HomeReviews2.5/5 ReviewAztec Tiki Talisman Review

Aztec Tiki Talisman Review

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I find that the best games make you feel like you’re a better player than you are. A couple of well-timed button presses and your character pirouettes around the screen. Aztec Tiki Talisman is one of those rare games that goes the other way. Whenever I play it, I feel like I’m a terrible gamer whose hands are made of polystyrene. It feels like it’s designed to make me look as incompetent as possible. 

First off, this is – as many Jandusoft games are – a one-developer game. I will always be blown away that one person can create a video game, and Aztec Tiki Talisman is no different. Full credit to Josep Monzonis Hernandez for making this on their own. Certainly in terms of depth of content, surely this must have been made by many, many more people. 

But while it’s a monolithic achievement, it’s also not a game that I want to return to. It puts me in a state that’s the absolute opposite of ‘flow’. It’s like wandering around a garden full of rakes with a blindfold on. 

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A monolithic achievement

Aztec Tiki Talisman is a platformer. It’s a platformer that’s been stripped down to the absolute basics. Your main dude is looking to find a gem which activates a portal on the opposite side of the arena, which will take them to the next level and the next. Gems can be collected for bragging rights – they don’t unlock anything at all – and they’re hidden in more difficult-to-reach parts of the level. 

Every level is played in the same clearing in the same jungle. There’s no graduation to lava or ice levels or anything like that: it’s all in this jungle gym. It gives Aztec Tiki Talisman a faintly repetitive feel, very different from the ‘five distinct chapters’ that are mentioned on the Xbox Store Page. A bit of graphical variation would have done wonders for the sense of fatigue that develops. 

The levels are built up of blocks, remixed into different shapes. Big platforms funnel into smaller paths, which lead to disappearing or moving smaller platforms. On the one hand, there’s the sense that the levels are being hastily put together out of LEGO, rather than flowing, authored experiences. You could imagine it coming packaged with a level creator and these building-block levels being the best of the user-generated ones. On the other hand, Josep Monzonis Hernandez does a sterling job of stirring in new obstacles – from switches to levers to spike traps – that at least keep you on your toes. 

Aztec Tiki Talisman’s biggest problems aren’t the levels, though, no matter how samey they end up feeling. Its problem is the controls. At a basic level, Aztec Tiki Talisman feels wrong. It needed more refinement, and what’s here doesn’t work. 

Around and about the arena are enemies. Some of them take aim at you as you jump, while others are one set routes. Since platforms are small, it’s often best to kill these enemies before they become a nuisance, and that’s done with a thrown axe. But this simple act is disastrous. There’s no lock-on, so you’re aiming manually. But the main character simply won’t do as it’s told. You can jab the analogue stick in the direction of the enemy, and the character will wander in that vague direction before pivoting another way entirely. The further away the enemy, the more this is a problem. You can be lobbing axes at an enemy for a solid minute before getting close to them. We felt like one of those circus acts where missing the target was the point. 

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Platforms are small

Rather than realise this is an issue, Aztec Tiki Talisman leans into it. Bosses appear every ten levels, requiring you to hit a moving enemy a dozen times before they die. These degenerate into a game of cat and mouse, where the mouse keeps turning around to toss an axe, only to hit something a few miles to the right. We’re glad we didn’t choose to stream a ‘Let’s Play’ of Aztec Tiki Talisman, because we would have been a laughing stock of the internet. 

It is, as you can probably tell, about as disempowering as it gets. Years of gaming experience goes out of the window. The platforming is slightly better. The main character has a tendency to stumble a bit after each jump, meaning that you can nail a platform, only to tumble off it afterwards. It takes a little recalibration and never quite satisfies. Plus, the jumping arc is so limp and low that it’s hard to anticipate where you’re going to land. The shape of the jump means you never get to see a shadow on the platform before you land, so it can be a guessing game to where your feet end up. 

All of the issues are compounded by the way the game handles failure. Get hit, and the whole level resets. All of the gems, tucked in far-flung corners, go back to where they were. But when combat is so random and jumps are prone to drifting, well, being hit becomes all too common. In particular, we learned to ignore the gems. There just isn’t any point in collecting them. They gain you nothing, yet they put you in harm’s way. You’re simply more likely to die if you collect them. And the less said about decorative enemies hanging around at the base of platforms – which can’t be hit, but can be walked into – the better.

A fine-tune would have done wonders here. Because Aztec Tiki Talisman has some lovely touches. Reach a certain platform and a staircase will suddenly manifest, allowing you to walk back up if you happen to fall off. That’s the beginning of a great solution to the whole failure state problem. Fall off, and you can return to where you were. But die, and these staircases reset, which defeats half of the reason why those staircases were there in the first place.

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Aztec Tiki Talisman could have done with a fine tune

‘A fine-tune would have done wonders’ is a pretty good assessment of Aztec Tiki Talisman as a whole. There are the bones of a decent platformer here: one that admittedly wouldn’t change up much, but would have held the attention for its fifty levels. But the bolts are loose. It falls apart before it reaches that simple goal, because the two common controls – throwing axes and jumping – aren’t fit for purpose. As the levels get more difficult, putting more onus on them, the wheels fall off. Aztec Tiki Talisman becomes painful. 

There’s no doubt in our mind that, as a one-developer game, Aztec Tiki Talisman is an achievement. But if we could choose one other person to help out, we would have chosen a QA tester.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Fifty levels is quite a chunk
  • Keeps adding more and more new obstacles
Cons:
  • Presentation is on the bland side
  • Axe-throwing verges on not working
  • Platforming is slippery
  • Levels don’t vary anywhere near enough
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, JanduSoft
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 14 December 2023 | £4.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Fifty levels is quite a chunk</li> <li>Keeps adding more and more new obstacles</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Presentation is on the bland side</li> <li>Axe-throwing verges on not working</li> <li>Platforming is slippery</li> <li>Levels don’t vary anywhere near enough</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, JanduSoft</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 14 December 2023 | £4.99</li> </ul>Aztec Tiki Talisman Review
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