Galactic Taz Ball (DS) Review
Looney Tunes games of old have had a scattered record. Some of them have been brilliant, but most of them have been terrible. This time, WB has enlisted the experts at WayForward to bring Taz the Tasmanian Devil to the Nintendo DS. Taz here in Australia is an idol, so when a game comes out about him we all stand up and pay attention, seriously. So how has our fair national idol been treated this time around? Quite well, we have to say, with the stylised experience only let down with a control scheme that’s fairly ambitious.
Galactic Taz Ball’s story is second to the action; it’s the typical Taz and Marvin the Martian stand-off that you’ve come to know. With Taz napping, Marvin and his cronies swoop down and steal parts of Australia to help make Mars a more hospitable place. This leaves parts the world high up in the air and it’s up to you to navigate Taz through it and reclaim the land. Not only has the world been raised but lava, water, turning platforms and springs stand in your way.
The game is not just called Galactic Taz Ball for nothing. You control Taz for the majority of the game entirely with a ball on the touch screen. This ball is like the old arcade machines trackballs and you’ll need to spin the ball faster and faster to gain momentum to move Taz around. Once you get fast enough, Taz will spin up into his trademark tornado spin and take out most of the enemies around the level, float over water and leap the huge jumps required to get to the end of the stage. The problem with this control method is that instead of a real ball to move, you have to do it on the bottom screen with a stylus. Now if the game was only 10 minutes long, this wouldn’t be a problem. Luckily for you, it is longer than that, but your wrist won’t like it. After about 15 minutes of continuous flicking to make the ball go as fast as possible, your arm and wrist will start to feel it. Taz walks pretty slowly if you’re not flicking fast and you will need him to spin up into a tornado for most of the game.
Owners of the DSi XL will find the controls a little bit harder, too, as the flick motion will require you to make longer, broader strokes. It’s not unplayable but I had to go back to the usual DSi to continue to play. There are also portions of the game that require you to be spinning in the tornado move, however the levels don’t allow enough space to reach them, causing you to fall to your doom. They’re rare but it will happen more than once. Your mileage with the control scheme may vary, but to me it felt like it was holding me back from having the most fun with the game.
The game’s levels are themed from world to world, but they all share one thing in common: they’re seemingly suspended up in the air. That means you’ll need to strike a balance between speed and control to stay on the board. However, it’s not all up in there air; there is the other portion of the game dubbed the “underground”. The underground part of a level is also touchscreen-controlled, however it plays from a 2D perspective and if you’ve played Lemmings or Mario vs. DK, you’ll know what to expect. The underground removes most of your control over Taz – you can only make him stop, start and change direction as you manoeuvre him through conveyor belts and avoid spikes and lasers. Earlier underground stages are pretty simple, but later in the game they’ll add springs to jump up on and switches to reverse the movement of the belts. The switches were a little hard to hit on the screen because the camera didn’t pan over quickly enough. This is no problem because the game is pretty lenient of you missing things or dying.
Galactic Taz Ball is a pretty forgiving game, naturally more so on the easier difficulties with a stockpile of lives filling up rather quickly. Death goes basically unpunished too as Taz will re-spawn close to where he perished. There is also the ability to skip a troublesome part of a level if you die three times, handy for when there is something you just can’t pass (or be bothered to). Ramping up the difficulty nets you more agile enemies and less health.
Apart from the game’s underground levels; there are boss fights at the end of each world and 5 golden kiwis to hunt for in each level, which unlock additional artwork. While 5 worlds may not sound like a lot, there are plenty of levels in these worlds and you don’t have to progress through them all if you don’t want to, but some of them are required to progress to the boss.
One thing I was hoping from the game was some animated cutscenes in the style of the cartoons. Sadly there are none, but the game is still presented in a comical way, just in 3D. Yes, the entire game is in 3D but Taz, Marvin and the enemies look fine and Taz himself comes alive in the few close ups you see of him. The game runs at a good frame-rate too, so you get that frantic action when at high speeds and the game keeps up. The game’s soundtrack is nothing remarkable – it’s not bad but you don’t notice it stand out as a primary part of the game. Character voices are there, including the mutterings of Taz as he spins and flies around the level.
Finishing Galactic Taz Ball won’t be a huge effort for most people. On the easiest difficulty level you’ll be able to breeze through the game. The challenge comes on the higher difficulty settings while having to collect everything.
Looney Tunes style converts well to the DS screen, and it runs at a nice framerate too. Menus are a little bland.
Annoyingly hard controls are the weak point of the game but, at the same time, offer something different.
Nothing to write home about, but it works. Character voices are all in order.
Five worlds to traverse. Two distinct modes of gameplay. Lots to collect, but nothing to do once its down.
Went in expecting to hate it, was surprised to see this wasnt the case even though I personally fought with the controls.