TAIKER is a 2D platformer rendered in 3D, ala Mega Man: Powered Up and Mighty No. 9. You take on the role of the plucky Peggy, who uses her slash attacks and robo-pal Chopy to bash apart bad robots on a quest to make the land safe. This is made more fun by the fact that Peggy can chuck her spherical pal at enemies, allowing her to instantly teleport to them and beat their bolts loose.
Taiker attempts to give players a retro platformer with pretty 3D graphics, and a fun story told through talking heads. With controls heavily inspired by the melee goodness of the Mega Man Zero games, the two-person Taiwanese dev team Team 4U took on a big job. The results are mixed, and while there's fun to be had with Taiker, it seems like it could've spent some more months on the Early Access shelf before being rolled out as complete. It's available in its current form on Steam, and there's a demo that gives a pretty solid idea of what the game has to offer.
The plot of Taiker is the classic "You've gone to visit a scientist friend but discovered his lab is overrun by robots!" Yes, we've seen it before, but that's not a bad thing; Mega Man 1-6 and 9-10 had the same plot, and they're fantastic. Taiker adds a little more by virtue of having JRPG portrait-style dialogue, and the art is nice if you like anime, which you should.
There are, however, some issues with the way the story in Taiker is told. We've all played games, no matter what our primary language is, that have had translation problems. Taiker has a lot of them, but what harms it most is the quality of the translation, rather than the typos. I imagine the banter between Peggy and Chopy may be charming, perhaps even witty, in its original language, but the English version lacks a nuanced interpretation. What in another game might read "Let's go bust some robo-tail!" will most likely read "Let's go defeat robots!" in Taiker. There's enough dialogue in the game that this flat writing hurts the game a bit.
It also kills some of the humor, particularly in the first two minutes, when a funny series of interruptions from Chopy instead becomes an irritating hindrance to gameplay. At that moment, we knew why the protagonist hurls her little metal buddy like a rock through most of the game.
While clearly inspired by Capcom's famous blue kid, Taiker doesn't have you collect new attack abilities from bosses; instead, you gain them from power-ups located throughout the stages. There are plenty of these attacks, and they typically involve pressing the D-PAD button in combination with the attack or jump buttons. Gamepad is the way to go, here, as the keyboard is really difficult to utilize, and controls aren't re-bindable.
The attacks are decent and nice to look at; most are slashes (longer slashes, jump-attack slashes), while others are more unique, such as a forceful blast that emanates from Peggy, knocking enemies back and eliminating all projectiles onscreen. You'll also collect jewels from felled enemies that are used to upgrade the effects of your skills, as well as your hit points.
The option to hurl Chopy over to an enemy, then instantly teleport to them, is a lot of fun, and a good addition to the otherwise typical 2D-scroller mechanics. Unfortunately, you can't string Chopy-throws together, which would allow you to bounce from enemy to enemy. This is because Chopy can't be disengaged from enemies until they're dead, but they fall before that; thus, you have to wait for them to get up and be destroyed before throwing Chopy again. If you could disengage Chopy at will, you could string some mean combos together.
The enemies you'll be fighting are nicely designed bots of the cute variety and are pleasantly reminiscent of the mets and their ilk in the old school Mega Man's. The bosses are also well-designed and vary greatly in size and appearance. They're also well-animated, and both the bosses and flying enemies in particular move better than most indie-game baddies.
The level design is generally okay, but the moving platforms have a tendency to glitch, colliding in such a way that their movements are thrown off. This makes it real tough to get to certain areas, and sometimes impossible without leaving and re-entering an area. This happened to us during the first mini-boss area, where two platforms are triggered by a switch. The platforms are supposed to move in such a way that you can drop down to reach them, but they collided and stuck together. Re-entering the area reset it, but was frustrating, since the tough enemies all respawned.
There are also a few puzzles that seem to require you use Chopy's teleporting ability to move into otherwise unreachable areas. This might be a good idea, if the enemies had at least semi-regular paths, which they don't. Rather, they move freely and are very quick to track you. This makes directing them into the needed area a tedious process.
There are a few other bugs that cropped up in our playtime, such as dialogue running out of the text boxes, and there are tales of getting hung up on walls from other players (our play-through was completely free of this problem, so it may have been fixed.) The menu is also in bad shape; part of the "Restart" text doesn't even fit on the screen, regardless of resolution.
Team 4U has done a lot of fixes in response to player concerns and feedback, but it seems like leaving the project in Early Access for a bit longer would've been appropriate. Still, if you don't mind a few resets in order to get moving platforms to function properly, then there's still some great combat and cute designs to enjoy.
graphics and sound
As mentioned, we really like the design and art for Taiker. The loosely-drawn anime characters have the watercolor/marker and pencil vibe of Saga Frontier, and it keeps the tone of the game light. The chibi 3D models are a nice contrast to the more realistic character art, and their animations are as good as those in titles from larger developers. The models actually reminded us of Mischief Makers for the N64, and that's a good thing.
The music and effects are good, but there was a recent issue with a track owned by Square Enix having been used in the game. This led to Team 4U having to pull the track and issue an apology, which
— thankfully– they did. Still, it left a sour taste in some gamers' mouths, but we hope people give the team a chance. There's a good game underneath Taiker's rough exterior, but it's gonna take some polish for it to shine through.
Taiker has some troublesome bugs and lacks a nice menu system, but it also has smooth combat and an attractive design. For some of us, that's enough, but others won't be able to look beyond the problems.
Hopefully, Team 4U will keep up the good work of supporting Taiker and continue fixing its problems. If they do, Taiker will end up being the must-buy it deserves to be!
|+ Great character art||– Very basic (read: ugly) menus|
|+ Nice 3D modeling||– Bugs that can prevent completing areas|
|+ Smooth combat||– Translation is pretty rough|