He has even more help too, in the form of a handful of less hostile creatures who are usually lurking somewhere nearby. The first you'll meet is Maurie, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, who appears at the start of the game to explain stuff, and pops up again every time something new appears, or when it's time to learn a new ability. There's also Julius, a koala scientist, who helps you locate certain items and makes the new rangs when you bring him enough Golden Cogs, and there are appearances from Ty's friends later on as well, usually marking the appearance of a sub-game.
As mentioned earlier, there's certainly a lot to see and do here then, but exhaustive content alone doesn't make a game great. Fortunately, more or less everything else about the game is of an equally splendid quality. The first thing you will probably notice is the superb presentation. There are lots of nice CG-ish cut-scenes before play and between stages, revealing Boss Cass's tomfoolery and the ministrations of Maurie and Julius for the most part, and things are superb in-game too. The levels are not as distinctly themed as many platformers but there are still lots of different types of terrain including grassy and watery areas, dusty desert, and even ice/snow covered areas, and they really are fantastic for the most part.
Each stage obviously has its own piece of music and most of them are great, really complementing the action rather than just droning anonymously in the distance, and the graphics are really nice too. The actual levels and foreground scenery are crisp and nicely coloured, the backgrounds are pleasant (when you can see them), and most of the characters are appealing. The bosses are obviously the largest of them, and they're cleverly-designed as well as looking nice, but the smaller examples are great too, not least Ty himself who has has a ton of moves and animations.
Many of them are things he can learn along the way like gliding through the air or swimming underwater, and other can only be seen in certain parts of the game such as the plants that spit you high in the air, or the large stampeding animal you can ride, but there's lots of humour involved at all times. The sense of humour is one of the best things about the game too, assuming you're not Australian I guess, since much of it comes from the comedic Aussie accents and phrases. Strewth!
I think my favourite thing about the game, though, is that each stage offers at least one thing none of the others do - they're not just the same thing over and over with new graphics/layout. Their design is a big part of this - there are often open areas linked by pathways/mountain trails/bridges/etc but there are mini-games now and then and loads of secret areas all over the place too. It will take a lot of exploring to find all the collectables that's for sure!
I suppose when it comes down to it, Ty's big adventure isn't a tremendously original game - most aspects of it have been seen in other games before - but I think what makes it such a good game is that it has all been tied together so well. The story is a bit silly but adequate, the main character is appealing, the graphics are good, the Aussie-tinged soundtrack is superb, the stages are engaging and great fun to explore, the controls are precise and evolve nicely through the game, and it's a big adventure too, chock full of things to do and find. There really isn't too much wrong with it, and you can't really ask for much more than that.
RKS Score: 8/10
Gameplay Video: Here's the Steam trailer for the PC version of Ty. It looks and sounds about the same and gives you a good idea of the overall game content.