Review: Tork: Prehistoric Punk (XB)

Genre: Action Platform
Platform: Microsoft Xbox
Rating: E (Everyone)
Publisher: Ubi-Soft
Release Date: 01/18/2005

Once upon a time in the world of video gamedom, the action platform game ruled the land. Halfway through the first decade of the 21st century has seen the once mighty genre head the way of the 2d side scrolling shooter – niche city. The biggest titles in the genre have more to do with shooting and piloting vehicles than bopping on the heads of other critters and doing a leap of faith across a vast cavern. Luckily for the proud remaining platform fans there exists Ubi Soft, of Rayman fame, to keep the flame alive. Tork: Prehistoric Punk doesn’t have a free roaming world where you can knock on anyone’s door for pie, and it doesn’t have 75 upgradeable weapons. What DOES it have? Let’s see…


STORY

Tork (who is a prehistoric punk coming into the game) wakes up or is alerted to the fact that his father has been captured by an evil Necromancer. Oh and his town is destroyed. Now Tork has to stop being such a Prehistoric Punk and step up to the plate and be a man and save his dad. It’s up to Tork, with help from his magical buddy Yok to gather some items and beat up some dinosaurs and run through some castles en route to a flying red baron… on the way to.. something…

The story never really makes a whole lot of sense in Tork, but that’s not what you’re here for in a platformer. The most annoying part is that the cut scenes cannot be skipped, and trust me, I tried a lot of different button combos. Another peculiar note is that some of the cut scenes seemed to serve no purpose whatsoever. Tork reaches a new checkpoint, the game stops, and movie begins, the game pans over the next few platforms with just a few standard enemies pacing back and forth, and then the game resumes. Odd.

Story Rating: 2/10


GRAPHICS

Tork and the Prehistoric Punk universe have a polished, detailed look that uses some of the Xbox powers to elevate the look well above a PS2 title. There are detailed textures on everything, and the developers used copious amounts of reflection and other effects. The time travel effect of moving through a virtual wormhole is especially well done. The environments are pretty well varied, although they seem like reskinned versions of each other, the new skins are each appealing and unique.

The characters themselves are very well designed and have a familiar yet distinct style. Tork himself is a standard character, but most of the side characters and enemies are well done. There are a number of very large enemies that look incredible as well, including the super large enemies that animate smoothly as well.

Graphics Rating: 8/10


SOUND

The music in Tork is just kinda… there. It does the job of setting a nice atmosphere and backdrop for the game, but doesn’t really stand out. I would be surprised if they would release a CD soundtrack of the music. The effects in the game are standard and expected, but the added noise of points adding to your score each time you do anything is annoying. The voice acting is particularly grating, as all of the voices are quite irritating in the cut scenes. This is why I generally listen to my ipod while playing games anyway.

Sound Rating: 3/10


CONTROL

Platforming games need precise control to account for all the jumping and bopping. Tork doesn’t make things overly complicated, but it executes everything with good precision. As Tork, the player can use the “bolo” as a club-type device or he can toss it like a boomerang. The bolo attack is never upgraded through the game. In each of the three time periods of the game, Tork can morph into a powerful beast. In the first world, it is a Yeti who can just tear up everything for a while. Next is an Armadillo mutant that has Wolverine-like claws. Finally there is the Flying Squirrel, which is certainly the most unique of the three. The Armadillo being the worst.

There are a bunch of alternately control parts in the game, including the aforementioned flying scenes. They are also well done, with a small learning curve for each until the player can adjust to the gameplay shift. Several times in the game Tork will need to run towards the screen, and these parts are done just as well as Crash on PS1. But no better.

The biggest flaw in the control is the camera. The developers chose to go with a fixed camera angle, much like the one in Wario World for GC. The camera can be tilted slightly from left to right, but there is no 360 degree control. In addition to the purposeful “run into the screen” parts, Tork often has to backtrack to get a piece of the triangle or reach a new area with a beast powerup – the camera stays at the same position and the player has to come into the screen. It is perilous at times, and I’ve fallen off cliffs or run into enemies.

Overall, however, Tork is a very well executed platformer with tight controls.

Control Rating: 7.5/10


REPLAYABILITY

Once you beat the game, there doesn’t seem to be much more to do. There are four unlockable bonus games that are reached by scoring more and more points, so the idea is to foster replay of each level to score more points to unlock the minigames.

Replay Rating: 2/10


BALANCE

What’s balance in a game with nearly unlimited lives and continues? Tork is one of those games you “play through” rather than beat. Nothing seems like much of a challenge, and anything that does that more than a few lives reveals a pattern quickly, or allows Tork to morph into a super beast and maul the boss. However, the game is consistent throughout, and does progressively get harder into the third world. Harder being a relative word because the game itself never gets above “easy” level for a platform game.

Balance Rating: 5/10


ORIGINALITY

If you were just starting as a gamer with the latest generation of gaming, you’ve probably not seen many games like Tork. However, veterans even of the last generation or before will recognize influences on nearly every part of the game. The prehistoric look and feel is much like Bonk’s Adventure or Joe and Mac. The gameplay is reminiscent of many platform games, most notably the Crash Bandicoot PS1 series. There are “race into the screen” scenarios just like Crash or Sonic Adventure. The shooting game is clearly a low brow Panzer Dragoon rip off. And so on…

Originality Rating: 1/10


ADDICTIVENESS

If you do buy this game, like I did, you will likely become addicted to it and play it through within the first few days of getting it. I rarely have time to beat games, but this game was short enough and compelling enough that I wanted to keep playing it until it was finished. The

Addictiveness Rating: 8/10


APPEAL

Microsoft originally had Tork on its own first party release schedule but dropped the title pretty far into development. That should give you an idea of how much appeal they believed Tork would have in a modern marketplace. I don’t buy the argument that action platformers are done, this game just didn’t bring enough new to the table to warrant a first party release. The character himself, Tork, while called a Prehistoric Punk, was more like a Prehistoric Whiner.

It was developed by the same developers who did Rayman 2, who left Ubi Soft after that game’s release. Ironically it is Ubi that picked up Tork after Microsoft dropped it.

Appeal Rating: 2/10


MISCELLANEOUS

Fans of unique or unpopular genres suddenly have a rash of bargain priced $20 games coming to the market, and that alone is reason to pick up Tork. The graphics are polished and well done, and although the cut scenes are pointless and unskippable, the game delivers from a production standpoint. It doesn’t “feel” like a budget title except for the so-called antiquated gameplay.

Misc Rating: 7/10


Ratings:

Story: 2/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 3/10
Control: 7.5/10
Replayability: 2/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 1/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal: 2/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10

Overall Score: 45.5/100
FINAL SCORE: 4.5 (SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE)