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Tang Tang

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  GameVision Studios
Publisher:  Take 2
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Puzzle
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  10-15-01

Oh, my God, is this stupid. Listen to this plot, culled from earlier press releases: "In the year 3025, the peaceful planets of The Associated Nexus of Galaxies (TANG) are threatened by hordes of invaders bent on pillaging their natural resource of Energy Crystals. Their attack is quick and precise; the planets are almost completely overrun by these savage aliens (just wait till you see them - a snowman, a sun, a plant in a flowerpot, and a head in a jar hardly qualify as "savage" in my book, particularly when they're smiling at you the whole time). The TANG, now backed into a corner, initiate their last line of defense. They call upon four super dimensional cyborg heroes, called Tangibles for their ability to conjure up solid blocks out of thin air. These brave soldiers will use their cunning, quick reflexes and Power Bolts to retrieve the Energy Crystals and push back the advancing armada." Do I really have to comment on this? And are we positive this isn't a cheap marketing plug for a certain "instant breakfast drink"? Why do images of astronauts keep running through my head...perhaps it's because the main characters look just like astronauts...how odd! Next we'll be playing "Oh, Calgon", which features an exasperated heroine who calls on a heroic figure from an alien dimension to "take me away" from the evil green guy who makes spots on her dishes. I don't even want to think about that weird yuppie who's supposed to be a Slim Jim getting his own game ("featuring the voice talents of Randy "Macho Man" Savage!"). Think about it, the possibilities are endless (marketers everywhere are taking notes right now..).

All that aside, let's get on with the nitty gritty of the game. Tang Tang is one of the many retro-styled puzzle games that have made their home on the Game Boy Advance. One might even call it Mr. Drille> in reverse: rather than destroying blocks to reach the bottom under an omnipresent time limit, you get to build blocks, both to block the aliens that zigzag back and forth across the screen (we're talking Atari level gaming here, with SNES graphics) and to build steps and walkways (which they quickly destroy) to reach the "energy crystals" so you can collect them. Essentially, that's it. That's the game.

Beyond the aforementioned block building, you are given a limited number of "Power Bolts" in each "world" (read "level") to zap the baddies...but as the word "limited" implies, these have to be rationed out. That being said, in total defiance of logic, when you fight each world's "boss", you mysteriously find yourself with an unlimited number of these otherwise scarce commodities. Go figure.

The music in Tang Tang is one of the few saving graces. It's nicely done and tends to outshine the otherwise drab and simplistic game.

Beyond its one note joke status, one of the most frustrating things about Tang Tang is that when you lose a life in the game (most likely through time running out) you are forced to start the level FROM THE BEGINNING. Every time. Talk about retro! You want to talk annoying? Just wait till you've worked your way to the entire opposite side of the "world", building blocks, trapping enemies, etc. etc. ad nausaeum, only to have to break those blocks, occasionally freeing said baddies (who have a habit of trying to kill you all over again) just so you can get back to the same spot you were at before, to grab that one last Energy Crystal you would have gotten if you had only been given a few extra seconds in the first place.

The Tangibles are also a little slow on the draw when it comes to building blocks, so you might not always be able to create a block to protect yourself in time when an invader is headed in your direction. Worse, for some reason, removing the block directly below you appears to be an unexpectedly major concern. Generally, you'll find yourself standing next to the block in question to get it out of your way. That being said, after you get the hang of Tang Tang, the game becomes excruciatingly easy; and you'll find yourself halfway through the game before you know it.

Here's another retro glitch I could have done without: despite the presence of shoulder buttons on the GBA, the designers of Tang Tang appear to have overlooked this advance (and in fact, any advance beyond the Atari 2600). Here's how you have to fire: press the jump button while pushing both the down and A buttons. Naturally, this makes firing while jumping extremely difficult.

Now, it's always been true that puzzle games, as a rule, don't focus on graphics so much as other types of games, but given the comparative power of the GBA to earlier handhelds (not to mention pre-Playstation home consoles), Tang Tang is fairly inexcusable. The brightly colored backgrounds and sprites don't compare to other, similar games on the GBA (particularly noticeable when some of the games in question are slightly revamped first generation Nintendo favorites like Mario Bros.).

One of the most misleading things about Tang Tang is the "120 levels." If you call replacing the enemies in each level when you choose a different character to play with, then sure, there are 120 levels. But for the rest of us, who haven't been hitting the opium pipe before writing the game's PR, well, we're looking at about 30 (which represents quite a break from reality on the part of certain game promoters).

And once again, we find a game that fails to take advantage of the GBA's linkup option: Tang Tang is strictly a one player game. Want to hear something nastier? You absolutely cannot let a friend play your copy. If you do (or for that matter, decide you'd rather play as a different Tangible), your save will be wiped out! Even the archaic password option would be preferable to playing the entire game through every time somebody touches the damn thing!

Highs:

  • Nice music. I often found I was enjoying the music more than the game!
  • Cute graphics

Lows:

  • Block building proceeds very slowly at times, causing you to lose more lives than you should 
  • Restarting you from the beginning of the level each time you die is beyond frustrating, and beyond retro! Welcome to 1981
  • presenting our newest model: the Atari 2600! (applause)
  • The A button being used for both jumping and firing makes the game more difficult than necessary.

Final Verdict:

Tang Tang isn't the worst puzzle game out there (not by a long shot), but it's got too many problems to recommend it. You don't exactly have to be a genius to do well in the game. I gather it's directed more towards younger GBA owners, rather than those (like myself) who are veterans of far more challenging puzzle games than Tang Tang could ever dream of being. Replay value is severely diminished due to a limited number of continues (and worse, being forced to play through the entire game once you either: 1. run out of continues 2. decide to use another character, or 3. somebody else plays your game). The bottom line is this: if you're really desperate for a puzzle game, and don't mind it being incredibly simple, go ahead, and try Tang Tang. The rest of us should stick to what we know, and pull out our well worn copies of Tetris or Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.

Overall Score: 3.5

Additional Images:

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