By Tyler Lubben / February 19th, 2014
|Release Date||Wii – June 2008; iOS – May 2009; PC – January 2010
PS3 – December 17, 2013; Wii U – November 7, 2013
|Platform||Wii, iOS, PC, PS3, Wii U|
|Age Rating||ESRB – E for Everyone|
I have to be honest. Ever since first catching wind of Toki Tori, the game screamed “shovelware” at me, despite being a remake of the 2001 Game Boy Color title of the same name. There’s just something about that weirdly-drawn little bird that rubbed me the wrong way since the first time I saw him. As such, I really had no interest in getting the game when it came out. However, there was a part of me that didn’t want to immediately discount it just because of my kneejerk first reaction to it. So, when the opportunity arose to review the PlayStation 3 version of the game, I thought it’d be a great chance to dispel my doubts about the game and judge it on its own merits. And, yes, I’m well-aware that we’ve already reviewed the game’s sequel, Toki Tori 2, but what can I say? You reviews ‘em as you gets ‘em. So, was the gameplay enough to help me get over my pre-conceived notions? Read on, dear readers.
Toki Tori is a puzzle-platformer in which the player controls the titular bird as he traverses a number of different levels, collecting eggs in order to move on to the next stage. That’s about the only semblance of a plot there is. On his own, Toki can’t do much – pretty much just walking left and right. However, he does have a number of abilities and weapons that can help him get past the various enemies and obstacles that impede his path. Most of the time, these tools have a limited number of uses per stage, so the challenge of the game is figuring out when and where to use those skills correctly to collect all the eggs in each stage. Once you complete a level, you’ll be taken back to the stage list, where you can move on to the next stage, or replay levels you’ve already been through.
As you may have guessed from what I’ve said already, I had an extremely hard time getting through the game’s tutorial levels because of how easy (read: boring) they were, coupled with a playable character I already found grating. I was also unimpressed with the first item that the game introduced me to; a Bridge piece that let me cross a gap. Whoopdie-doo, an item that let me walk left and right more. Things were not looking good from the outset. Here I was, playing a game I went in not liking, with boring levels and boring tools. I was really not looking forward to continuing to the end, but that little voice in my head just kept saying, “Don’t give up, maybe it’ll get better.” I’m glad I did stick with it, because things got steadily more interesting as I advanced.
The next ability that Toki Tori gave me was the Telewarp skill which let me skip one space in any of the four compass directions through walls or enemies blocking my path. Eliciting fond memories of the Portal franchise, this type of ability was something I was a bit happier to see in the game. Next was the Freeze-O-Matic, a blaster which I greatly enjoyed using to immobilize enemies and make platforms out of them.
Moving on to the next world, I was introduced to the Brick Switch, which let me grab certain small walls and move them out of my way. It was an OK ability, but nothing to really write home about. However, a few levels later, I was given the Ghost Trap tool. This fun little toy let me turn a stone platform into a pitfall that, when a ghost moved over it, would disappear, trapping the apparition, or creating an opening to let me advance farther down into the level. This tool had a very distinct Lode Runner vibe to it, and it was certainly one of my favorite tools in the game.
I say “one of” because my absolute favorite tool was the next one I was given; the Slug Sucker. Introduced in the third world of the game, this weapon let me either change the direction or outright vacuum up the slug enemies that populated the world Luigi’s Mansion-style. I was also given the Instant Rock here, which started out as a pebble, but would turn into a full-sized block once it hit the ground. Again, it was an OK tool, but not overly exciting. Finally, the underwater world came with the final item, the Bubble Suit. This should be fairly self-explanatory. When activating the Suit, Toki envelops himself in a bubble, which, depending on the strength of the bubble wells that charge the suit, allows him to move five, ten or fifteen spaces in any direction. I know I’m spending a lot of time on the Toki Tori’s different tools, but it really is where the game’s strength lies.
Though I was initially turned off by how easy the early puzzles were, I found that the hand holding ended pretty abruptly around the time I reached the Slimy Sewer of World 3. It was at this time that the puzzles suddenly became deviously difficult. While I’ve never played the original Toki Tori, I am aware that this remake does have a number of features that make it a bit easier. For one, the game features a Braid-like Rewind mechanic that lets you jump back if you make a mistake in a puzzle, allowing you to tweak your strategy without having to restart the entire level. The timer from the original game has also been done away with, allowing players to solve puzzles at their own pace. Though some more hardcore puzzle gamers may think this takes away the challenge of the game, some of the later puzzles are incredibly tricky, and you could very well be spending up to a half hour or more on any given level. This can be frustrating enough without the added stress of a timer breathing down your neck. If you find yourself hopelessly stuck on a given level, though, you can use your Wild Card from the pause menu, which will let you skip that stage. However, this can only be used once – if you want to use it on another level, you’ll have to go back and complete the stage you used it on first. Aside from the standard enemies, there are no bosses or other challenges to take from the standard puzzles, and no unlockables save for more levels to play. Though, I suppose, sometimes a tricky puzzle is its own reward.
Here’s the thing. While I didn’t (and still don’t) like Toki’s design in this remake, the art for just about everything else looks great. The 3D-rendered characters in the 2D environments (Toki included) are extremely well-animated and smooth. While none of the models do anything particularly extraordinary – basically just walking back and forth – the many frames of animation make even this simple action pretty detailed and impressive. The controls themselves are pretty simple. All you need is the D-pad to move in the four cardinal directions, the L1 and R1 buttons to cycle through your tools, the X button to activate them and the O button to activate your Rewind ability.
In all honesty, I actually found Toki Tori’s music surprisingly catchy. Considering it was just basic silly, family-friendly fare, I was surprised that I found it so enjoyable. From the nature-themed track of Forest Falls, to the slightly creepy tones of the Creepy Castle to the much creepier Slimy Sewer to the aquatic Bubble Barrage, it was all quite good, and suitable to the setting. It’s not a huge soundtrack, with only the title theme and one track for each world, but I’d have to say that the Slimy Sewer were probably my favorite, both in terms of art direction and music. What does that tell you about me as a person?
After finishing the last puzzle (and seeing the decidedly disturbing credits sequence), I finally took a little time to consider Toki Tori as a whole. Yes, I hated the way Toki looked, and that certainly did sway my initial impression of the game. However, once you get into it, Toki Tori is a solid puzzle-platformer with some incredibly tricky levels to work through. Granted, I only played through all of the Normal difficulty puzzles. There is a whole slew of even harder puzzles of which I only tried a little bit. From that little taste though, I can see they’re in a league all their own, and they’ll likely keep me busy for a good while. While the game’s handy Rewind mechanic makes it a bit more forgiving for casual gamers, the game’s later puzzles are extremely tricky and time-consuming, so it doesn’t feel like that much of a crutch. If you’re a real pro, though, you could probably find yourself beating the game in around five hours. Though, if you’re a big dummy like me, it’ll probably take you significantly longer. Either way, Toki Tori is a great game when you need a little mind-bending, and is certainly worth the $5 price tag.
Review copy provided by the developer.
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