Wednesday, April 22, 2020

TY the Tasmanian Tiger HD (Switch)

Note: This review contains spoilers for TY the Tasmanian Tiger.

Last year, developer Krome Studios announced a Kickstarter to bring an HD remaster of the original game over to the Nintendo Switch, with the possibility of PS4 and Xbox One ports that would eventually become funded. After having played through all four games in the TY the Tasmanian Tiger series, I found it to be an enjoyable series of games that deserved more general attention, and so I jumped at the chance to support this endeavor. I pledged enough to get a digital copy of the game, since physical copies weren’t an option, and even got a physical soundtrack and digital art book through BackerKit. When asked which system I wanted it for, I opted for the Switch version, both as an excuse to use the Switch and because the Xbox One version wasn’t an option at the time (since I played TY 1-3 on the original Xbox). After getting the chance to play it, I felt that the game held up pretty well and benefited from all the HD improvements.

As was the intention with the Kickstarter, the game received a major visual upgrade taking advantage of newer hardware. The most noticeable change is environments receiving more detail to better sell what they’re supposed to be, such as jungle levels having a higher amount of fauna to increase the immersion without disrupting gameplay. The character models and cutscenes don’t look too different from the original game aside from being cleaned up for HD. That said, the art style and animations remain intact from how they were presented on legacy platforms. Another visual change that I particularly liked is that there are now subtitles during cutscenes, which makes it much easier to follow along with the dialogue.

One major difference is a new difficulty setting called Hardcore Mode, with some humorous sound effects in the difficulty selection screen. I didn’t play on Hardcore prior to writing this review, however I like that the developers did something different to justify a purchase from players who had already experienced the game previously. One advertised feature for the Switch version was the addition of motion controls, allowing you to use the Joy-Cons for throwing Rangs and gliding. I started the game with Joy-Cons just to try this out, and I can say it works really well once you get used to how it works (you have to flick the Joy-Con up or down to throw), however the general size of the Joy-Cons made this feel a bit awkward to me. At the cost of not being able to use this feature, I switched to using a Pro Controller for the rest of my playthrough (before I could learn how gliding with Joy-Cons worked) because it felt more comfortable for me to use.

Comparison of the visual differences (taken from the Kickstarter).

Due to meeting a number of its Stretch Goals, one of the new features added to the game is an array of skins that alter TY’s appearance during gameplay. Among these, a few highlights include the prototype version of TY, a skin based on the Kickstarter-exclusive Doomeranger comic (which as of this writing hasn’t been completed yet) and the ability to play as Sly the Tasmanian Tiger. I played through the game using the Classic skin, though I like the options that the game offers.

While my opinions of the game itself are largely similar to how I felt when playing on the original Xbox, I did pay more attention to the story this time and made some observations. The story itself isn’t bad, however it seemed like the reason TY was the one assigned to retrieving the Talismans from Boss Cass was more of an excuse to get the plot going because he just so happened to stumble upon some cave drawings depicting what happened to them, as well as the fact that TY’s parents happened to be among the Tasmanian tigers that sacrificed themselves to protect the Talismans. Additionally, though the opening depicts multiple Tasmanian tigers getting sucked into a portal, only TY’s parents came back after Boss Cass’ defeat and the restoration of the Talismans. This works fine for the story on an emotional level, however I couldn’t help but notice that detail this time around.

From my experience with the Switch port, I would consider TY the Tasmanian Tiger HD a successful Kickstarter story as well as a fine game on its own merits. The additional gameplay options provide something new for existing TY the Tasmanian Tiger fans to enjoy, while the visual touch-ups and tight gameplay provide an excellent jumping-on point for new fans. If the Nintendo Switch isn’t your platform of choice, the PS4 and Xbox One ports are currently in development as of this writing, to be released in that order, so you will have to wait a little. If Krome Studios decides to provide a similar treatment for TY 2 and TY 3, I would gladly support them if they’re anything like this.

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