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Ubisoft Focus: Tork: Prehistoric Punk
game: Ubisoft Focus: Tork: Prehistoric Punk
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Tiwak
ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 12:00 AM Fri Dec 31st, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Fri Dec 31st, 2004

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When Tork sees his village destroyed and his father kidnapped, there's only one thing to do: travel through time and rescue his father - oh, and set time right.  This is the premise of Tiwak's new platformer, scheduled for release January 11, 2005 for Xbox.  Tork is aiming for a simple and yet charming presence on the already 3D-platformer-saturated console.  While it's probably not going to redefine how we view the genre in terms of gameplay, it looks to be a pleasant surprise for the casual gamer in the post-Christmas month of January.

Tork will fight through three different ages - prehistoric, medieval, future - while acquiring age-specific skills and magic, collecting items, and basically leveling anything in his path.  Originally developed back in '02, Tork was scheduled for a 2003 release, got canned, and was then picked up by Ubisoft when the French publisher bought Tiwak, the small French developer.  Long story short, the game has had a lengthy vacation, a risky trip to the void, so to speak. 

But now, in 2005, Tork's back, and while the gameplay isn't likely to revolutionize, it will entertain within its demographic audience.  The graphics still look great, even after three years, with every nook and cranny chocked full of detail inside of a cartoon-inspired shell.  For instance, icy water reflects surrounding icebergs and cliffs, mist lulls in the distance, and light distorts as it passes by objects.

While trouncing through the 13 levels the game has to offer, Tork has some choices about how to dispatch his enemies.  His main weapon, the bola, a rope with weights attached on the end which is used - in real life, at least - to ensnare the legs of animals, making them immobile. 

Tork, being the punky cave man that he is, also has the ability to morph into creatures such as the powerful yeti, armored armadillo, and flying squirrel.  Each morph has its own special abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.  The yeti, for example, can pound the ground and damage everyone in his vicinity, while the flying squirrel can... well... fly.  Racking up points will influence how each person plays.  Where it might be easier to pound through a bunch of enemies with the Yeti, breaking down a wall to a more difficult area and using Tork's human form can net an influx of points.

The locales are varied and gorgeously detailed.  Tork will venture through ice sheets, lava chasms, deserts, and forests.  This is mostly the usual fair of locations - we've seen obligatory ice-levels thrown into platformers for variety since Mario 2 and 3.  Still, it's a staple for videogames to use a wide variety of environments.  Let's hope that, within the locales, the gameplay will be able to distinguish itself and keep its proposed age group entertained.  In fact, it's the visuals that might see many gamers through, since each environment sports enough zest and originality in the visuals to satisfy even the adult gamer.

While running, jumping, and double-jumping your way through the levels, you'll have to fend off all the enemies, which will consist of age-specific creatures - dinosaurs for the prehistoric age, machines for the future age.  There will be three ages in total when the game is released, each boasting many enemies to defeat, or perils for you to jump or double-jump over. 

The game itself is geared towards a younger crowd, and the gameplay will probably have more in common with Blinx and Blinx 2 than other action/platformers like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.  But that might be just fine, because while Tiwak is working on a game for a younger audience, they are still the same company that released the award-winning games Rayman and Rayman 2, which stand, even today, as fantastic platformers.  Hopefully, they'll continue this trend and lead this furious and fast-paced cave man to videogame stardom. 

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