- Developer: Christophe Galati
- Publisher: Limited Run Games
- Release Date: 05/05/21
- Price: £11.69 / $14.99
- Review code provided by Christophe Galati
Introducing: Save Me Mr Tako Definitive Edition Review
Before we jump into our review of Save Me Mr Tako, let’s look back. If you think you’ve seen this game before, then you are indeed correct. Save Me Mr Tako originally released on Switch back in October of 2018. Since that time, the developer Christophe Galati has parted ways with the original publisher. He has been hard at work refining his charming, Gameboy inspired, platformer to address some of the issues raised by the stalwart patrons that managed to playthrough the original release. In response to the main criticism that the game was just too gosh darn difficult. I’m happy to report that the definitive edition does now offer an “easy mode”. Christophe has also added a few more bells and whistles to make the game more visually appealing whilst still remaining faithful to its retro aesthetic. But has Mr. Galati done enough to save Mr Tako and justify a first, or perhaps second, playthrough of his game? We have all the details for you below.
Once upon a time there was a courageous little octopus…
If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of this game, then I shall do my best to describe it to you without sounding like an emotionally unhinged author that has downed the best part of a bottle of absinthe. Humans and talking octopuses (octopi?) coexist in separate societies. Until one fateful day when the octopuses decide to invade and overthrow the humans that have been catching and eating them since time immemorial. Tako’s own brother Bako, is the octopus in charge of the invasion. But Tako simply can’t fathom the logic of dragging his people into an all out war, which will no doubt lead to pain and suffering on both sides. After Bako captures a human princess and casts her into the ocean, Tako performs a daring rescue, which it witnessed by a benevolent fairy. To reward his kindness, she grants Tako the ability to walk on land on the condition that he should never develop any hatred towards humans.
So begins your unusual, but nevertheless noble quest to right the wrongs that your brother’s invading army has inflicted upon the human populous and bring about a peace between the two species that will last for all eternity. If you thought that sounded crazy, well that is just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout your adventure you will meet, and occasionally play as, a wide variety of folk that join with Tako to put a stop to Bako and his plans for world domination. So yeah, the story is certainly on the more insane side of the sanity meter, but that fine so long as you can keep up with the general plot of the game and thereby understand Tako and Friends’ motivations for each objective.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and there were many a time I found myself asking, “why am I doing this again?”. My other major criticism of the story is that it is just too long. When I was about two-thirds of the way through, it felt like the plot was wrapping up and I fought what I believed to be my final boss battle. Only to discover that there were several more hours of gameplay left to complete. Now I know that games are usually criticised for having too little content rather than too much, and this will not apply to any player that appreciates getting their bang for their buck, but at around the level 33 mark, I’d had my fill and was ready to move on to play something else.
Don’t get your tentacles in a twist
Given the retro presentation of this game and the reliance on 2D controls, I felt compelled to play through the majority of this game using my wireless SNES controller. This is the type of game that really benefits from the simplicity and concrete resolution provided by a good, old fashioned, d-pad rather than the confusing ambiguity of a control stick. I’m happy to say that Tako handles like an absolute dream. Largely because of his unexpectedly high jump height. Not only does this bestow the levels with a good sense of verticality, it also gives you just that extra half second to perfectly stick the landing, reducing the likelihood of plummeting to your untimely death. Tako shoots ink (and a variety of other projectiles) out of his mouth. This temporally paralyzes enemies, rendering them harmless and potentially useful as a platform to reach lofty goals. Throughout the game you’ll pick up many hats which can affect abilities such as Tako’s jump height, speed, or even the weapon he wields. These add a delightful sense of variety to Tako’s controls and can often make the difference between completing a level with ease or struggling all the way to the finish line.
The game plays out across several zones. Each of which comprises of a series of doorways. Behind each door, is either: a left-to-right scrolling platform level akin to something you might find in a 2D Mario game. Complete with enemies, save points and collectibles; or a town/location that Tako can freely explore to talk with its inhabitants and progress the story forward. During the first half of the game, progression is relatively straightforward: the next level appears near or next to the one you have just completed. However the back half of the game requires the player to undergo significant backtracking, as the baffling story plays out. Problem is, if you haven’t played the game for a while, or if you weren’t paying full attention, as the reams of dialog filled the screen, you may well have forgotten where you are supposed to go next. To make matters worse, there is no journal feature in the game or hint system to guide you towards your next destination. You just have to run around aimlessly, talking to people and octopuses alike, until one of them provides a clue as to where on Earth you are supposed to be heading.
To complement the main plot, there are several side quests and hidden secrets which will usually reward the player with a new type of hat. These can be a welcome distraction from the story if you can find them that is. Many are very well hidden or require an ability to access them, which cannot be acquired until later on in the game. For these reasons, they are easily missed and can be forgotten about entirely due to the lack of an in-game quest log.
One of the best improvements in the definitive edition is the addition of an easy mode. This bestows Tako with the ability to be hit up to three times, before he eventually succumbs to death. Honestly, the game is tricky enough even in easy mode and I would struggle to understand the logic of anyone who would put themselves through the abject torture of a one-hit-and-dead playthrough. But hey, if you want to complete this game with added frustration then you do have that option.
The octo-bit graphics are ink-redible
I couldn’t write a review about Save Me Mr Tako without mentioning the fantastic work Galati has done to showcase the graphics that defined an era of handheld gaming. While the original game played out in the sickly green of the original Gameboy, the definitive edition takes its inspiration from the Super Gameboy: the short-lived peripheral for the Super Nintendo which added an impressive array of colour schemes to replace the depressing four shades of green that had plagued the Gameboy for half a decade or more. Using the L and R buttons, players are free to cycle between a large selection of colour schemes to best suit their mood. Failing that, players can set the colour scheme to AUTO which will choose the most appropriate colour palette for Tako based on his location (e.g. underwater will be blue, inside a cave will be brown, etc.).
Having only played a handful of Gameboy titles in my time (hello Link’s Awakening and Pokemon Red), I don’t hold much nostalgia for this particular era of gaming, but I was surprised by how quickly I warmed to the limited use of colour and the blocky 8-bit graphics. I also became a big fan of the chirpy, upbeat soundtrack, put together by Marc-Antoine Archier, which strongly evokes memories of the Gameboy era. Give it a listen here if you’re curious and have the time.
Conclusion: Five tentacles up
So, when this review is all said and done, would I recommend Save Me Mr Tako? Well yes I probably would. The game can be pretty frustrating at times and there is surprising little information available online, at present, to assist you if you should become stuck – which you frequently will. Those reservations aside, I still enjoyed the majority of the game but the less said about the back half the better. If you enjoy retro inspired, platform games with plenty of hidden secrets and sentient cephalopods then this is the game for you. If you’re not keen on long and convoluted storytelling however, then maybe give this one a miss.
- Excellent platform mechanics that will have you landing on a dime with ease
- Beautiful Gameboy inspired graphics and soundtrack
- Quirky and loveable cast of characters
- Easy to lose track of where you are supposed to be going next
- Game might outstay it’s welcome for some players
- Collectibles are well hidden – too well hidden for my liking