Tak 3: The Great Juju Challenge Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 8.0
Multiplayer : 8.0
Overall : 8.5
Review by John K.
Who doesn’t want to compete against rival tribes consisting of human beat-boxes, hot Amazonian women, or nefarious night creatures to become number one in a tournament? Well today is your lucky day if the above whets your appetite, because Tak: The Great Juju Challenge offers just that. The third installment in the Tak series deviates from its predecessors in terms of the story. While in the previous two games Tak had to defend his Pupanunu people from the evil villain Tlaloc, The Great Juju Challenge—as the title suggests—revolves around a tournament with four tribes competing to earn the protection of the godly Moon Juju for the next 60 years.

The Great Juju Challenge kicks off with friends Tak and Lok endeavoring to swipe a required feather from a phoenix in order for the Pupanunu tribe to enter the aforementioned tournament. This level acts as a cleverly disguised tutorial that familiarizes the player with the control scheme. Players familiar with the previous games will find that the controls haven’t changed much, apart from a few new combat moves here and there. The novelty in this game, however, is that players can now switch between Tak and Lok at any point—making this the first Tak title where Lok is a playable character. After Tak and Lok finally retrieve the phoenix feather, the tournament then begins.

Our Pupanunu heroes must compete against two representatives from the three other tribes: the JibbaJabbas, Grammazons, and the Black Mist. Jib and Jab of the JibbaJabba tribe are strange people that only talk in the form of beat-boxing, whereas the Grammazons are good-looking warrior women, and the Black Mist are vile creatures who play dirty to win. The character diversity in both personality and looks is what makes The Great Juju Challenge a more original game than most of today’s platform releases. As the story advances, players are treated to numerous beautifully animated and hilarious cut scenes where more is learned about the characters and their backgrounds.

Humor is a trait generally well appreciated in the adventure genre. In this respect The Great Juju Challenge provides enough humor to make it appealing to any gamer in any age group. The constant comic togetherness of Tak and Lok provides the player with sidesplitting conversations and scenes throughout the game, which is where it gathers its lasting appeal. Whether it’s subtle humor like Lok commenting on the game’s attractive ‘help’ icon, or a comical scene where our heroes discover that the Grammazons are actually grandmas, there’s enough laughs spread across the game to tickle everyone’s funny bone.

While the overall look of the levels in The Great Juju Challenge may appear the same as in the previous series’ installments, numerous changes have been applied to make the game appear more like a racing tournament. The challenges themselves see players setting light to beacons throughout the levels to activate an eventual portal that leads to one of three stage sublevels. These beacons can be lit with the aid of fiery auras emanating from feathers that Tak and Lok have sprouting from their heads. However, before this can be done, the beacons must first be activated. Activation is often accomplished by crushing nearby enemies or solving a puzzle. After all the beacons in any given level are both activated and lit, a sealed portal will open for further advancement.

The levels in The Great Juju Challenge are all time based; the more time you have left at the level’s end, the better score you will receive. The level timer is constantly decreasing but can be increased by picking up handy hourglasses along the way or by passing checkpoints. Although many gamers may not be particularly fond of timed missions—let alone timed games—rest assured that it doesn’t affect the fun, because there’s always enough time to complete the levels without having to rush frantically. The main function of the timer is merely to determine your score.

After a realm of levels is completed, players can compete in a destruction-derby to determine which tribe will be eliminated. There are four vehicles available for selection in the destruction-derby, and the tribe with the most amassed points gets to pick first, then the second-placed tribe, and so on. The different vehicles offer different strengths, which subsequently provide the higher scoring tribe(s) with a greater advantage over those languishing behind—which in turn results in higher derby scores.

Being the first Tak game where both Tak and Lok are playable, The Great Juju Challenge required changes in gameplay mechanics, level design, and controller layout. Players can switch between Tak and Lok at any time with the ‘Z’ button for best use of each of the character’s unique abilities. For instance, Tak can swim and cast attacking magic, while Lok can physically throw Tak, climb obstacles and walls, etc., and cast a defensive shield. Players must often switch effectively between characters to solve the game’s many puzzles and expand their ongoing progress.

When playing as either Tak or Lok, the other character is then controlled by A.I., but The Great Juju Challenge also introduces two-player cooperative gameplay—meaning a second human player can join and quit at any time to take control of the remaining character. After a second player joins the game, the screen automatically converts to vertical split screen so both players can move freely across the Tak universe. There are no changes in the game when switching from single player to cooperative modes, so the levels remain identical.

The ability to play with a friend is a valuable addition to the already enjoyable gameplay of the Tak series. Cooperative mode also presents the opportunity for strategic multitasking. For example, when a group of enemies must be destroyed to activate a beacon, but a spell shrine must also be completed to advance in the level, players can split up and perform these tasks simultaneously, thereby reducing the precious time spent within the level and increasing their score.

In terms of graphics, The Great Juju Challenge is well up to par with the Nintendo GameCube’s standards; the animations are fluid, in-game cut scenes are well executed, and the framerate is solidly consistent. The textures are perhaps a little low quality when viewed up close, but during gameplay this is hardly noticeable. Developer, Avalanche, has done another excellent job in creating goofy characters that fit within the established Tak game world. On the down side, the game camera sporadically gets itself into annoying positions, often making it hard to see clearly or change the camera without first moving the character. Thankfully, bugs have been kept to a bare minimum; although one howler was discovered during this review, where Tak was jumping off a rhino only to become stuck inside a wall—forcing a frustrated game reset.

The level music in The Great Juju Challenge is well composed and fits the tribal ambiance wonderfully. The music doesn’t seem to grow repetitive or annoying during gameplay, which is always greatly appreciated in adventure games. The vocal performances are portrayed brilliantly by prolific voiceover talent such as Jason Marsden (Tak), and Patrick Warburton (Lok), and the overall excellence of the voice acting really brings the game to life and certainly makes the adventure much more humorous.

Whether you’re 6 or 60, Tak: The Great Juju Challenge is a truly outstanding series addition that will please any fan of the adventure genre. The game’s balanced humor ensures that players won’t lose interest, and the ability to jump in and out of proceedings by a second human player definitely adds an extra dimension to what’s already a great adventure platform title.