Thursday, 18 April 2013
Toki Tori 2 Review
Toki Tori 2 is an incredibly, and surprisingly, deep game which operates via surprisingly simple control method. Toki can walk in either direction, climb up ladders, whistle short or long notes and stamp his feet... And that is it.
Instead this game works as a series of physical puzzles, as every one of these simple actions can have monumental consequences on the world around you. Simply via natural progression through the game it teaches you how to navigate each and every track by intuition alone, and that really is very impressive.
There are no manuals, guides or tutorials and the only concession is tweeting birds that can teach you specific songs (such as restart puzzle or summon ally). From the title to the credits there is no text to help you, just cleverly designed demonstrations of actions / consequences that the player is required to take note of and apply to puzzles.
Stage progression feels very organic and returning to previously conquered areas you can easily spot alternate paths you may have missed. I say 'skills' but in truth it's knowledge. The only powers you gain are the songs but they are mostly for restarting puzzles when you (inevitably) mess up, ease of navigation across the map and a cute camera minigame where you photograph everything in the game.
Knowledge comes in many shapes and form. For example: Birds will always want to carry you to their nests, which can be useful to reach higher ground. Of course sometimes you won't want to be carried away so hiding in long grass they won't be able to grab you. If there are grassy stubs but nothing you can hide in find some water and for a few moments after getting wet dripping on the seeds will make the grass grow.
Alternately if there is grass around and you 'do' want to be grabbed but the bird won't move beyond the grass tweet to get the birds attention and lead it away from the grass until it does spot you.
Birds come in 2 sizes, large ones will grab you but smaller ones will go for other smaller animals whilst leaving you alone. If a bird is carrying an item you want stamp and it will drop it, be quick though as unless it falls in long grass the bird will try to pick it up and carry it off again.
The ideas are simple, application is not. Throughout the game you slowly learn how each creature will react to tweets and stamps in a range of ways that can vary from simply turning to look at you to bursting into a violent (and potentially lethal) frenzy.
So the gameplay is rewarding purely on a mental challenge. Fortunately it looks and sounds gorgeous, with a bright colourful palette and deceptively cute visuals. Either you will fall in love with the simple aesthetic, some may see it as slightly bland but for me each area is just distinctive enough to have its own character. The music is simply but effective, each region having a characteristic simple melodic tune that often signifies the challenge of the area. My one criticism is that resetting a puzzle resets the music so you can hear the same 10 bars again and again and again...
For a game with no text it has a strong narrative, with Toki's home being ravaged by plumes of black smoke from the ground. The first stage of the game has Toki searching for his family, this portion of the game is linear, it directs you on a straight path from start to goal. The rest of the birds flee in a giant bubble to safety but Toki is left behind.
Toki finds his way to a temple in the heart of the island where he discovers the source of the black smoke and machinery set around it. He is sent to hunt down 6 red frogs and given access to the map so he can quickly travel to beacons he has been activating throughout his quest. Here the game becomes extremely open ended, you can go anywhere and do anything, all whilst remembering your objective.
Finding the frogs is ostensibly the end of the main game but there's more; littered throughout the game are small golden key pieces and you have to collect pretty much all of them to unlock the doors. Some keys are hidden in horribly deviously difficult to get to locations but fortunately there's a song you can learn to let you know where they are.
Challenges can seem infuriating, particularly these end game challenges to get every key, requiring very precise locationing and timing. Fortunately however I played the Wii U version which gives you access to Miiverse. Whilst I applaud that the main game has no text or instructions, Miiverse is littered with cries for help and most of the puzzles I struggled with I found hints for on there. The ability to post snapshots of the game on there is invaluable for the impatient.
So in summary I can heartily recommend Toki Tori 2. It demands great patience and attention to detail, will often aggravate you with seemingly impossible tasks yet delight you with charm and the simple pleasure of having accomplished something.