Save Me Mr. Tako! is a charming platformer dressed in all-retro attire, from the visuals to the audio, all the way down to the nitty-gritty gameplay. This action-adventure starring a brave, little octopus manages to pay homage to the monochromatic Gameboy titles of the past in every way shape and form. And I must give credit where credit is due, Christophe Galati, the developer of Save Me Mr. Tako!, produced a fine game for it being a one-man project. Though a few ink blotches of frustrating game design leaves my experience with a bittersweet aftertaste that prevents me from singing too much praise.
Game Name: Save Me Mr. Tako!
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch and PC
Developer(s): Christophe Galati
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Price: $18.89 (USD)
Save Me Mr. Tako! was an ok time for the most part. I enjoyed myself, but I wasn’t encaptivated enough to desire a second playthrough. I think an apt description of my experience with Save Me Mr.Tako! would be as a mixture of contentment, boredom, and frustration; I did feel genuine excitement a few times too, however short-lived they may have been. This game, at least on the gameplay front, just didn’t get my neurons firing off or my blood pumping. Though I believe it has enough good merits to recommend a buy for certain individuals. People who’d appreciate the nostalgia of old-school gaming or those looking for a unique change of pace perhaps.
What bothers me personally is that I feel like the game is well put together for the most part. It was just a bit lacking in the gameplay department; a spice of flavoring here and a dab of something new was all that it needed. There was a repetitive ebb and flow to the gameplay that became prevalent to me the longer I played. And around midpoint up until the conclusion, I just grew a bit tired of the game altogether.
The story was one of those “good merits” I brought up earlier. I wasn’t gripping the edge of my seat or becoming emotionally invested in any of the characters really, but the plot was enough to keep me engaged from start to finish. It’s a charming tale, endearing and harmless, that focuses on our main protagonist Tako (cute octopus). In this world of Tako’s, his octopi brethren have been waging war with humans who are viewed as terrifying monsters. Which is understandable seeing how many octopi have been yanked out of the ocean onto someone’s dinner plate. Octopi decide to claim vengeance against the humans which causes humans to retaliate in return. Producing a back and forth tug-of-war in both literal and figurative meaning. Which is where Tako comes in, he’s going to end this bloodshed once and for all, risking tentacle and sucker in the process to make it happen.
Tako, as well as his allies, met along this adventure all wish for a world where humans and octopi can thrive in a peaceful coexistence. Though baddies of both races aren’t too privy to this idea of peace and harmony. These armies and kingdoms at war are far too immersed in their own beliefs and ideals. Which just aim to make Tako’s end goal all the more difficult. And with this loose summary I just wrote up, we have a game.
Onto the gameplay, arguably one of the most important aspects of a video game, at least in my book. This game is a retro, 2D platforming adventure with a different take on how enemies are engaged and dealt with. But… I’m getting ahead of myself; first allow me to explain how you even control Tako, let alone play the game. Another “good merit” to which I keep referring to are the basic controls Save Me Mr. Tako! have, which are incredibly easy to grasp and pick up on. Tako is controlled by only two buttons, B, delegated for jumping, and A, for firing off balled ink projectiles that can only travel horizontally. Movement as well as interacting with NPC’s or the world itself are done through using the directional pad. Just jump and shoot, pretty simple eh? Don’t worry, the game still finds ways of challenging you later, regardless of its initial simplicity.
Now let’s discuss how these controls are implemented and what they mean for the gameplay. Tako’s jump reaches a nice height and can cover a respectable distance on the horizontal plane too. While airborne you have full control over your jump’s trajectory; when rising and when falling. There’s even some nice leniency regarding platforming where if Tako just knicks the side of a platform you can usually hold up to safely climb on top of it. I would recommend refraining from making leaps of faith, however; lunar jumps or not, I’ve landed on an enemy that was out of view a multitude of times.
As for your offensive and defensive tool, spewing out globs of ink is your only go-to. You can either tap the fire button or hold it down to let loose a stream of ink projectiles, but I’d strongly advise against the latter in most cases. See, there’s an ink gauge that dictates your inking and drains upon usage, and unfortunately, doesn’t replenish over time or cooldown. The only way to recover your pool of ink is by depleting it to trigger mild gauge recovery or to collect an item that resembles a large droplet of ink which greatly replenishes your meter. Now, this mechanic is somewhat problematic. it becomes a problem in later stages where enemies are frequent and plentiful. Some mobs are so fast that reacting to their approach from the borders of the screen is fairly unlikely, so you might pre-fire to defend against a rushing enemy. However, doing this too much will leave you up ink creek without a paddle. You’ll be forced to wait upon your ink gauge to recover praying to Kraken that the enemies will graze by without coming in contact with Tako. And why is getting hit by an enemy so bad you might ask?
