|3D Platformer, Collectathon
|PC; PS4; Switch (reviewed); Xbox One; Xbox Series S|X
|March 31, 2020 (Switch); July 25, 2020 (PS4); October 14, 2020 (Xbox)
Though it pains my heart to say it, we are far removed from the golden age of the 3D platformer. In case you weren’t around from the years of 1996 to around 2007, it was a time where every studio took their shot at creating the next Super Mario 64. From this melee of mascots we got some time-tested classics like Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, and, if recent releases are anything to go by, the Pac-Man World series, apparently. But as you might expect, such a barrage of games left some fallen by the wayside, even ones that made a big splash when they first released.
One of those games was one of my personal childhood favorites: Ty the Tasmanian Tiger. For a while, it seemed that Ty was going to miss out on the remake obsession that has leaked into the gaming industry from Hollywood. But in 2016, through the power of crowdfunding, Australian developer Krome Studios was able to bring this homage to their homeland to PC, (and modern-day systems in 2020) with Ty the Tasmanian Tiger HD.
Foul Language: Various Australian epithets such as “crikey,” “blimey,” and the like.
Violent Content: Ty takes out enemies with boomerangs and bites, but most enemies are dispatched with a simple fall to the ground. Leech enemies burst into a spray of cartoony purple blood when bit. All enemies let loose a skull-shaped puff of smoke on death.
Sexual Content: Ty’s girlfriend, Shazza, is an anthropomorphic dingo who wears a tied-off shirt and Daisy Duke shorts.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger originally released in 2002 for the GameCube, PS2, and original Xbox, and to say I’m nostalgic for this game is like saying wallabies poop cubes. I adored this game as a child, and vividly remember exploring all its varied locations, and even being deathly afraid of Neddy the Bully. It was also one of the few games I could actually beat as a kid, which made it extra special in my mind. I’d actually forgotten about the HD remaster until recently, when, on a rare nostalgic whim, I picked up the original two games for the Nintendo Switch.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger takes place…not in Tasmania, ironically enough. Ty and his friends live on an unnamed island in Australia, where they lived in peace and harmony until an evil cassowary named Boss Cass arrives in a gigantic robot. Cass ravages the landscape and traps Ty’s family in a mystical realm called The Dreaming. The only way to free his family and rid the island of Boss Cass is for Ty to collect five mystical Talismans that are scattered across the world.
To do this, Ty enlists the help of Murray, a crotchety old kookaburra, and Julius, a genius koala inventor. Julius has developed a machine that can locate the Talismans and teleport them to the team, but it requires Thunder Eggs to operate. And so, Ty sets off through portals Julius has created to collect enough Thunder Eggs to operate the machine, collect the Talismans, and get his family back.
I think the story presentation is really where the game shines. The entire thing is voice acted, with every tutorial being given to you by Murray himself throughout the game. The voice acting is pretty good for the era, too, only veering into cheesy territory with the villains and Julius, who sounds a bit like he’s straining on the toilet for most of his lines. Still, there’s never a silent cutscene or text box, and the game keeps giving you new and interesting characters in every level. I think the only complaint I have about the writing is that your goals don’t feel connected to the things you’re collecting. Half the time, when you complete a quest, a character says something along the line of, “while you were doing that, I found this shiny rock. Want it?” It felt like the game just needed an excuse to give you a macguffin after a quest, which is true, of course. I just would have appreciated a bit more connection between the quests I was completing and the rewards.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger is a pretty basic 3D platformer at its core. Ty can run, jump, bite, and throw his boomerangs to attack the cassowary’s army. It doesn’t do very much to set those core platforming bits apart from other titles of the genre, but it’s still a solid base to work from. Ty moves quickly, his jump is sharp and high, and the boomerangs automatically target enemies, meaning you can run by and throw the ‘rangs to take out a whole mess of Frill Lizards. You’ve got a lot of control of Ty, and the movement is sharp and snappy, making it a breeze to navigate the game world. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I like the controls here much better than Super Mario 64, which is often held up as the paragon of 3D platformers. Yes, Ty came out 6 years later, so it’s not exactly the fairest comparison, but I felt like Ty’s controls here were perfectly suited to the level design, allowing me to control exactly where I needed to land without any wayward plunges into Lethal Lava Land.
I do wish the running speed was a little quicker, especially on some of the later, more open levels. It can take ages to get from one end of a stage to another, and there’s no run button to make Ty move a little quicker when you’re not scouring for collectibles. It’s not a huge issue, but it did make some levels last a little longer than I think they had any right to.
You’ll start your adventure in Rainbow Cliffs, the game’s hub world. This is a pretty expansive area, with plenty of room to run around and get used to the game’s controls before you jump into a level. It’s nothing special, but it gets the job done. It even features its own collectible: Rainbow Scales, which, if you’re able to collect all 25, nets you a neat bonus for the last stage.
