Tork: Prehistoric Punk has had a long, difficult road to being released, mainly due to MS’s cancellation of the game. With the game’s fate in limbo, Ubisoft stepped up and bought out Tiwak. This meant that Tork had been saved!. The waiting game resumed. As the months passed, Tork’s January 2005 release drew closer, until the long awaited game was finally released, and no one cared. Touted as being co-created by former Rayman staff (Rayman 2 is considered by many to be the best platformer ever). Was the shunning of Tork unjust or was it deserved for the game being just another generic platformer? Read on to find out the shocking truth!
Tork’s intro movie shows you, a young cave-boy in a destroyed village, as you watch your father being kidnapped by an evil sorcerer who desires your father’s powers. Since you also have powers, you’re obligated to save him. The premise is simple, and something we’ve seen since Super Mario Bros., only your dad is playing the role of the damsel in distress. This probably isn’t good for his ego, so you’d better find him quick.
If you looked up generic platformer in the Xbox dictionary, there’d be quite a few titles in there, and Tork is the newest member. There’s nothing new here, it’s all the same jumping puzzles and repetitive attacks we’ve seen for years. Those expecting innovation will be let down. Aside from the usual running and jumping we’ve all grown accustomed to, there is also combat, which con-sists of short range and long range attacks. You can hold the long range attack for a more power-ful strike. You attack various creatures and any plant-life that happens to get in your way as well. The majority of the game consists of lame jumping gameplay and simple attacks. Just to make sure to limit the creativity even more, Tiwak made Tork filled with items for you to collect. Granted, there’s a purpose to collecting these items, and that’s to turn into a giant, powerful crea-ture. But, aside from that, there’s really no innovation present. Turning into a cave creature once the proper amount of little items has been collected is a nice change of pace, but does little to improve the overall gameplay experience that Tork presents. That’s because of one thing, the camera. Prehistoric Punk is the subtitle, but Prehistoric Pushover would be better fitting, as he’s a stupid little kid who doesn’t even attempt to make any witty one-liners. He’s far from arrogant and Tork is really just a young, confused kid who doesn’t have a “punk” bone in his body. Sadly, Tork reminds me of one of those little kids whom you can knock over with one hand, and instead of getting back up to fight, he would cower in fear. A little attitude would’ve gone a long way in fulfilling the subtitle.
Now, in most 3D platform games, the camera gets in the way and can be annoying. We’ve all been getting used to it since Super Mario 64. The vast majority of these 3D platform games in-clude a user controller camera that you’re able to move around as you wish. But, for some rea-son, Tork is not one of these. Unfortunately, Tork uses a fixed camera system, something along the lines of Silent Hill, which offers you slight control of it, via slightly rotating the camera. Now a fixed camera works in horror games, because they’re slow paced, and is used to increase ten-sion. So, why use one in a platform game, especially one with a lot of jumping? The fixed cam-era flat out sucks and at times makes the game immensely more difficult than it should’ve been. Even with the slight control given to you, I had a very difficult time making many jumps that would’ve been simple in other games. Depth perception is pretty much gone in this game, as you’ll have to pretty much keep your thumb on the right thumbstick in order to make some sim-ple jumps. In another genius decision by the developers, the camera resets once you release the thumbstick. I found myself fighting the camera more than anything else, missing many simple jumps only to fall into the lava, because I thought I was over a platform, when in fact I was not. If you miss something and want to go back for it, good luck, there’s no first person view either, so you’ll basically be jumping blindly. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put a fixed camera in this game should be fired, because it makes Tork pretty much unplayable.
If you only buy games for their graphics, then you’ll probably enjoy Tork’s eye candy. The levels look very well done with lots of wildlife and plant-life living amongst the ancient landscape. The textures are nice and the game doesn’t really have any apparent jaggies. The enemies and especially the main characters are pretty unique, nicely detailed and well animated. Environ-mental effects, such as flowing lava contribute to the immersion into a prehistoric land. I really liked the art direction, as it went for a cartoon-styled effect that looks similar to a dinosaur based Saturday morning cartoon.
Oh boy, where do I start with the audio? The ball was really dropped in terms of attempting to please the ears of gamers. My biggest complaint is the voicework, which borders on painful at times. The simplistic, sub-par music is played passively and not very well integrated into the game. The mute button would make the game much more enjoyable. So the voicework flat out sucks and the music is about as memorable as a Kevin Costner movie. Now you ask -- what about the sound effects? Well, they’re simple and boring. In the case of Tork’s jumping, the sound effects are quite annoying. Every time Tork jumps, there is a little sound effect, because apparently in prehistoric times, jumping required a sound effect. The simple jumping sound isn’t bad at first, but since this is a platformer with jumping heavily integrated, the little “twang” when Tork jumps is sure to make you cringe. The attack sounds and the sounds of contact are nothing to get excited over either, as they’re simple and you’d better get used to them.
Since Tork seems to be targeted at children, the controls are simple and there are only a few of them. You press A to jump and double-jump, you attack with B and X, doing and and short range attacks respectively. When you collect enough powerup items you can press Y to transform into a few different large creatures. The right thumbstick, despite being limited, is a big necessity. In order to make many jumps, I had to pull the thumbstick back in order to obtain an accurate view of where I was going to jump. I found it frustrating that the camera would move back to its original position once I released the right thumbstick. To do many jumps, it was pretty much required to have one thumb on the thumbstick, which made it difficult to use the left thumbstick to move and A to jump simultaneously.
I don’t know many people who repeatedly play most platformers over again, and definitely not a generic one like Tork. The story is uninteresting, to say the least, and the camera makes it an ar-duous task for an experienced player to complete even one play-through. Honestly, I had so much trouble playing the game for the first time, mainly because of the simple, uninteresting gameplay, I don’t see why anyone would want to play it again. There are some minigames, which you can play to take a break from the regular gameplay, but they’re nothing to get excited over.
Originally supposed to be a great platformer published by MS, it’s not hard to see why they dumped it. Tork is a simplistic, kiddie, generic platformer that has a godawful camera. The game’s simple controls, cartoonish graphics, basic audio and kid-friendly story makes it obvious that this game was made for kids, but I think that most kids would rather play another platformer such as SpongeBob. The camera is inexcusable and makes the game downright unplayable for the majority of gameplay, I’d rather fight my foes than the camera. Depth perception is impossi-ble and accidental deaths are plentiful. Tork lacks attitude, making him a Prehistoric Pushover. With the tedious gameplay, it’s sure to frustrate any age group that attempts to have some fun with it. The $20 price tag may entice some to pick it up, and if you’re in desperate need of a plat-former, then go ahead, it may provide some fun, but the game is a below average generic prod-uct. There’s nothing new that we haven’t seen many times before and done better. If you’re looking for a game that so far seems to be like nothing else, then it’s probably best to just wait a couple months for Psychonauts.
Gameplay - 6.7
Graphics - 8.9
Audio - 5.8
Controls - 7.3
Replay - 6.4
Overall - 6.6