Tako is a fragile octopus, any single hit will result in a death. The enemy or stage hazard in question makes absolutely no difference. This fragility accompanied by the possibility to be temporary without ink is no good. Ink is a very vital component of Save Me Mr. Tako!. This inky lifeline is an offensive tool, but also a defensive one because Tako can’t kill enemies with his ink. He can only stun them temporarily; these inked enemies can be then used as footstools for platforming which the game demands of you to utilize in certain situations. So you can see how running out of ink would be a predicament. The whole meter management of your ink seems completely unnecessary and trivial to the game at large. It doesn’t need to be there, the game wouldn’t be harmed by this mechanic’s absence. It’s not that insufferable to replenish ink, though it isn’t very fun either.
There are other methods of attacking, but they require wearing special hats. There a total of 50 different hats to collect within Save Me Mr. Tako! and they all come equipped with a unique attack to replace your generic ink projectile. Maybe, a boomerang, arrows, or a sword that actually permits Tako to kill enemies. Once you obtain a hat it’ll be forever yours and can be selected at certain locations, either at checkpoints or at locations that house your cheeky, otter friend, Loulou. The hats are a fun addition to the game, but getting smacked around will pop off your headgear immediately, leaving you with only your basic mode of attack. The hats also happen to drain that pesky ink gauge regardless of whether ink is being actually used or not. Also, the other weapons will still just ink enemies with the exception of few that can kill.
Gameplay will span across 6 worlds all of which contain their own hubs and levels, but I can only recall a few memorable stages. A lot of the levels seemingly blended together into an indistiguishable mesh. I felt somewhat bored playing through the game; it just felt like Save Me Mr. Tako! lacked interesting scenarios that emphasized the already present ink mechanics. Aside from the main game are various side quests and a few mini games to partake in. Sadly these side quests have no log to keep track of them. Starting these quests or looking to find them might prove to be a hassle because of this.
Onto the looks of Save Me Mr. Tako!, that retro, monochromatic aesthetic that captures the nostalgia of anyone with a history involving the Gameboy. The game looks great, the old-school vibes are impossible not to sense. Every palette and pixel adds to that retro atmosphere. Animations are clean too, simple, but still pronounced enough to feel the impact of an octopus jumping or bombarding an enemy with ink. Oh, and the character designs are cute. Humans and octopi have a neat look that is really adorable. Though the enemy designs aren’t all that. Aside from boss battles, you’ll be faced with enemies from the animal world’s rogues’ gallery. Birds, bears, bunnies, pigs, snakes, and more. Yea, the common enemies aren’t all that memorable in comparison to the octopi or human NPC’s.
The color of palette you play against can be changed with a large selection of different colors. There are a total of 16 options to choose from and if you alter the aspect radio by choosing an alternate screen mode you can pick a background border of your choosing too. These borders appear on the side of your screen and have wonderful designs of various characters from the game. These options can really help freshen things up. I once switched color palettes and returned to a previous level and didn’t recognize the stage at all. It honestly felt like a brand new level that I’ve never encountered before. These nifty options are always appreciated because it’s the little things that count.
And how is the overall sound design?… Perfectly retro, just as the visuals lend themselves to capturing the spirit of older generation Game Boy titles the audio does just the same. The OST and sound effects are on point with the intention of producing that old-timey quality. I must sound like a broken record, you get the gist of it. This game does a fantastic job of embodying the feel of monochromatic games of days past.
All in all, I feel like Save Me Mr. Tako! is a polished piece of craftsmanship made with love, but bearing a few hiccups here and there. If you’re down with the old-school and diggin’ the monochromatic visuals then this game will definitely tickle your nostalgia. Or if you’re looking for a quaint, little adventure to embark on then the simple controls might lend themselves for a fun time. I’m probably a bit desensitized because of my history and adoration of hyper-paced games like arcade racers, fighting games, and hack n’ slashes because the encounters with the enemies and stage hazards this game provides just didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t hate playing Save Me Mr. Tako!, but I didn’t love it either. It just felt like something special was missing.
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Want more game reviews from The Outerhaven? Consider the following:
Save Me Mr. Tako! Charming with a Side of Boring
Save Me Mr. Tako! is Full of Charm, but Lacking in Overall Fun
Save Me Mr. Tako! is a wonderful title that holds all the qualities that made the old-school retro Gameboy games what they were. The monochromatic visuals and retrograde audio tie the whole ensemble together in this call back to an older era of games. Yet, frustrating and drab level design act as a counterweight to all the positives the game has to offer. The fun factor is just a bit lacking as a result.
- Perfectly captures the essence of a retro, monochromatic video game.
- Endearing main character and story.
- Simple and responsive controls.
- Levels aren’t too memorable.
- Boring enemy designs with the exception of the octopi, humans, and bosses.
- Frustrating design in stages at times.
- Ink meter management doesn’t add much to the overall game.