When it comes to video games, sometimes the simplest of ideas can be the most unique and enjoyable. Every so often we play a game that’s similar to another and think, “Why aren’t there more games like this?” Mixing platforming, combat and a live audience is what makes Talent Not Included different from every game I’ve played (except one). This simple formula of avoiding hazards, collecting points and earning gold rankings is made more enjoyable by the changing environments and audience responses. The average player can just play to complete each level while more hardcore gamers can go for the gold across the whole game. In Talent Not Included, all the game’s a stage!
There is a story in Talent Not Included, but I had to look it up to properly explain it in this review, below is an excerpt:
Set in the fantasy land of Notthatmuchfurther, Talent Not Included tells the story of three monsters: Zordok, Derp, and Kevin, all three huge fans of slaughter, bloodbaths, and Shakespeare. One night, as they were bored out of their minds, they decided to put on their own play. Unfortunately, nothing went as planned… That’s mostly because Zot, a demonic critic hired for the occasion, chose three mediocre actors with strong personalities, hoping to sow hell on stage for his own and the public’s amusement. Break a leg! As you will be playing these actors in hopes of making a nice profit out of your marvelous performance!
TNI is the type of game where I wasn’t too concerned with the story. While the dialog sections are brief and often hilarious, TNI really shines through its gameplay.
There are three playable characters and while each is nimble and capable of a double jump, they have a unique trait that makes them feel different. The first character is a sword wielding knight whose special attack is a helicopter spin used to jump gaps and take out enemies. The second character has less range with its melee daggers, but can roll through hazards without taking damage. The third character is a wizard and plays much differently. The wizard has a wand with ranged attacks and can also blip (think short distance teleport) to higher areas and through hazards. Controlling each of them feels great and they are just unique enough to keep the gameplay fresh. There are a couple boss fights in each chapter which were very enjoyable. It was refreshing to fight a boss that doesn’t resurrect itself or go through different forms.
The basic gameplay tasks the player with jumping horizontally and vertically across platforms and collecting gold pieces. As the player progresses without taking damage they earn a multiplier that gives them more points per gold and enemy kill. A large gold gear symbolizes a change in the environment. The player can choose to plow through the stage going mostly for that golden gear or get it after collecting as many points as possible. At the end of the level the points are tallied and a bronze, silver or gold mask (medal) is earned. The idea is to collect all the gold and kill all the enemies with little or no damage and earn the highest score. Players just trying to finish each level will find that the three acts and final area don’t last more than a handful of hours. The real replay value comes in the local co-op mode as well as replaying levels to earn gold. Co-op mode plays the same as single player but this time with two players navigating level’s obstacles.
Talent Not Included earns high marks from me when it comes to presentation. It really feels like a theatrical play with audience cheers, jeers and even tomatoes thrown on stage. The graphical style is colorful and inviting to younger players and the music fits perfectly with the game’s Shakespearean era theme. Initial load times and restarts were brief, something I appreciated when I made mistakes and restarted stages. The controls were also spot on when it comes to responsiveness and intuitiveness.
I mentioned earlier that Talent Not Included is like only one game I’ve ever played, and that is the PS3 exclusive, Puppeteer. Doing everything in front of a pretend theater audience is simply more enjoyable than not. Talent Not Included checks all the boxes when it comes to a good platformer: fun characters, precise controls and unique settings. If you aren’t interested in co-op or replaying levels to earn gold masks, then you won’t find much replay value. Like every ID@XBOX game, I would have loved to see online co-op. As it stands, I can’t say enough good things about Talent Not Included, platformer fans will be treated to a two-of-a-kind show!