Thursday, November 1

Review: Save Me Mr. Tako [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Retro gaming in the indie space is and will no doubt continue to be a “thing” but when that term gets thrown around people tend to think of either 16-bit or 8-bit titles… and not necessarily to the GameBoy. Yeah, the original one. For those of us who are “veteran gamers” and have fond memories of the platform these can have a real appeal. While nailing the look alone is nice, compelling gameplay has to come along for the ride. While Save Me Mr. Tako absolutely gets the experience right it may have a few too many old school tendencies to recommend for everyone.

In the game you’ll be mostly playing as the somewhat adorably chubby octopus Tako, who decides to break away from his aquatic brethren and side with humans in a conflict between them. On a journey to fix things Tako, once he’s given the power to breathe air, will encounter many quirky characters (some of whom you’ll briefly take control of), find a variety of hats, play mini games, and probably die quite a lot. Don’t let the cute characters and classic presentation fool you, as the game grinds on you’ll find yourself continuing to work harder and longer to stay alive, and the structure of things is such that doing so can be a challenge in spots.

The good news is that the hats you’ll find along the way, or tied to a variety of quests, typically give you some sort of ability and that’s fun. At least through the first half of the game it works nicely on the go in handheld mode since most levels tend to be on the quick side. The ability to tweak the color palette and settings is also handy while moving around because you can make it as easy to see the details as you like. The bad news is the surprising degree of difficulty and that’s greatly tied to losing your hat when hit, and once you’re hatless you’re vulnerable to die with just one more. Now, under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be a terribly big deal. We’re all gamers here, some silly platforming isn’t going to stop people who play Super Meat Boy and the like.

That gets to what I’d consider the somewhat more sinister nature of the game, that there are simply a lot of cheap ways for you to take damage. The biggest issue is the levels in the game tend to have quite a lot of verticality to them. Mix this with the pretty big sprites and it can be difficult to see what’s under you. Since some levels are more vertical than others this leads to some falling down pits in areas you thought had something below. Even when there are areas below there’s a tendency for enemies or things that will harm you being about so you either need to constantly try to look down first, stay on edge to try to react as things come into view, or simply learn where things are by trial and error. It isn’t a killer but it can be frustrating.

All in all Save Me Mr. Tako is a surprisingly lengthy and challenging title, much moreso than its cute, almost Kirby-like, retro looks would imply. For the most part it works well playing in bursts as many levels take just a few minutes to complete, though as the difficulty rises it may take a few attempts. Completionists will really need to work to grab all of the hats in the game, keeping track of various locations and details you encounter that will lead you to new areas. If you don’t mind some cheap hits and are up for a retro challenge Mr. Tako should keep you busy for a while.

Score: 7.5

  • A spot-on retro GameBoy look, with adjustable colors and filters that can enhance the classic look even further
  • Plenty of hats to find along your journey
  • Far more content than you’d expect

  • Level verticality mixed with bit sprites means seeing below you is tricky and results in many cheap hits
  • The further you get into the game in general the more sparse checkpoints become
  • Its cute looks and its unusually-hard gameplay conflict with one another and make determining its target audience a bit of a challenge