When the original Toki Tori fluttered onto the scene nearly fifteen years ago it delighted with its twee presentation and tightly focused, puzzle platformer-themed worlds. With the sequel Toki Tori 2+, Dutch developer Two Tribes has eschewed the linear levels of the original game for a much more open and freely navigable affair that owes a far greater debt to the likes of Metroid and Castlevania than its predecessor ever did.
If you’re wondering about the plot or story in Toki Tori 2+, there isn’t much here for you, other than some terribly vague fluff about our brave birdy trying to stop some sort of black goo from corrupting the island and, well, that’s pretty much it. That said, there might be something slightly wrong with you if you’ve come to a Toki Tori title expecting any sort of decent narrative since invariably the game’s wealth is arguably found in its myriad of puzzles and it is here that the plucky Dutch puzzling sequel doesn’t disappoint.
Whereas the first Toki Tori was a distinctly regimented 2D platformer puzzler that tasked the player with collecting unhatched eggs by using a selection of tools across a variety of themed, yet isolated levels, Toki Tori 2+ instead gradually empowers the player with new abilities to allow them to explore previously accessible areas in a much more open fashion.
Chiefly, players can make use of whistling and stomping moves to affect the indigenous creatures of the island in various ways, thus allowing Toki Tori to get to places that are unable to be reached otherwise. In one example, our feathered friend must cross a chasm but to do so he must use his whistling ability to bring a rock-backed creature toward him before using the stomp move to get the beast to shift in the direction that he is required to. Essentially then, the strong majority of the conundrums in Toki Tori 2+ require our avian hero to either stomp or whistle his way through them and while this might raise the notion of repetition, I can happily report that both the breadth and scope of such head-scratchers is both wonderfully expansive and well-constructed, making them a perpetual joy to solve.
In a neat concession to keeping our blood pressure in check, the developer has included a ‘rewind’ song into the game. By whistling the right set of notes, players can immediately reset their progress to the last checkpoint, making even the most troublesome of puzzles soothingly frustration free as a retry is only few mere seconds away.
Of course the predominance of these abilities provides a timely reminder that Toki Tori 2+ does not have a jump button. “Sacrilege!’ you may cry, but when you’re feathers deep in the game’s more cunning scenarios later on, its deliberate omission barely registers as you get stuck into the mental nitty-gritty of leveraging Toki Tori’s various abilities in order to solve them.
What’s a little bit trickier though, is why you are doing any of this stuff. You see, there is a world map where you can advance to one part of the island from another, collecting all manner of shiny jigsaw pieces and lighting up various stones as you go, but there’s never any real reason given why you should be doing any of it. Such a blasé attitude extends throughout the game too, painting the picture of an affair that embraces the noble sentiment of never underestimating the intelligence of its audience but at the same time feeling a little too heavy-handed in doing so, thus making many of the elements in Toki Tori 2+ seem overly obscure and difficult to get to grips with as a result.
Speaking of the world map, it would seem that the developer’s newfound disdain for hand holding is felt keenly here too since it’s barebones to say the least, with crucial information such as how much of a particular area that you’ve completed or how many items you’ve collected, being bafflingly absent for no good reason. Furthermore, the world map is a hugely cumbersome pain in the sack to actually navigate. You can travel from one area to another easily enough but if you’ve made a mistake and need to return, you must first enter that area and then leave before heading back. It feels far too unnecessarily complex for a game whose playful veneer infers a premium on accessibility that isn’t as abundant as one might reasonably assume.
Another feature of the game which is given somewhat short thrift is the ‘Tokidex’ feature that allows folks to take pictures of the various creatures and environments around the island, adding them to a visual reference record in the process. While it is actually rather enjoyable to get snap happy with Toki Tori 2+ on an account of just how beautiful it is to look at, the actual incentive for you doing it is painfully thin and perhaps worse still, it just feels like that much more could have been done with the feature rather than having it relegated to being just a novel screenshot tool.
Where Toki Tori 2+ fares a lot better however, is in its superlative visual presentation. With delightfully colourful 2D environments generously swathed in 1080p resolution and boasting some of the most joyously whimsical characters and environments this side of Ubisoft’s Rayman franchise, Toki Tori 2+ is a beautifully twee platformer that easily stands shoulder to shoulder with its bigger budget genre stablemates. It isn’t just the technical merit of the visuals that deserve praise either; the character design is also grand, boasting the sort of effervescent cuteness that one might expect to encounter on a toddler’s Saturday morning cartoon show with crazed hopping telekinetic frogs, squeaking bugs and groaning rock creatures to name just a few of the bizarre creations given life by Two Tribes talented team of artists.
In freeing Toki Tori 2+ from the rigid linearity of its prequel, developer Two Tribes has created something of a curio here. The lack of hand-holding between game and player certainly produces a bewildering first sixty minutes and a decidedly clunky, yet admittedly expansive world map does the game little favours. Still, push beyond such flaws however and a robustly entertaining and visually opulent platform puzzler manifests itself to reward those who decide to put the time in.