Toki Tori 2+
Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes
Release Date: 07/11/2013
The original Toki Tori made the rounds in terms of platforms, starting on the GBC and then being released on iOS, Wii, PS3, and PC. Toki Tori 2 was actually first released on the Wii U, but now it’s making its appearance on PC, with a plus sign appended to the title. Let’s see how it fares.
Like in the previous game, you control a yellow bird named Toki Tori. Unlike the first game, wherein tips or explanations of new items were displayed before starting a level, there is barely any text at all in Toki Tori 2. As an example of just how minimalistic this game is to its predecessor, when you start the game, you’re dropped right into a stage, and the title of the game only shows up in the background of the stage as you walk past it. Even the pause menu consists mostly of icons. There’s no narration of what’s happening or why you’re doing what you’re doing. The environments do provide some clues. Essentially, black smoke that kills on contacts keeps erupting from the ground. Everyone except Toki Tori are gathered in an Escape Bubblecraft, though once it’s launched, it just bounces around the world map. The goal seems to be to find the source of the black smoke and put a stop to it. The lack of explanation for anything might be off-putting or confusing for some, but those used to games that throw you in medias res with no preamble or tutorials of any sort likely won’t blink.
The graphics are cutesy with a bright color palette and are overall aesthetically pleasing. There’s a variety of creatures that inhabit the world, as well as environments ranging from sunny fields to dark caves. Little details can be seen if you look closely, like seeing another bird waving to you from a tower in the background when you climb to the top of a ladder in one area or how in the dark Toki Tori’s eyes will be dilated (and its body also shivers in fear), but have larger pupils in light. The music is pleasant to listen to and never grates even if you’re listening to the same track over and over as you’re trying (and retrying) to get through a particularly tricky puzzle. Creatures have distinct sound effects. Even though they’re only composed of two notes, Toki Tori’s songs manage to sound distinct from each other.
The controls are presented through icons when you load the game. Z (or A or Y on a 360 controller) whistles, X (or B or X) stomps, and arrow keys (or d-pad/joystick) move. Either set of controls work equally well, though I mostly just used the keyboard. Whistling causes animals to move towards you, while stomping causes them to move away. Unlike in the first game, you never get any more moves or tools to use. While this sounds like that would make the game a cinch or too repetitive, the puzzles usually require using them in different ways. You get various songs from birds scattered throughout the stages consisting of big (done by holding down the button a bit longer) and small notes. For example, one warps you to the last checkpoint, while another summons a bird that swoops you up and drops you off at a landing beacon you’ve activated (though this only works if you’re standing by a checkpoint and does not work in caves). Still another summons a bird with a camera that you can maneuver to take pictures of the various fauna you come across, which are stored in the Tokidex.
The developers described Toki Tori 2+ as a Metroidvania, though the lack of upgrades or new abilities or equipment makes it a bit different from other games falling into that category. The closest would be the songs, but those aren’t really required to solve the puzzles (unless you need to restart one). Instead, the ability to proceed past puzzles that previously stumped you comes from experience solving other puzzles. Though yes, it could also come from walking away and ruminating on it for a bit, then having the solution click when you go back to it. It does have that open-endedness wherein you just pick a direction and go rather than the game picking it for you. Your progress is saved through checkpoints. They’re distributed generously enough that you don’t lose too much progress if you need to start a puzzle over or want to take a break from playing.
While the first game let you use a wild card to bypass a stage you were having particular difficulty with, this game does not have an equivalent option. However, the song that warps you back to your last checkpoint sort of helps compensate for that (there is also the option to reset the level in the menu). Since it resets everything you did since going past the checkpoint, it also lets you start anew if the solution you’re trying to enact either isn’t working, you screw up the timing on it, or you accidentally kill a creature you need to use. While the tools at your disposal never change, the way they’re applied can. A crab in a box can be a platform and also be used to crush creatures. Your stomp can make a creature crawl on the ceiling so that it can go somewhere you need it to. A tweeting creature can become an amplifier for you own tweets. Even a dripping wet Toki Tori can be used in more than one way.
Though the game is cute and brightly colored, it’s not as easy as it might look – the actual puzzles can get tricky at times. Some require precise timing. Since you only ever have two moves at your disposal, it’s possible to eventually stumble upon the solution just through trial and error, rather than through deduction. At times it can get a bit frustrating if you do hit a block and can’t find a way to progress. However, it’s immensely satisfying when a solution finally does click and you can progress. If you get stuck, a bird or other animal will show up and tweet the notes you need to solve the puzzle. For example, at a broken bridge you can’t pass (and to get to it, you drop down far enough that you can’t just walk back to where you were), a bird will chirp the retreat song.
While the puzzles are varied, once you solve a puzzle, the solution always remains the same. Along the way, you also gather Golden Wings and use them to activate landing beacons, and you can backtrack if there’s any you missed. However, you do need to redo the puzzles in that area, though in some parts there are shortcuts to go into a different part of that area, which makes backtracking a little easier. In addition to the core game, you can also access the Steam Workshop to play levels other people have created. Naturally, you can also make your own and share them. Also new in this version are achievements, the addition of more gates, and additional puzzles. Two Tribes also said improvements to gameplay and overall presentation were made, but since I haven’t played the Wii U version, I can’t make any comparisons there.
I enjoyed my time with the game and was immediately able to roll with the open structure of the game. Even when I got stuck and I took a break from the game, I still wanted to go back to it and progress further. When I started the game back up again, the solution would usually just click. Interestingly enough, at one point there was a gate I was trying to get to and I was getting stumped on how to get to it. When I came back to it, I started right where I was trying to get to. The titular character and bright cutesy graphics are basically the only commonalities Toki Tori 2+ shares with its predecessor. Where the first game provided explanations for newly introduced items and obstacles, this game has neither. This is a big change of pace for those used to the first Toki Tori, but there’s still plenty to like about this sequel, and the direction they went with it generally works and sets it apart from the first game.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Toki Tori 2+ is a enjoyable and aurally and visually pleasing platformer/puzzle game that takes a different direction from its predecessor. The simple controls and adorable brightly colored graphics belie some challenging puzzles. Despite the limited tools at your disposal, it manages to find different ways for you to use them in varied environments.
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