Friday, December 22, 2017

TY the Tasmanian Tiger 4

In 2013, after an 8-year absence, TY the Tasmanian Tiger came back rather unexpectedly in the form of another self-titled game released for systems supporting Windows 8 and above, before being made more widely available on Steam as the more appropriate TY the Tasmanian Tiger 4. Once again developed (and this time also published) by Krome Studios, the game takes a different direction than its predecessors, using a more two-dimensional art style and gameplay system while still emulating the feel of a TY game. I purchased this game on the last Steam Summer Sale without having played a TY game before (as I was just getting myself into playing them), though I decided not to play it until after playing the other three installments on Xbox first. I would say overall the experience paid off, even if TY 4 is a little on the short side.

Following the events of TY 3, New Burramudgee has been flooded and destroyed by Boss Cass. However, the new Lake Burramudgee hasn’t deterred Bush Rescue, who have simply reformed and moved to the nearby town of Coolarangah. Meanwhile, Boss Cass has set up his own private island resort, known as Cassablanca, where he appears to have retired. Despite this, TY has been made busy with Bush Rescue missions while having to deal with a specter from the past.

While the basic gameplay is similar to the previous TY games, there are some notable differences. For starters, the game is a 2-D sidescroller with all vehicle-based gameplay from past entries removed, alleviating the vehicle focus that took over much of TY 3. The Rang system is also reverted to being a mixture of TY 1 and 2, featuring Rangs with set abilities that can be unlocked through the story, though some additional Rangs (and even a selection of costumes) can be purchased using Opals in the main menu. While swimming sections also make a return, you no longer have to worry about running out of oxygen, though you do still have to worry about health (plus the game doesn’t have falling damage).

Typical gameplay. (Screencaps remain a challenge to locate.)

A new gameplay mechanic is introduced in the form of a special attack that can be used to take down tougher enemies. This new attack, however, has a couple issues: First, it takes up the button that was previously used for the bite attack (I played using a controller), leading the bite and throw attack to share the same button and become context-sensitive. Second, the attack requires you to sacrifice 10 Opals to use it, which can make saving them up for Rangs a bit challenging. (Protip: The unlockable Plasmarang can take care of some, though not all, enemies that would normally require the special attack to take down.)

In addition to Opals and story quests, each level is still packed with collectibles, sidequests, and bonus challenges that can keep one busy for a while. Levels can get surprisingly complex in their layout, should one be willing to explore for hidden collectibles, however there is always a way to get back to the main story path, as arrows are usually placed in the background to help guide you to the end goal. The level design can also get somewhat creative, especially with the final boss, providing a good amount of variety to keep the player invested.

Levels often contain multiple hidden paths.

The most noticeable difference is the visual style, taking on a more comic book-esque feel. While the level designs came out really well, the character models at times come off as being done more on the cheap, though this was likely a necessity for Krome Studios to make a new TY game without a AAA budget. This style is exemplified further by the story being relegated to comic book-style cutscenes, which also make up for a lack of voice acting in the game. While this might be disappointing for some, I could still hear the characters’ voices from TY 3 in my head as I played, showing that the characters can still remain consistent to themselves in a more visual-based medium. The sound design is still good though, with the game’s soundtrack remaining consistently good while including what sound like remixes of tracks from previous games to good effect.

Though different in many ways from what came before, TY the Tasmanian Tiger 4 is a worthy continuation of the TY series, though the average playthrough can come up a little short even with the extra content. Still, the gameplay translates well to 2-D while addressing some issues with the previous game, plus its evident that some care was still put into making it a good reintroduction of the TY character. The story, however, assumes you already know the ending of TY 3, so I would strongly advise newcomers hoping for a jumping-on point to play the previous three games first to get a better handle on the plot. As the ending seems to leave the door open for a possible TY 5, it would be interesting to see what Krome does with the franchise next.

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