The 1990’s introduced—among many things—the new and exciting concept of handheld gaming. With devices like the Gameboy and Game Gear, gamers had the freedom to take their favorite titles outside of the house and experience them wherever they wanted for the first time. There are many people who have very fond memories of those early experiences with portable games, and it’s these feelings of warm nostalgia that game developer Christophe Galati hopes to elicit in his new release Save Me Mr Tako: Definitive Edition. It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t the first time the game has been released, as a prior version came out in 2018. However, this incarnation of the game features new changes to the original, such as tweaked difficulty settings, a hint system, and an auto-palette mode for the game’s visuals.
Save Me Mr Tako puts you in the shoes of a good-hearted octopus named Tako who’s caught in a conflict between his people and the humans that live above. Tako’s brother Bako is currently pushing an octopus army far into human territory to conquer their kingdom and assert the dominance of their species. Bako believes that all humans are evil, but Tako sees good in them and knows that both species can get along and coexist without conflict. It’s up to Tako to stop the brewing hostilities before both species destroy each other.
Though Mr Tako looks like a Gameboy game, the story is much more complex than what you’d find in titles of that time period. The plot expands the further into the game you get, keeping you invested and never reaching a point of stagnation. As more characters are introduced, the story is complicated as their struggles give Tako even more resolve to find a path to peace. Parallels can be drawn to our society as well, with conflicts raging worldwide despite efforts to curb the violence. In addition to the main story, you can find many portraits throughout the game that show scenes from different characters’ pasts, which are a great way to discover their backstories and understand how they became the person (or octopus) they are currently.
Save Me Mr Tako has platformer gameplay greatly inspired by Gameboy titles like Kirby’s Dreamland 2, so players of those types of games will find a familiarity here. You navigate levels by jumping on platforms and avoiding obstacles. You also need to combat enemies along the way with balls of ink you can shoot, and pick up items that refill that ink as you progress though each level. There are three difficulty settings: one that provides unlimited maximum lives and 3-hit deaths, a normal mode that also features unlimited lives but only one hit is permitted before you die, and a “Classic” difficulty that caps your lives at nine and only allows 1-hit deaths.
Character changes mix up the gameplay. The difficulty isn’t much of an issue for a majority of the game, no doubt owing in part to the developers retooling of the trickier levels from the original, though the later stages do test your mastery of the game. There are some sections that allow you to play as other characters than Tako, but these are often the most difficult areas of the Mr Tako. This is unfortunate since they are otherwise a great way to vary the gameplay. Luckily, the breadth of difficulty choices ensures that no matter how hard the game gets, all players will have a road to the game’s conclusion that is comfortable for them. There’s always the option of sticking to Classic difficulty and testing your skills as well.
There are different regions in Mr Tako‘s world, with each area containing individual numbered doors denoting their order. Likewise, each stage also has a door at the end with sparkling lights indicating the goal. This use of doors is a clear nod to the Kirby’s Dreamland series of games, which used a similar system. Every level you play though has the platforms, enemies, and pick-ups you’d expect in any traditional platformer. The level designs are reminiscent of many classics in the genre, with a straightforward path most of the time but also secret areas hidden in walls and behind locked doors. Puzzles do appear throughout the game’s levels in the form of switch puzzles and segments where you must use certain hats to open doors. The levels themselves are themed to the region they are in. Look forward to traversing stages that feature snow, palm trees, decrepit gravestones, and many other settings.
Enemies and Bosses
There are many enemy types in Save Me Mr Tako. Most entail animal species like squirrels and seals, though there are some monsters on occasion. The variety of enemies helps to give each level and region a more distinct identity. Enemies are spread out across stages on platforms and paths, often actively trying to keep you from proceeding. Several shoot projectiles or run/fly at you, so reflexes are important. In the major stages, bosses will also await you at the end of the level. Bosses have unique attacks and patterns, so the tried and true tactic of memorizing their behaviors is the way to go when facing them. The upside of dying during boss fights is that you respawn immediately back in the fight with any accrued damage toward the boss intact, which will no doubt keep some controllers from being thrown in frustration.
