|Title: Toki Tori 2|
Publisher: Two Tribes
Developer: Two Tribes
Release Date: April 4, 2013
Platforms: Wii U, Windows, Mac
Age Rating: E
Before embarking on this review I had never played a Toki Tori game. This seems to be a recurring thing for me. I’d heard of the series, but beyond the name and the fact that the games involve a yellow bird, I really didn’t know anything. During my playthrough of the game, I pieced together that it’s an atypical platformer with diabolical puzzle elements. The reason I say it’s an atypical platformer is because there’s no jumping. It’s not a straight up puzzle game either, though. Toki Tori 2 is some divine combination of the two, or perhaps it’s the devilish spawn of the two. It really depends on how you feel about thinking and puzzles.
The story in Toki Tori 2 is pretty simple, if a bit odd. There’s black smoke erupting from the ground. It kills Toki if it makes contact, and all his little birdie buddies have packed themselves into a giant hamster ball and rocketed into the sky. Their hamster ball ends up just bouncing around the world map, so I’m not sure what they were trying to accomplish. They leave little Toki behind, and he sets off on his quest to find and destroy the source of the black smoke. As for why all the birds thought launching themselves in a giant hamster ball would save them, or why they left Toki behind… well, you’ll have to determine that for yourself. Not because I don’t want to tell you, but because it is left unexplained.
Toki Tori 2 is a game of few words. Actually, it’s pretty much a game of no words, unless you count the credits. There’s no dialogue, and no real tutorials besides a brief screen the first time you turn the game on, which shows how to execute Toki’s two moves: chirping and stomping. Through the adventure those are your only abilities. Your job is to use Toki’s two abilities to slyly force the creatures around you to do what you want. They don’t even know you’re just using them, poor things. Toki will encounter a number of unique creatures during the course of his adventure and his chirps or stomps will affect them all differently. All the puzzles revolve around manipulating the world around you in order to overcome obstacles and continue on your journey. With only two abilities it’s got to be pretty easy, right? Oh, you poor misguided soul.
Toki Tori 2 is both dangerous and wonderful in its simplicity. The entire game is, in a nutshell, getting from checkpoint to checkpoint, with puzzles in between. In addition to Toki’s limited abilities, none of the creatures are overly complex on their own. The thing is, all of the creatures and other environmental factors are so diverse that a seemingly simple puzzle can turn into a major challenge. You’ll have to be very observant and patient to really figure out all the ways you can manipulate the world around you. The game is tricksy. There are often multiple ways to solve any given puzzle, so you aren’t trying to find the solution, but simply a solution. I’m pretty sure I managed to find some of the most roundabout and complicated solutions to some of the puzzles, but that certainly didn’t detract from the victory. When I was playing, I spent hours (literally hours) on this one ridiculously hard puzzle, pictured below. I needed to get up those three ladders, but those pesky birds compulsively grab anything they see and return it to their nest. The nest of these birds is off screen to the right, which is the opposite of where I wanted to be. I eventually managed to get up all three ladders to the golden gate you can see hiding behind a dandelion (those gates act as checkpoints in the game), but not long after that I discovered something I didn’t know about a certain bug that would have helped me immensely and made the puzzle so much easier. Man, I felt like an idiot! It was a very simple thing, but I had overlooked it and made things harder for myself. This game will not tell you anything; it enjoys its secrets.
In addition to deceptively simple creatures, Toki Tori 2 also boasts a deceptively simple design. The world is continuous, each individual level leads right into the adjacent levels, with very short loading screens between in which you see exactly where you are on the world map. The whole thing makes the game very streamlined, and adding to this is the fact that you never have to save. When you are done playing, simply turn the system off and next time you open the game it will load you right back to where you left off. No menu or save files or anything at all. Jump right back into the action, or inaction if you rage-quit because you were stuck on a puzzle. Of course, navigating based on the world map is not always as easy as you’d think. You might say, “Okay, I’m here and need to get there,” and eyeball a path to your goal, but on the way you have to re-solve every puzzle, or if you’re tackling a new path you’ll have to figure out however many puzzles it takes to get there. Sometimes the short way is not the easiest way, but you won’t know until you’re already in the level.
I have mixed feelings on the lack of instruction provided by the game. It adds an extra level of difficulty, basically turning the game itself into a puzzle, and adds a flair of mystery to the game, a sense that there is yet more to discover. However, this can lead to difficult situations. While I was playing I managed to get myself stuck in a tiny corner of a dark cave. I tried chirping what I’ve dubbed the Suicide Song, which causes Toki to implode in a burst of feathers and then respawn at the last checkpoint. Unfortunately, the last checkpoint I’d reached was in this same small corner of a cave, and the only way out (a ladder) was being camped by an enemy that kills with a touch. I tried playing the Song of Soaring, too, which lets you select one of the Soaring Stones to which you can fast travel. Because I was in a cave, the Song of Soaring wouldn’t work as my bird buddy couldn’t get to me. I panicked for a while, slept on it and then accidentally found out something new about the Suicide Song I hadn’t known before and was able to make good my escape. I’ve seen a lot of people stuck in the same place on Miiverse (thankfully it’s not just me!). This game is not for quitters. This game is for champions. If you don’t feel like a champion just yet, wait until you get stuck on a puzzle (it won’t take long, I promise) and then come back hours or days later to solve it. The feeling of accomplishment you get after overcoming a soul-wrenchingly difficult puzzle is intoxicating.
In an attempt to soothe gamers who are sure to be stumped by evil puzzles, Toki Tori 2 has a lovely soundtrack. Each different region of Toki Tori 2’s world has a song that perfectly matches it. My personal favorite is the song that plays in dark caves called “Where’s a glowy berrybug when you need one.” I don’t think it could have a more fitting name. The dark cave levels were by far my favorites; I think I could listen to that song all day. And for just $4 I can get the soundtrack with 31 wonderful tracks. What a steal!
Overall, Toki Tori 2 is an incredible game. Its cutesy art style belies how cunning and ruthless its puzzles are, despite sounding simple in their premise. It’s got tons of collectibles that require hours of extra puzzling after the credits roll, and the reward for getting all the collectibles -besides being awesome- leads to even more puzzles and secrets. There are at least two kinds of collectibles to find. One is the TokiDex, a collection of photos you take of certain things in the game (you’ll have to find out what those things are on your own, though). The main collectible, and the hardest to collect completely, is the Golden Wings. You’ll see these all over the place; some are easy to obtain and others will require tons of backtracking and banging your head against the wall as you wail in agony just hoping against hope that the tears will stop WHY WON’T THEY STOP.
The tears will never stop because Toki Tori 2 is jam-packed with secrets and easter eggs to discover. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe there’s only a few to discover. This game is the first one I’ve played in a long while that gave me a sense of real adventure and discovery. Nothing is explained, nothing can be assumed. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever believe I’ve done everything in Toki Tori 2. I know for a fact I haven’t discovered everything right now because a patch was recently released which includes a new super secret area. If you want to try to find everything this amazing game has to offer you’ll have to work for it, and pay close attention to your surroundings. Almost everything can do more than is immediately apparent. You’ll have to think outside the box and persevere through sometimes hours of puzzling to finally achieve even the smallest step. The crazy thing is, once you actually take that step it’s all totally worth it. Do yourself a favor and get Toki Tori 2.
Review copy provided by publisher.
This review based on the Wii U version of the game.