Saturday, June 21, 2014

VGR Taz Wanted

Taz is back in his very own video game! And no Bugs Bunny nor time travel in sight this time!

But a lot of pop rock and disguises instead. What?!?

VGR: Taz: Wanted 
From Blitz Games/Infogrames/Warner Bros. Interactive
Played on PC
Also available on GameCube, PS2 & Xbox

Type 3D action platformer
Year 2002

The end of the 1990s saw a decline in mascot-sporting videogames. While Sonic & Crash Bandicoot lived through to see a relatively fine on-going success in gaming, all the other Bubsies, Mr. Nutzes and other cartoon animals quickly disappeared, nowhere to be seen.

But what about the original toons, the Looney Tunes?

A few videogames releases continued to see the day, albeit less frequently but they were able to continue nonetheless, gathering a general decent amount of successes.

They had a few nice truly inspired original games and some... less stellar results.

Developed by the old team that made the cult title Glover back on the N64/PSX, Taz: Wanted was a new Looney Tunes 3D platformer developed by Blitz Games for the PS2, GameCube, Xbox and PC.

To be precise this was one of Infogrames' last Looney Tunes games along a Tiny Toons portable game and the infamous Loons, before Warner Bros. itself took over publishing their games directly. Infogrames decided to make use of their Looney Tunes license in a couple of last games. Some simple but proven formula, not trying to break any new grounds.

The following title in 2003, the first under Warner's banner, would be Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

Taz was pretty familiar to gamers, having starred in a couple of good games already. His last title to date had been the crate-delivering platformer N64 exclusive Taz Express in 2000.

Our story begins as Taz was running havoc around the entire world! Pursued by several other familiar faces (Sylvester, Daffy, etc.) Taz didn't see a trap coming up... and got himself captured by Yosemite Sam!!

Sam is building this new amusement park all over Tasmania! And Taz is going to be its main attraction! And to ensure his cooperation, Sam also captured a female tasmanian she-devil!

The main objective in Taz Wanted is to escape from this park and simply destroy everything in your way out!!

The game is about 10 levels long, 9 main levels spread through 3 "zones" plus one final bigger special level and you will encounter some bosses and a couple of challenge levels to unlock.

In a way it's very reminiscent of the old Escape from Mars game. And for some reason a lot of ideas from the old Megadrive titles made it into this GameCube/PS2-era game.

You start by the zoo-portion of the game, which contains a tropical setting, snowy mountains and some islands. Then you'll move onto the nearby city and and so forth. Always the same usual themes you get from these Looney Tunes game, a pirate-y cove, a museum, etc.

The game controls like your regular 3D "mascot" platformers at the time. Taz can jump. To attack Taz can perform his signature spin attack - this time there is no restriction, you can spin round and round with no limit defined by an energy bar or time. Which is great. And makes Taz feel fun and kinda overpowered. Taz can finally also eat everything he finds on his path and spit it back later. There's also a special button which by default makes Taz growl!

There are two kinds of enemies. Each level's original bad guys defined by the settings (crocodiles in the zoo, construction workers in the building in progress, museum guards at the museum - duh!). These are usually invincible but can be temporary frightened or hurt. They won't "kill" you per say but can shock you or stun you for a while.

And then there are Sam's zoo keepers. Those will actually hurt you bad, they'll capture you and put you back in a cage - which makes you lose money. Everything comes back to money, the game's scoring system. Those enemies can be dispatched for good with special attacks.

To perform those you will need to find disguises. And this is my only real main beef with this game. These costumes come like the one gimmick too many. Taz's gameplay is already pretty unique in itself. Destroying everything, eating stuff, doing your spin. Did we really need to see Taz enter a Tardis-like telephone booth to change into a surfer dude and attack with his board? 

These costumes feel like they were added late in the production, at the last minute, and you can almost play most levels without using those. Each levels/setting contains its own unique transformations for Taz! Did you ever want to see Taz dress like a superhero, Indiana Jones, a ninja or a cowboy? Well, now you can!

Each contains mostly the same attack. Taz does something goofy and a projectile will hit the next nearby enemy. Slapstick comedy!

It's not necessary but useful to get rid of a couple of annoying enemies. There's also some punching-boxes you need to freeze by spinning on a yellow button so they won't you back as you get rid of them.

The levels are huge open world areas with a list of objectives to complete to clear them. At the beginning of each stage Tweety will summarize the situation. There are 7 wanted signs spread through each level to destroy. You can check out an in-game map to get some clues.

Simply said the game revolves around these big open stages with several paths, it's pretty usual to get lost at first. There are various tasks to perform or puzzles to solve to get to the wanted signs.

These puzzles can be solved by using elements in the background or special items such as hot chili or bubblegum... 

In a way it's the same basic idea as Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf, but a lot more action-oriented. Same concept,
levels are large areas where you need to solve several little "scenes", but the puzzles are much simpler and basic compared to its predecessor.

After all these years, it's still very much influenced by the original Megadrive titles, like I said.

It's the same basic gameplay, eating hot chili to spit fire, the special action is used to growl when you didn't eat any object. There's even a very difficult annoying minecart segment! Even the boss fights suddenly feel fast paced and different from the rest (a strange "thing" with the old MD game). 

The bosses play like minigames. One is simply a Pong game played against Gossamer with an elephant for a ball! You take over Wile E. Coyote against Daffy Duck on a giant pinball machine.

For some reason the boss fights have great visuals, more so than the rest of the game, sporting unusual and gorgeous lightning and better shadows not present in the actual rest of the game.

While the games features pretty decent enough graphics, they're not as well rendered or clear as the earlier Sheep, Dog I mentioned above. The game uses lovely cell shaded cartoon visuals.

The animations on the other hand are fairly well done.

It's kind of a difficult game to get a hand on at first. Taz is hard to control.

It's probably the best way they could come up with his gameplay, to better translate Taz' nervous personality. But Taz will get easier to get a hang on once you spend some time on the first couple of levels.

When it's all said and done, it's a pretty funny game with great visuals. And for once it's not one of these annoying collect-a-thons!

And while it was fairly random, I enjoyed the "Tweety twist" at the end.

The game features some great voice acting as its usual to expect from these Looney Tunes type of games. Taz was voiced by Jim Cummings once more, while Maurice Lamarche reprise his role of Yosemite Sam. Most of the other background toons appearances were either voiced by Joe Alaskey or Billy West. Great voice acting all around!

For some reason, the game featured several random references to Space Race. You can find a couple of racing-rockets from the previous games. (in the museum, in Wile E. Coyote's HQs hidden in the mountains,..)

Although the game has some pretty random rock music, which kinda come off more than once...

Overall, it's a pretty fun game visually. 

Pretty fun, colorful. And visually reminiscent of the cartoony universe of the Looney Tunes. Probably a bit too flashy-looking, I really feel the LT have already been better rendered in past games such as Space Race or Sheep Raiders.  

It was probably the best rendition Taz' spin to date, gameplay-wise.

All in all, a fun Recommended game. It could have probably done with less fart sounds every two seconds you jump (added late in the production for absolutely no reason, I imagine..).  
I give it:
2.5 / 3 Bruces!

No comments:

Post a Comment