Friday, December 1, 2017

TY the Tasmanian Tiger

In 2002, Australian developer Krome Studios released the first in the TY the Tasmanian Tiger series, a late entry in the “mascot with attitude” craze and heavily inspired by Australian wildlife (and also named “TY” to avoid legal trouble with Ty Inc., the toy company responsible for the Beanie Babies fad during the ‘90s). The series proved to be successful enough to last a trilogy in its original release, followed by a fourth game several years later. Though I had been aware of the games when they first released, it wasn’t until recently that I had suddenly become interested in playing them, managing to acquire the first two at a used-game/movie store in Texas, receiving the third as a birthday present, and buying the fourth during the most recent Steam Summer Sale (as of this writing). The first three were also a personal excuse to dust off the original Xbox, while the fourth was only released digitally. With any further ado, let us start from the beginning with the original TY the Tasmanian Tiger.

As TY (a Tasmanian tiger) is exploring a forest, he stumbles upon a story of how the rest of the thylacines (aka Tasmanian tigers) were banished to the Dreamtime by Boss Cass, an evil cassowary who wants to rule over Southern Rivers. With the help of Maurie (a cockatoo) and Julius (a koala scientist), TY has to search for Thunder Eggs to help locate five talismans that will create a portal to the Dreamtime and rescue the other thylacines and defeat Boss Cass.

The core gameplay involves TY being able to throw various types of Boomerangs, or Rangs, that have varying effects on enemies he encounters and the environment, among them fire, ice, explosions, and seeing invisible objects. Rangs can be acquired either by advancing the plot or collecting enough Golden Cogs in each level. Aside from this, TY can also glide across gaps and use a bite attack in combat, the latter of which seems generally faithful to how big an actual thylacine’s open mouth can get.

TY's bite attack. (Finding screenshots for this game is difficult.)

Levels are accessed via a large hub world, which groups them by theme between a few locations on the map. Each level has their own set of objectives that need to be completed, such as going through specific events or collecting enough of certain collectibles, all to obtain enough Thunder Eggs between them to fight bosses to advance the story.

Though not quite the same, the general design feels somewhat reminiscent of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, including the fact that Opals, one of the staple collectibles required for getting Thunder Eggs, are essentially the equivalent to that game’s Precursor Orbs. There is also the presence of a Lives system, with Health represented by a pawprint and refillable via consuming pie (slices). Extra lives can be gained by finding representations of TY’s head (Protip: There’s one that regenerates in the hub world every time you load it) and losing a life gets you revived in the nearest outhouse that you have passed.

Though a game from 2002, the graphics hold up surprisingly well. Each set of levels also feels unique with its varying settings, and the overall design of the game is generally good. An interesting feature is the inclusion of random Australian wildlife, which adds to the world and helps it feel more alive. The named characters are also often based on more obscure Australian animals, such as the cassowary, lyrebird and Tasmanian devil; I should note here that, while TY himself is based on an obscure animal, the Tasmanian tiger, thylacines are officially classified as extinct in the real world. However, the immersion of the world can be broken temporarily when you discover the limits of the game’s skybox (particularly in snow levels) and there are no subtitles in pre-rendered cutscenes even when the option is on.

TY against the first boss, Bull.

The sound design for the game is actually one highlight, as the music creates what feels like an authentic Australian atmosphere. The characters also sport non-annoying Australian accents, plus the game has led me to learn some Australian slang I had not previously been familiar with. Though one should not get too attached to the voice actors when playing the games back-to-back, they do an overall good job in portraying their respective characters, giving them a distinct voice that future replacements have attempted to emulate.

Overall, TY the Tasmanian Tiger is a good start to the current tetralogy of games. Being an Australian developer, Krome Studios was able to deliver a very Australian experience that helps it stand out from the types of games it is attempting to emulate. I would suggest newcomers to the franchise begin with this game, as it sets up the major characters and world-building featured in later installments. For those who wish to revisit the game and/or do not have a sixth-generation console, TY 1 is currently available for purchase on Steam as of this writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment