Old School To A Fault
Save Me Mr. Tako! is basically a new original Gameboy game to a fault. The visuals and soundtrack are nostalgic and charming but suffers from being too simple with gameplay elements that lack basic housekeeping features.
Playing as an octopus, the player is tasked with trying to stop a war between humans and octopi. Told through dialog and short cutscenes, I never understood why there was a war happening or why this one particular octopus wanted to jump in the middle and stop both sides from killing each other. The writing isn’t the best, the story takes some weird turns, and the entire quest goes on for longer than it should. So much emphasis was put into the narrative but winds up being confusing and a bit eye-rolling. However, to be fair, this entire game was made by one person with another composing the excellent soundtrack.
Visually, this is a new Gameboy game. In fact, the pixelated graphics not only look like a classic handheld game, the player has access to over a dozen palette swaps and can be changed on the fly through the shoulder buttons which feels exactly like playing a game through the Super Gameboy. This trip down nostalgia road is the most entertaining aspect of this 2D platformer.
Unfortunately, it all starts to fall apart the further the player ventures into the quest. From a gameplay perspective, the overall flow of the game is sort of like classic Kirby where the player enters stages from a side scrolling hub world. Instead of absorbing the powers of enemies, Tako can spit ink which is used to freeze enemies in place like Samus’ ice beam. It is just too bad the level design never plays to these strengths and is the weakest element of the entire game. More often than not, the player is exposed to blind jumps, cheap enemy placement, or can get shot from that archer out of the frame. What makes this frustrating is that Tako can only take a single hit before reverting back to the beginning of the stage or the last checkpoint. The hat system is the feature that tries to spice up gameplay but also falls short. Instead of wearing a Robin Hood hat that fires horizontal arrows instead of the arcing ink blobs, or tossing crabs that scurry around, or chucking a ball that bounces around the environment randomly, it is always best to wear the heart hat which allows Tako to take one extra hit. I like how the hat system brings some much needed flare to the quest, it is just a shame that the poor stage design dictates how the players needs to proceed with caution or face rage quitting. Also, upon death, the player restarts with no hat which means tedious backtracking is required if a hat is to be used.
The player can venture from one stage to the next using the clearly marked numbers above each door, but there are side quests for those who search every corner. While this is also a welcomed feature, the game does not let the player keep track of these quests, or where to go next, or any indication on where anything might be located. There is no map or inventory screen when one is desperately needed. I know at one point I had several side quests unlocked but couldn’t remember where to go, and talk to which character, wearing what hat. Unless you are taking notes with a pen and paper, earning 100% completion is probably impossible. This is why Tako took the Gameboy design a little too literally as adding some of these modern features would have really enhanced the overall experience and make everything more playable.
Save Me Mr. Tako! is undoubtedly a game filled with charm and care but ultimately misses the mark. The lack of basic housekeeping features is disappointing and makes the experience more frustrating than fun. I also encountered some nasty bugs in which I got stuck in a room with no escape and a boss, which took me numerous attempt to defeat, soft locked upon finally killing it, forcing me to perform a full restart. The quest is lengthy, especially concerning this game was made by one man team, and the soundtrack consists of unexpected high quality, but the quest as a whole can only be enjoyed by gamers who enjoy that old school NES-like challenge.
Also available on Steam.
Not As Good As: Kirby’s Dreamland (GB)
Also Try: the Gameboy Virtual Console on 3DS eShop
Wait For It: a new Kid Icarus