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You may never have heard of it, but Melbourne's Krome Studios have done very nicely with their Ty the Tasmanian Tiger series. The developers claim over 2 million games sold from the series, and if that isn't enough, they've also signed a deal with the producers of The Simpsons to develop Ty into an animated cartoon.
Clearly the folks at Krome are onto something, and with the third game in the series, they're beefing up the boomerangs, vehicles, and combat.
Even if you haven't played a game in the Ty series before, it won't take you long to notice the similarities to Crash Bandicoot, from kart racing down to crate smashing. However, there's one very ocker twist. Ty has an assortment of boomerangs (or 'rangs as they're called here), and scours Aussie-inspired locations like The Dreaming, Barramudgee and The Beach. He's part of the Bush Rescue Squad, and his mates include Maurie the Cockatoo, Redback Russ, Rex the Platypus, Maureen the Dingo, and (what would an Aussie game be without its very own) Shazza. Aussie voices, then, dominate the game, with the cast stretching the stereotypical accent as if in tribute to Steve Irwin.
As Ty, you must wander a range of environments, saving your Bush Rescue teammates from nasty Quinkan. This commonly comes in the form of defeating one or a group of Quinkan, or challenges like winning a kart race or navigating treacherous terrain. Ty is often set a few tasks at once, and can choose which one he'll try first. There's never a shortage of jobs for him to do. Plus, as you move around each level, a range of small-time baddies will try and inflict some damage, but there'll also be locals who'll offer passing advice.
Quinkan take a number of forms, with some of the lesser species looking like Scratchy (of The Simpsons) on steroids. Just some of the Quinkan Ty will have to negotiate include: Electroquin, who hurl energy-balls, Lavaquin, who feel at home in red-hot lava, and Drop Bears, who spring attacks from the trees.
To beat up the Quinkan, Ty has a number of weapons at his disposal. Chief among these are 'rangs. As Ty progresses through the game, he may find opals which allow him to gain new chassis for his 'rangs. These might be lash, smash, ring or other chassis, all of which give the 'rangs a new way of striking enemies. On top of this, Ty can also use Bunyip stones he may find to power up his 'rangs with special powers like fire, water and magnet. Water-powered 'rangs, for example, use the cooling effect of water, and can freeze any object they might strike in ice crystals. If that happens to be a Quinkan, Ty can then calmly smash their frozen forms. Ty can also mix these 'rang powers for different effects, and there are over 1000 'rang combinations possible.
Ty's other attacking abilities are similar to those of other action heroes, adding to the impression that Krome have borrowed ideas from a number of popular titles. If Ty is in close quarters to a Quinkan, he'll resort to slashing with his 'rangs. Making Ty reel off a few quick slashes will see him fire a left then a right, followed by an uppercut with all the hallmarks of Ninja Gaiden.
When Ty takes on the big boys though, he needs to climb into giant robots called the Shadow or Extreme Bunyips. These robots are like a massive version of Robocop, with Ty sitting at the controls. The Bunyips can fire a range of projectiles, but also pack a powerful punch with a swing of their metallic arms. Although simply punching will often be too much for a number of enemies, don't underestimate the fun of this. We loved the power trip of being surrounded by Quinkan, then barreling them backwards with a barrage of punches.
Both 'rangs and Bunyip weapons can be upgraded at shops. This is where the importance of keeping an eye out for stones, and sometimes working out how to get to them, comes into play. If you don't upgrade your weapons, it's going to be harder and take longer for Ty to complete his tasks.
As mentioned before, some of these tasks will see Ty kart racing. This works in the same way to most kart games (Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing), with gaining weapons and using them to nail your competitors the name of the game.
Sometimes, Ty will take to the air with the Gunyip. Here, he'll fire a machine gun and drop bombs to destroy Quinkan targets, all the while locked in a dogfight with Quinkan planes. It's another entertaining game mode that does well in varying gameplay.
Both kart racing and Gunyip flying are available from the main menu as mini-games. This lets you take on the computer or a friend in what could be stand-alone games in their own right. Again a smart idea from Krome.
The fifth vehicle on offer is the Crabmersible, a crab-shaped hovercraft Ty drives for long distance tasks. The Crabmersible's claw attack smashes whatever's in its path, while the homing missile will often loop a number of times before you realise where it's heading. Like the Bunyips, the Crabmersible is great fun and lets you go on a rampage of destruction in ways Ty can't when he's by himself.
If you're thinking some of these vehicles and characters sound just a little fanciful, chances are you're not in the game's intended age group. With a colourful cast and frequent animation scenes, Ty will best be appreciated by younger gamers. The vast landscapes serve up a range of interesting characters, and there are plenty of conversations to be had along the way.
In much the same way, plenty of the fighting along the way to Ty's destinations is pretty much a push-over. These Quinkan can be quickly dispatched, and older gamers may tire of stopping to reel off a few hits on another baddie that poses little threat. That said, like Crash Bandicoot, the game's challenge doesn't really lie in fighting skill or staying alive. Indeed when Ty does die, he resumes his previous position almost in an instant, and the game continues. Instead, the challenge is in completing the next task, and finding stones, opals and orbs that will take your game completion percentage up to 100 percent. This is a big game, and you'll need to be observant to find all the collectibles if you are to complete it properly.
Other than not falling in the intended age group for this game, the only other drawback for us was the camera that follows Ty. While there are a number of options that let you tailor how the camera follows Ty, there were still irritating moments where we had to swing the camera behind Ty ourselves. The large levels mean we were constantly swinging the camera around to take in our surroundings, and zooming in when about to leap from a cliff-face. While the problem doesn't ruin the whole experience, the same issue has plagued many games like this, and the Ty series won't be the last.
If you're looking for a bit of cartoon creature action, though, you could do a lot worse than Ty. Although aimed at kids, the game does offer some big hitting action and has enough customisable 'rangs and hidden stones to keep you entertained for most of its 30-plus levels. While it's always inspiring to play a game developed by fellow countrymen and women, Ty should get a roar of approval the world over.
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