2002 was an odd time to be alive. A year where Matt Damon voiced a horse, The Queen Mother died and people thought it was still a good idea for Eminem to continue making music. Considering I was about 8 at the time, I don’t really remember much of the year itself, but one thing I do recall was the video game mascot race.
Yes the early 2000s was a time when every major video game company wanted to push their mascot, with the PS1 and PS2 serving as their battleground. These mascots are ingrained in our memories now, names like Jak or Ratchet have become gaming icons, and while their individual series either died off or lost their audience over time, people still remember these names. So, remember Ty? No not Sly, Ty. Ty The Tasmanian Tiger.
I am going to be real with you for a second here. Even as a kid, I knew Ty the Tasmanian Tiger was a weird game that probably wasn’t very good, but damn the nostalgia I get for this game is palpable. I was (and still am) a huge fan of collectathon 3D platformers (Banjo Kazooie, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy), so the fact that I never finished Ty always annoyed me. So with the recent Steam remaster I decided to jump back in and give the game a second try. Long story short, I completed the game 100% in about 11 hours, so yeah I went hard.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger was originally released in 2002 for PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. The game was developed by Krome Studios and published by EA. The game began development in 2000 and quickly became the studio’s largest game. With critics praising the game’s expansive levels and impressive visuals(which still look great), the game quickly sold over one million copies worldwide. The series went on to produce three more games of varying levels of quality, including the fourth game switching perspective to a 2D platformer. Ty has become somewhat of a cult classic at this point, and personally I didn’t even know he had a trilogy of games, let alone if he is deserving of one. With that being said, how did I enjoy the original game years later? Surprisingly, it holds up pretty well.
Our tale of the hour takes place in the only logical setting for a Tasmanian tiger, a fictional furry representation of Australia. Our hero, Ty, spends his days with his adoptive bilbie family until one faithful morning he stumbles upon a sacred tomb, wherein he learns the true history of his ancestors. Basically what went down was a sassy cassowary called Boss Cass was set to take over the world by using 5 powerful talismans to open a portal to the dreamtime. Ty’s parents attempted to stop him, but the feathered fiend succeed in opening the gateway, sucking Ty’s parents in. Before all was lost, Ty’s mom used her boomerang to scatter the talismans across the outback, stopping Boss Cass’s plan before the rift closed forever. With this new knowledge it is up to Ty to acquire these talismans before Cass and save his parents before it is too late.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger offers up pretty much exactly what you would want from a 3D collectathon, bare bones combat, unlockable weapons and of course, too many collectibles. The game is split into a large hub area that houses portals to different levels. These levels are big open locals that can range from sunny beaches to dense rainforests. So what do you do in these levels? Well my dear reader, you collect stuff. A LOT of stuff. These curios come in 5 types, opals, golden coggs, bilbies, thunder eggs and talismans. Almost all of these items are used to gain more thunder eggs, which power a machine that finds the lost talismans. The golden coggs on the other hand are used to gain new boomerangs, each having their own properties(fire, ice etc). You find these treasures in a number of ways, for example racing platypuses, gathering 300 opals, saving 5 hidden bilbies and doing favours for the locals. The amount of variety in the gameplay shocked me, as there is a lot to do here. Collecting never gets boring as you always feel like you are doing something new.
One thing I can’t speak of fondly is the boss fights, if you can even call them that. Ty is an easy game, and I understand that, but damn these bosses are nothing. Not a single enemy poses any threat, as they are all pretty much over in a few seconds. These evildoers themselves are at least unique, but usually always are weak to some kind of elemental boomerang. While these villains are not only a push over, a lot of them come off as kind of surreal. Every now and again a boss will act like you already know who they are or that they will return later, but never do. Some of these characters seem like they were just thought up by an artist and given very little thought how they would actually interact with the world.
So you may be asking yourself, solid gameplay, fun setting and a good story set up, sounds like an instant classic right? Well the big issue I have with this series looking back today is, Ty is not a good character. In fact I would argue he is barely a character to begin with, more just a series of weird Australian phrases. I am pretty sure through my 11 hours of gameplay I heard Ty say about three sentences, “You Ripper!”, “You Beauty!” and “Sweet!”. Everyone else has plenty of character and dialogue but watching Ty interact with anyone is just awkward. What doesn’t help is the fact that in the marketing for the game Ty was hyped up to be this badass who could beat up classic mascots like Spyro or Crash Bandicot, while in reality he is kind of just a useless dork.
Looking back, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger was a C list mascot, more in line with Croc or Gex. Sure he wasn’t Bubsy tier trash, but there was a level of polish and personality missing from the franchise that kept it from being one of the greats. In some regards Ty feels like what would have happened if Sonic hadn’t gotten popular. Both series have a huge amount in common (robot clones, evil edgy rivals, furries), so it is kind of ironic that Ty desperately tried to look cool by beating up Sonic in a weird EA games trailer. People remember Sonic Ty, they don’t remember you. But I guess I do, and to be honest, if you are looking for a collectathon platformer to tide you over until Yooka-Laylee, you could do a lot worse than Ty the Tasmanian Tiger.
Are you a fan of Ty the Tasmanian Tiger? Let us know what you think in the comments.