Rainbow Cliffs is separated into four main areas, which each house three levels, except for the last area, which houses the game’s final level. This makes for a total of 10 levels, and given that the game was originally released in 2002, each level is pretty small. This makes the game fairly short, and even a 100% completion run took me just around 10 hours. Granted, I knew most of the areas well from my previous plays. A blind playthrough might take you around 15 hours for a completionist run, but no more.
Still, that’s not a bad thing. The game doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the levels are just long enough to keep you interested without becoming boring. (Well…except for a few, but I’ll get to that later.) The game’s pacing is swift and sweet, and while it does feel a little short by the end of it all, for a $20 asking price, that’s not a bad amount of content.
In each of those levels, you’ll hunt down a total of 8 Thunder Eggs, along with various other collectibles. Think of Thunder Eggs like Stars in Super Mario 64. Each one is tied to a goal. Some goals show up from level to level, like collecting 300 opals in each stage or finding all 5 bilbies, while others are level-specific. You’re able to see the titles of each Thunder Egg from the pause screen, giving you a nice hint about where to look for each one without outright giving it away.
The levels themselves are laid out very similarly to something like Super Mario Odyssey. You’ll have one main path through the level that will lead you to the level’s “main” Thunder Egg. The others involve exploring every nook and cranny of the level to sniff out the rest. While these Eggs are a little more involved to collect, they’re rarely that difficult. If you’re a moderately thorough explorer, you won’t have a problem with most of them. Note that word: most.
As I mentioned before, every level has an egg for collecting 300 opals. Unlike in Super Mario 64, however, you can’t just get opals anywhere. There are exactly 300 in every level, and while you’ll get most of them simply by completing the main path, you’ll need to scope out every area of the level to get that Thunder Egg. This particular goal is fine in most stages, but in a few, namely Ship Rex, Snow Worries, Outback Safari, and (ugh…) Rex Marks the Spot, it’s downright infuriating.
These particular stages are more open-ended than the rest of the levels, meaning that there are plenty of places for those opals to hang out. And if you miss just one, you can’t net the Egg. I was stuck for 25 minutes looking for the last opal on Rex Marks the Spot, and it turned out, I had to grab a magnet powerup and it appeared out of nowhere. I’m actually not convinced it hadn’t glitched out of existence until I got the magnet. That’s how irritating it was.
Ty’s levels are at their best when they’re more linear with a few paths to venture off into, with maybe one particular area that’s more open. These stages are a joy to play, and it’s always fun to find an area you missed on your first run through. And, once you know where everything is, it’s a blast dash through levels as fast as you can. The levels highlight how tight the controls are. However, as you progress in the game, each stage gets more and more open-ended, leading to more frustrating needle-in-a-haystack searches for completion.
Still, those frustrating moments are pretty few and far between. For the most part, the levels come and go fast enough to keep you invested, with a pretty killer soundtrack to accompany you. George Stamatiadis’ soundtrack takes you right to the Land Down Under with frequent use of Australian staples like the didgeridoo, combined with a country rock base. I did end up turning the music off on some of the aforementioned open ended levels, but that has more to do with the fact that I was spending more time in those levels than I ever wanted to than it does with the soundtrack.
As for the visuals, (which are, of course, the main draw of an HD remake,) they’re…fine. The game looks fine. Ty wasn’t the most visually stunning game back in the day, and while the textures are clear and crisp, and it’s nice to see the models in such high fidelity after so many years, it’s not going to blow your mind. The game also offers you a few new skins for Ty, but it’s nothing more than a cosmetic change. His animations, voice, and everything are exactly the same for each one.
But you know what? For a $20 asking price, I can’t really ask for more. Krome Studios has done what they set out to do: bring a classic from the golden age of platforming to home consoles. And they succeeded. This game feels exactly like I expected, right down to the cheesy voice acting, memorable soundtrack, and varied level designs.
I’ll have to admit a fair amount of bias here. This is absolutely a childhood favorite of mine, but coming back to it 20 years later, I think Ty the Tasmanian Tiger HD still has a lot to offer. It doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is: a solid, tightly controlled 3D collectathon platformer. It does that, and then adds on a ton of charm with its voice acting and fun characters, varied mechanics with unlockable boomerangs, and switching up gameplay mechanics just enough to keep things interesting without impacting the focus of the game.
If, like me, you’re a longtime fan of the series, then this game will absolutely bring you back to the first time you played it. Or, if you’re looking to jump back to the good old days of platforming, this will absolutely do the trick. It’s a fun romp through an Australian platforming wonderland that gives you a quick hit of the Outback, but doesn’t overstay its welcome. And because of that, I’ll probably make like Ty’s boomerang and keep coming back for another go.
The Bottom Line
While it's nothing groundbreaking, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger HD is still a solid entry from the golden age of platforming, and its HD remaster is a wonderful recreation of the original experience.