My Game Boy days are a haze to me. The only platformer I remember playing is a Mario game, hitting blocks to get coins and squashing Goombas before rushing on to the next section where I’d inevitably die. Save me Mr Tako: Tasukete Tako-San is a loving throwback to those simpler, monochrome times. I didn’t approach it purely for its looks; other games with a similar appearance like Undertale and Stardew Valley were charming purely for their content.
I also like the aesthetic of blocky, pixelated characters and obvious limitations a developer is faced with creating something that can hold my attention, yet within self-imposed limitations. Basically, I’m fascinated by the creative process and steps it takes to reach the end goal of a playable game.
I found ink-criminating evidence that a certain humanoid by the name of Christophe Galati had the idea of an octopus-themed game when eating takoyaki (fried octopus) and followed it long after that. Tako (the octopus who thankfully has not been turned into takoyaki) saves a human on a stormy night, an act of kindness witnessed by a fairy. His actions inspire the fairy to grant Tako the ability to breathe on land, but with the catch he must never hate humans. Being an innocent little octopus in a big ocean he sets out to help those in need encountering dungeons, bosses, and puzzles along the way.
I will say from the start Save Me Mr. Tako is rather forgiving to people (one of those being me) who aren’t the most experienced with platformers. There is a casual mode where you’re granted more lives so if you mess up jumping and shooting ink through a section, you won’t lose all your progress. Even with this extra help I barely squished (squished? slithered?) my way through the levels without sucking (or suctioned? I’m running out of octo-puns!) along eight tentacles with only one life left.
Tako has a few abilities to get by so he’s not totally helpless when facing down enemies or trying to get to another area. He’s able to shoot ink that stuns his enemies and render them immobile for a few seconds, allowing him to easily jump on top. He has to be quick though because if they break free of the ink he dies and is put back at the last checkpoint. The first few levels are pretty typical: timing when to stun enemies and jumping to the next point. They get progressively harder as the story plays out from Tako being under the sea to gaining the ability to walk, slither, etc. his way onto land.
Did I mention he can wear hats? Yes, Tako has over fifty hats to wear so he’s not only stylish, but gains extra abilities. While not as crazy as a certain plumber’s recent hat obsession, this adds some appreciated variety to the standard inky mechanics. In a way this is more like that other Game Boy classic, Kirby, where new powers are granted once a new hat is worn. Take the Friendship Hat, one of the first ones he receives that allows him to take an extra hit before dying. Another hat features a bead necklace around his neck, a flower on his head, and the ability for flowers to grow in his wake.
I didn’t find much of a use for this hat like I did with another one that dresses Tako up like Robin Hood and grants him the ability to shoot arrows that let me hit buttons to open up locked areas in a dungeon before moving on to the next area. Still, more hats meant more gameplay styles, so there’s always room for more hats!
I found the the levels themselves just right when it came to the challenge and learning curve of getting through them. Levels are separated into different sections like having underwater ones to get through before moving on to the land ones. Tako faces down enemies like clipping crabs scuttling towards him to hitting fish flying out of holes to gobble him up. When he’s not trying to avoid being lunch Tako gathers jewels along the way, though I never found a good use for them. Exploring the corners of each level though did provide rewards though like finding a new hat or an extra life.
Did I mention that Tako doesn’t actually kill his enemies? Once they break free of the ink they can be re-hit, but timing a jump to get onto another enemy is a skill I never expected to call back on from my Mario days. Later levels this becomes even more difficult since Tako will have to ink cats climbing trees and jump on top of them to reach new heights. Factor in having to ink multiple cats and timing your jumps exactly right can make this an ink-tresting experience, no doubt.
Once I figured out the mechanics and died multiple times, Save Me Mr. Tako proved to be quite the challenge. While I did have to repeat multiple levels, even when I ran out of lives Tako was put right back at his last save point. This is a nice forethought for people like me who will likely die multiple times and can proceed without dreading even the thought of hours of unnecessary backtracking. The story itself turned out to be cute too, with Tako slowly gaining more hats to wear and showing people that octopuses aren’t all bad. I’m a “sucker” for cuteness – and bad puns!
I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the aesthetics of these Game Boy-ish inspired games, but even still Save me Mr Tako: Tasukete Tako-San stands out for its content. It’s easy to love and the main character is adorable beyond belief. Plus, once you get a handle on its tentacle powered, throwback gameplay there’s an adventure you won’t regret diving into.