Release Date: April 1, 2021 (August 27, 2020 for PC)
Platform: Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
You Might Also Like: Kao the Kangaroo (Switch)
A game key for Ty the Tasmanian Tiger HD was provided by Krome Studios.
I grew up in the heyday of the Nintendo 64, which means 3D platformers are in my blood. I spent hours on Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and Donkey Kong 64. Thanks to Mario's 35th Anniversary I've been diving back into those retro classics. It turns out that endless collect-a-thons can still hook me in for hours and hours.
With the recent release of Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue, I got a chance to check out the HD remaster of the original game. Ty the Tasmanian Tiger HD on the Nintendo Switch is the original game with a shiny new coat of paint. I'm not sure how I missed this game when it first released in the GameCube era, but I am absolutely in love.
What Can a Tasmanian Tiger Do?
At its core, Ty is a pretty straightforward 3D Platformer. Ty runs around at a full sprint everywhere he goes. He can jump, glide, do a bite attack that lunges toward enemies, and throw boomerangs. Throughout the game, that’s really all the abilities you can do. That basic set of skills makes this a super easy game for anyone to pick up. As long as you can work a control stick and three buttons you can dive in and start having fun.
The complexity in the gameplay comes from the variety of different boomerangs Ty can use. Three elemental ‘rangs are required throughout the adventure. Firey boomerangs can melt ice and burn spiderwebs. Icey ones can put out fires and make platforms to cross water. An Electrified ‘rang powers the doors to let you access the final level.
Outside of the required ‘rangs, there are a bunch of optional ones that you can unlock. These tweak the combat in a variety of ways, like by letting you throw a whole bunch of boomerangs at once or throw one that will bounce between enemies. Swapping boomerangs is as simple as hitting Left or Right on the D-Pad. For more precision, there's a weapon wheel to quickly pick a specific one.
The variety makes for a nice change of pace in the game's combat and light puzzle-solving. The ease of switching between them keeps things easy to play.
Collect All of the Things
Like most 3D platformers, this game is chock full of collectibles. The main drive throughout the game is to collect five talismans from five bosses. Collecting Thundereggs within the levels unlocks boss fights. Thundereggs can be found by helping out residents of the world, like finding a mama koalo's missing babies. You can also get them by collecting 300 opals or by rescuing 5 trapped animals within each level.
You’ll also find extra lives scattered around, and semi-translucent boxes hiding concept art. There are so many collectibles in this game that I forgot what one of them, the Golden Cogs, was even for until I was ready to unlock the final level. I was still going out of my way to pick them up whenever I saw them, just because they were there. By the time I realized that they were used to purchase optional boomerangs, I had enough to get three at once!
Oozing Charm Out of Every Polygon
Character platformers almost never dive deep into the story. In Mario, the plot of almost every game in the franchise is “… and then the Princess got kidnapped”. Ty follows in that grand tradition, with an evil big bad threatening the whole world that has to be stopped by collecting all of the things. The villain's whole drive is that he's a bird descended from dinosaurs who is ticked off that mammals became the dominant form of life. It's silly and lighthearted in the best way possible.
Throughout the game, Ty encounters a host of characters, all adorably over the top in their Australian-ness. Maurie is a cockatoo who introduces you to every level in the game and directs Ty towards thundereggs. Rex is a laid-back platypus who's all about that beach life and teaches Ty to swim early on in the game. Julius is a Koala scientist who invents machines to help Ty on his quest and is the source of all your fancy new boomerangs. Also, Julius is my best friend and I will fight anyone to protect him.
These characters are all goofy and fun. Best of all, they are all fully voice acted! There's nothing super deep in the story or characters, but I was charmed by all of it.
The Wide World of the Outback
Level variety is one of the most important aspects of a 3D platformer in my book, and Ty the Tasmanian Tiger really delivers. The whole game is set in the Australian Outback, but each level has a really unique feel. You'll visit jungle biomes full of trees and waterfalls to slide down and then jump straight to a bush fire at the base of a tall snowy mountain. There are swamps and bogs and even a level where you spend the whole time exploring from the back of a charging bull.
Even the way that enemies are used helps the levels feel more interesting. You are mostly encountering the same few enemies throughout the game, but there are often little tweaks to their appearance depending on the environment. My favorite by far was coming across kangaroos in a snowy level who were sporty parkas. They were so cute that I didn't even realize they were enemies who were about to pepper me with snowballs.
Throughout the game there are a series of small boss fights. There's essentially four of these, plus a final battle at the end. Each one is a unique sort of puzzle that requires some platforming, some ‘rang action, and some problem solving to conquer. None of them were hard, but I had a fun time figuring out how to beat each one of them. The Jaws inspired battle against a cybernetic shark, in particular, was a ton of fun!
The Transition to HD
Everything is still modeled as it was in its original release, so things are big and bulky and have sharp edges. That's not a complaint, though, because it fits perfectly with the retro gameplay. This game looks like how I remember old 3D platforms looking, but with HD textures and a fantastic 60 FPS framerate that gives it a modern shine.
A newcomer could easily think this was a modern game rendered to evoke the GameCube era.
This has been a pretty glowing review, but this is honestly some of the most fun I've had playing a game this year. Ty the Tasmanian Tiger is a nearly perfect 3D character platformer that feels right at home next to Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. It doesn't really do a whole lot new in that space, but it nails exactly what it set out to do.
This game is pretty simple and straightforward, and won't pose a challenge to experienced gamers, but it's still a heck of a ton of fun. If you are a child of the N64 and never tried Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, I wholeheartedly recommend it. You might especially want to pick this one up if you've got a little gamer in the house, because I think it's aged a heck of a lot better than the games from the N64 era have.
My only complaint about this game is that I somehow missed it the first time around. If I played this back on my GameCube, I would have called it a better follow-up to Mario 64 than Sunshine was.