Much like its titular hero, Toki Tori by Dutch developer Two Tribes, is bit of an odd bird.
Proving to be a more grey-matter affirming affair than initial impressions might yield, Toki Tori on PlayStation 3 is a sleek re-imaging of the 2001 Gameboy Color title of the same name. Crucially keeping the original design DNA intact alongside a smattering of improvements, Toki Tori’s inaugural PSN outing remains relevant; a worthwhile proposition for folks looking for a satisfyingly taxing but never punishing challenge to their puzzle solving acumen.
The premise is adorably simple. As young chick Toki Tori, you must traverse a quartet of very differently themed worlds to rescue your kidnapped siblings who still reside within the comforting cloister of their eggs.
To make good on the heroic chick’s rescue plan, Toki Tori comes aptly prepared as the clever avian possesses a number of tools and abilities at his disposal.
These range from the mundane, such as platforms to bridge gaps (Toki Tori can only jump a very small distance) and the ability to shift blocks from side to side, to the more extravagant, such as a teleportation device and a ghost trap which causes a ghost to fall through the floor, creating a pit as the wailing apparition tumbles earthward.
Brilliantly paced in their inclusion within the game, the player is exposed to each tool and ability in a considered fashion with the levels doing a perfect job of acclimatising the player to the functions of each.
It’s just as well that the learning curve for these powers is so painless too, as the strong majority of Toki Tori’s levels require that you use these in synergy with one another in order to assure completion of a given level before moving onto the next.
Where the game manifests its challenge however, is in the varied use of each of these tools that the game allows. You see, each stage only permits a certain amount of uses for each ability and as there is only one route to reach the end and collect all the eggs, it falls to the player to correctly identify which tools and abilities need to be employed at different parts of the level in order to succeed.
In essence, the game is a blissfully addicting exercise in pathfinding deduction; forever requiring the player to mentally plot a path through the level using these various abilities available at their disposal and then following it through in practice to see whether it’s tenable or not.
Ostensibly, the gameplay might seem overly weighted with trial and error to a casual observer and certainly, the lack of creative latitude afforded to the player in order to solve each stage seems overly cloying. Yet despite such apparent flaws, those of us who might typically find ourselves put off by these sorts of puzzles aren’t punished at all; quite the contrary, as the developer has seemingly done everything in its power to keep players of all abilities engaged with the head-scratching conundrums at hand.
The first and most immediate way that Toki Tori wants to keep you glued to the screen is through the duration of the stages themselves. Each stage can take just a handful of minutes to complete, eliciting a throwback to the game’s 2001 handheld pick up and play origins which now finds itself acutely mirrored by the sort of experiences that mobile and tablet games now typically provide today. So, in that sense, Toki Tori’s level design remains effectively ageless and would prove to be a natural fit for many of today’s new gamer generation who have typically existed on a diet of Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and other games of similar ilk.
Toki Tori continues to be almost endlessly accommodating to the virtue of accessibility in other ways too. The rewind function for example affords the player a great deal of flexibility to fix mistakes; allowing quick and efficient ad-hoc improvisation on the fly, unhampered by pesky checkpoint resets or level restarts.
Elsewhere, the developer frequently reminds the player that hints and tips for each level are to be found on the official site for the game; not that I used any. Nope. Not at all. While finally, Wildcards, if you have them, can be used to skip to the next level should the current one prove too tough for your faculties. Luckily, the developer has deftly protected this mechanic from abuse, since in order to use it more than once, you must first complete the level you initially skipped.
Still, despite developer Two Tribes bowing and courtesy to less skilled and obsessive players, Toki Tori nevertheless ably caters for the opposite end of the spectrum with due aplomb. The four worlds of which the game’s ninety plus levels are stuffed into come in easy, medium, hard and bonus flavours, with each of the levels under those headings representing a completely new challenge, rather than a re-skin of an existing stage.
Indeed, the hard and bonus levels prove to be especially savage tests of your puzzle-solving skills and demand as much application of your own guile as it does generous use of the rewind ability. Being able to surmount such challenges proves rewarding too; the feeling of satisfaction you get when you see Toki Tori stamping his little feet in an spirited jive after a completing particularly harsh stage cannot be overstated and reveals itself to be just one more weapon in the developer’s burgeoning arsenal of tricks to keep you playing.
The only real downside to the game’s modest selection of worlds and stages is that you find yourself quickly pining for more variation beyond the initial four, yet, the fact remains that the challenge contained within them should keep most busy for a significant duration.
Awash in charmingly twee visuals and resonating eardrum sweetening music, Toki Tori’s sickly sweet audiovisual presentation is a welcome bonus of the game’s leap to more contemporary hardware, the resultant veneer being one which belies the sleek and challenging puzzler that exists underneath.
In the end, just like it’s gaming avian forefather, The New Zealand Story, it proves easy to fall in love with all aspects of Toki Tori. From its warmly charming aesthetics through to the smartly judged, bite-sized puzzles and determination to not dwell on player failure, Toki Tori proves to be highly enjoyable and effective addition to the digital library of any who crave entertainment, charm and mental exercise in equal measure.