As we are heading to a more indie-friendly development cycle, there are many attempts made by developers all over the world to bring classic games with a more modern twist. Save me Mr. Tako: Tasukete Tako-San, as long as it sounds, is trying to create a classic platformer that evokes the feeling of playing a Nintendo Gameboy. Nintendo’s classic handheld might offer fond memories for those who played it when it was available, but it certainly doesn’t make for a good starting point for a game.
Save me Mr. Tako: Tasukete Tako-San gameplay is not just rooted in its classic design; the visuals are also old school giving the vibe of a GameBoy game. This look is better suited for the portable mode and not being upscaled on the big screen, so the game’s charm truly shows if you are playing Nintendo Switch as a handheld. Even with such dated appearance, it is clear that the aim of the developer was to create an homage to the GameBoy generation by offering four distinct color modes which switch easily with the shoulder buttons.
As a game, the story deals with a weird but interesting subject. In this fantasy world, humans are at war with the species of octopus and it is costing them their lives. Both sides are at a disadvantage. Somehow the octopuses seen here can live on land and even have weapons at their disposal. The prologue begins with a ship’s invasion by the octopuses to restrain the humans while you control Tako, a kind-hearted octopus who is against the war. During this journey, his personal conflict takes the focus while the story deals with the events of a dispute between both sides.
Even if the story sounds interesting enough, it is the writing which feels monotone. There is no sense of excitement or proper character development here, and instead, you are just pushed into action without a reasonable explanation for most of the plot details. It is confusing at first, because the game does offer many choices to make conversations with other NPCs, but it is mostly ordinary and repetitive dialogue that doesn’t advance the story in any meaningful way. This is further amplified with unskippable cutscenes, forcing you to sit through them until the end.
Despite these flaws, the gameplay element of Save me Mr. Tako is quite solid. It is pretty fun to run around, using the inking ability of Tako to freeze enemies in a place temporarily and then using them to jump onto new platforms. It feels refreshing at first but soon you will realize the ability is never used in any creative way. Before you start to worry that the gameplay is not that good, it actually starts to improve slowly as you learn to unlock new powers. The game uses a hat equipment system for this purpose. Find new hats and equip them to get special abilities that help you progress further in the story.
Even if you hate the platforming elements or feel that the story is not that great, the progression is solid. You can keep going through the main story, trying to find hats to unlock abilities. Some offer more offensive abilities while others help deal with a difficult situation like letting you take more hits with an extra heart. The one hit KO mode is the normal difficulty but the game does allow you to select an easier one in the start. Since you have a limited number of lives, try avoiding getting killed too much. Don’t take this one easy, it has many challenging platforming segments that can make you scream in frustration.
The level design itself feels uninspiring and seems to lack any charm. It is mostly straightforward, but there are plenty of secrets as well. These secrets are rewarding to discover on your own, but unless you have a keen eye, it is possible to miss out on most of them. It always felt like we are playing a Nintendo game due to how it takes inspiration from some of their classic work like Kirby and Mario. There are some levels that need tight and precise platforming skills and unfortunately, suffer from poor hit detection. This is an issue that can make or break the game, and it can happen often during some of the later stages. I am unsure if the devs can fix this issue, but it definitely led to some frustrating unfair deaths for me.
The attention to detail is not just limited to the visuals, but also extends to the sound design which perfectly mimics the GameBoy hardware. It is just sad that the effort in making it as authentic as possible could have led to a better-designed game as well. The look of the game has its charm, but the gameplay and level design are as important. There is also the case that unlike 8-bit or 16-bit indie games, this one is remarkably more niche and has a much more limited appeal overall.
Save me Mr Tako: Tasukete Tako-San Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: A Blast From the Portable-Gaming Past! Mr Tako will solve puzzles, explore mysterious dungeons and fight tenacious bosses on his mission to end the war between the octopus kingdom and the human world.
Final Score - 7/10
It is clear this is not a game for everyone, but it does have a charm for those who are looking for a hardcore retro platformer with some solid gameplay. The flaws don't really hold back from letting you enjoy a decent experience with some nice old schools visuals to go with it.