If shooting ink seems a bit mundane to you, you’ll be happy to know Save Me Mr Tako has fifty different hats to unlock, which each offer a unique attack or ability for Tako to use. Many hats are also inspired by classic platformer titles (and some more recent ones as well). Abilities can be anything from throwing hammers to summoning dogs to rush your enemies. The great thing about hats is that each one increases your health by at least one hit. In a game like this, that can be the difference between passing a level and a game over. Some of the hats can be unlocked through story progression, but a vast majority are obtained from hidden areas in stages or from completing side quests. Hats add a considerable amount of room for strategy and freedom in how you want to play the game (and a bit of personality as well), so finding as many as you can will enrich the gameplay experience immensely. You can pick and choose what hats you want to wear among the ones you’ve found at either a level checkpoint or an NPC named Loulou in towns.
Even with world peace at stake, there are still minor hopes and wishes that the background characters in Mr Tako have. For reasons unknown, the only one who can complete them is our favorite octopus hero Tako. While roaming through the game’s towns and levels, you may come across someone who is searching for something or wants a message relayed. Doing these informal missions will often net you one of the game’s hats, and more than likely a good one at that. The quests are usually not too hard to complete and well worth the time put into completing them. They also help to flesh out the world by giving different perspectives on how the game’s events are affecting civilians.
You might be surprised that there is no quest no log to keep track of these quests. However, talking to the hat NPC Loulou gives you reminders about the ones you have yet to complete and supplies hints about how to complete them. This feature is actually one of the new additions that come with the Definitive Edition, and it works well since Loulou can be found in many places around the game world. It might take some getting used to if you are accustomed to having a record of all side quests, but it doesn’t take away from the game at all.
Save Me Mr Tako embraces its 8-bit influences in not just gameplay, but visuals as well. There are even different color palettes you can cycle through that are similar to the ones seen in Gameboy Color games. You can switch between these at any time by pressing the L or R buttons. You can also select the “Auto” setting, which switches the color palettes automatically to best fit each area you’re in (another new feature in the Definitive Edition). Also, there are options in the settings menu to overlay a grid to make the display even more like a Gameboy screen, and also an option to change the aspect ratio and borders around the screen (a feature similar to the Super Gameboy). Each border is an illustration of the characters and scenes from the game, so changing the aspect ratio to see these borders isn’t a bad idea considering their quality. The overall look of the game does a splendid job of bringing you back to that era of video games, especially for those with experience with them.
Another aspect of Mr Tako that’s faithful to its influences is the music. Each of the over 100 music tracks sounds like it would fit right into any Gameboy game. The quality of the music is worthy of praise, as is the fact that there are so many tracks in the game. The variety of songs is also laudable, with every track fitting not only the setting but also the emotional tone and energy of the places they play in. Don’t be surprised if many of the tunes get stuck in your head long after you complete the game. A neat addition to this new version of the game is the music jukebox on the main menu, which allows you to listen to all of the game’s extensive soundtrack at your leisure. This is always a welcome feature, especially in a game with so many catchy songs.
Just because this is a retro-inspired game doesn’t mean there aren’t a multitude of extra things in Save Me Mr Tako to keep completionists occupied. There are fifty hats in the game, and it’s a real feat to find them all. There is also the option of full-clearing every stage in Classic Mode, which might have a special benefit if you find the right NPC. You can also find and complete the aforementioned side quests, as well as a few small mini-games in the towns. Perhaps the most tricky task in the game is finding all seven sages, which are NPCs that are hidden in all sorts of little corners in the game world. Needless to say, diligent players will have much to do even after the story has concluded.
It’s evident just how much the developer admires classic platformers. Every detail of Save Me Mr Tako: Definitive Edition is crafted in such a way that you could be mistaken for thinking that this was an actual release on the Gameboy that’s been ported to the Switch. The fact that it’s instead a tribute to such games is a testament to the skill of not only Christopher Galati but also composer Marc-Antoine Archier to be able to emulate the style and sounds of the era so well. Any retro itch you might have will be scratched quite efficiently while playing the game. There are many things to find and accomplish, and the story length is much larger than you’d expect from an 8-bit game that sells for only $14.99. The difficulty is also reminiscent of older games, and sections without Tako can be especially cruel, but unlike those titles none of the hardships you’ll face come off as unfair. Anyone with a love for the platforming genre will find many hours of enjoyment with this game, and those with recollections of older platformers will get an unmatched nostalgic trip back to their youth.
Final Rating: 8 out of 10.