Just before Christmas 2002, you may have clocked eyes on a memorable, attention-grabbing advert for a game that is now unfortunately little known.
It shows heavily bandaged characters - identified only by the names “Dragon,” “Bandicoot” and “Hedgehog” – in hospital with boomerang-related injuries. They then become nervous as an unseen character walks past them. “There’s a new hero in town” is said in voiceover, “and he’s not going to let anyone stand in his way.”
This new hero is revealed as Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, a bipedal, Australian-accented thylacine dressed in flowery shorts and wielding two boomerangs – and the eponymous star of the advertised game for Playstation 2, Xbox and Gamecube. R
of the final product, this was a bold and striking way of revealing this new character - predicting right from the off he was to join, and even overthrow, the pantheon of the great video game heroes.
The fate of the series also makes this spot sadly ironic: Ty’s impact was big enough to merit two sequels, but not enough to make him an iconic mascot. It’s a shame he was built up too much and too early on, because there is far more to the game than its somewhat boastful introduction.
Australia has previously served as design inspiration for the makers of Crash Bandicoot, and while Ty the Tasmanian Tiger follows suit in basing its settings and cast on the many different environments and wildlife found down under, it does well for the most part to step out of Crash’s shadow.
In addition to Ty, the supporting cast is made up of anthropomorphic Australian animals - the best of these is the grouchy Cockatoo Maurie, while also featured prominently are bilbies, dingoes, koalas and Tasmanian devils among others. One prominent character is a cassowary by the name of Boss Cass, who serves as villain in the game’s wonderfully nostalgic set-up.
Ty has to stop the nefarious bird from taking over the world by finding five mystical talismans, which will, at the same time, free the other missing Tasmanian Tigers. Armed with one of a varied array of twin boomerangs, you guide Ty across nine pseudo-open world levels set in five locations – rainforest, reef, billabong, the outback and snowy mountains – completing missions in return for the tokens that will help reveal the location of the talismans, Thunder Eggs.
Although it re-uses locations, each level is nicely varied and makes uses of its design and sound elements to make every world feel unique. In the very best of these, you are greeted at the top of the level by a Lyrebird called Lenny, who takes it upon himself to guide you through what seems like a straightforward space - but you soon realise that his help is actually more of a hindrance.
Every level has nine challenges where you will be rewarded with a Thunder Egg on completion, and the more you collect, the more worlds open up and the closer you get to the ultimate goal. These missions are the right level of challenging for a game of this kind, and while you can progress without collecting everything, doing so earns rewards that can make the journey far easier.
Admittedly, there isn’t much here that more seasoned players will find testing, but it’s the uncomplicated simplicity of Ty the Tasmanian Tiger that makes it enjoyable. In the true style of the country it is set, this is a seriously easygoing game. Its style of gameplay will have some familiarity to every player and makes it highly accessible.
Though it stays well within its comfort zone, this also makes it hard to disagree with. Where it succeeds most is in its presentation. Its cartoony tone, well-constructed characters, beautiful environments used to their full potential and inventive, high-energy soundtrack all combine to make Ty’s world fun to explore. Ty the Tasmanian Tiger’s reviews were favourable but unenthusiastic, yet enough copies were sold to merit a second game in 2004 and a third the following year.
The sequels changed the collect-em-up platformer format in favour of open-world set-up with a variety of different missions - in doing so they proved overcomplicated by trying to do far too much. Ty 2 and 3 overreached, while the first game’s more modest ambitions are what made it work so well.
Even though it did not reach the heights as the games marked in its first trailer advert, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger is a highly enjoyable game that gets the tone and feel spot-on and anyone will find to be a welcome hark back to games of days gone by.
Written and submitted by Jack Ford .