Save Me Mr Tako is an uncanny tale set in a world where human and octopus are sworn enemies waging war against one another. You play as a loveable squishy little cephalopod called Mr Tako, who goes out of his way to defy his own race by saving the life of a female human during an octopi invasion. A great fairy gets wind of this courageous deed and grants Mr Tako the handy ability to breathe air on land. With his new power in tow, he sets out on a grand adventure with the rather bizarre concoction of inks and hats in an effort to finally unite peace between land and sea.
The most obvious gimmick to strike you on the nose is that the game feels, sounds and plays familiarly to a plethora of platformers that graced the green screen of the Game Boy. The jump mechanics alone have a weightlessness about them that emphasises the ambience of the many titles plucked from a similar branch that were released for the blocky handheld back in the day. This can be both a blessing and a curse though, for while the roots do tend to feel grounded as a nostalgic throwback, the precision of more honed modern platformers can make this one feel a little lacklustre in comparison. The same can be said about how enemies are sometimes just awkwardly thrown at you. Their attack patterns can come across cheaply in a way where the protagonist’s movement can sometimes struggle to match the demands needed in reaction. This is especially the case with a certain character you get to control for a short while who feels especially clumsy in movement and unnecessarily defenceless. Such nit-picks may sound like harsh criticisms straight out of the gate, but, in its defence, these were common traits of many Game Boy platformers.
The good news is that Mr Tako himself isn’t without his strengths. Your standard form of attack is by way of inking enemies to temporarily paralyse them in place. This not only allows for Mr Tako to trail past baddies unscathed, but it also turns them into platforms for you to jump on to hit those hard to reach areas. While Mr Tako can be permanently upgraded to tighten up his movement, it’s the more temporary special perks that are granted to him in the form of hats that play the most important role. These hats generally have a similar defensive property to a power-up found in most Super Mario Bros. games. Take a hit off a bad guy, and you will lose your ability as a price for staying alive.
There are 50 of these hats you can obtain, each with their own unique perks and advantages. Some will allow you to launch bombs, arrows or even grant you extra defence when taking damage. Certain hats are tailored for specific missions to dense out the gameplay outside of a basic platformer. Some do have much better uses than others, but it can be a bit too easy to simply rely on your standard ink blaster for the sake of the extra health hat for the majority of the adventure. This is more down to the standard ink attack feeling slightly overpowered in comparison to a fair portion of the hats that you find. It doesn’t break the game in any way, it just makes some of the more aggressive hats feel somewhat redundant.
The stages are found as doorways throughout six themed hub environments with villages, castles and towns breaking up the formula in between. These can be fun to blast through, but can also start to feel generic and unoriginal within their ideas. Even though the game does make a decent effort to mix things up a bit with light puzzles, boss fights, minigames and mazes, I couldn’t help but find it hard to shake off the constant familiarity of it all for it to keep me consistently engrossed. The townsfolk and supporting members that Mr Tako meets and helps along the way does do a nice enough job to flesh out the story and charm. Kids will want to play hide and seek with you, while other villagers may rope you into participating in a minigame for prizes. With that said, there’s a clear inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series with a visual chunkiness similar to Kirby’s Dream Land. There are plenty of appreciative nods towards such classics throughout, especially in regards to the more gloomy subtleties found in Link’s Awakening. In other words, don’t be fooled by the games cutesy aesthetics and light-hearted comedy. There are some pretty dark undertones laced throughout this story.
Visually, it stays as true to the Game Boy formula than you could ever ask for. The screen itself can be adjusted from widescreen to a 4:3 aspect ratio – complete with optional pixel grid filter and a portable-style border to really crank in that 1989 feel. If the standard green screen becomes a bit too stale for you, there are plenty of options to change up the colour scheme of the visuals. Some do come across far more pleasing to the eye than others, with a small minority of them turning the game into an unclear mess. There are some clever little graphical effects to really dedicate itself to the 8-bit handheld fidelity, especially when it comes to the common traits of the system when replicating flashes and thunder. It was within these joyous little tricks that it genuinely made me feel like I was playing a port from the Game Boy’s classic library like I was 8-years-old again. What I did find equally as pleasing, was the wonderful audio that wraps around the adventure like a warm cuddle. The music is absolutely fantastic and full of diversity, with tunes that are hopelessly catchy and sound effects that are just as faithful to match the game’s visual style.
For anyone that owned a Game Boy back in the day, Christophe Galati’s Save Me Mr Tako will very likely tug at the old nostalgia stings with its visual sincerity towards the long-reigning handheld console. While the gameplay itself can come across as a little humdrum at times, there’s no denying that there’s still a fun puzzle-platformer to be found here with plenty to see and do. If you’re looking for a simulated trip down memory lane, then Save Me Mr Tako happens to be one of the better replications of a new Game Boy game released for a modern day console.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nicalis