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Aug 06 2013

Review of Toki Tori 2

TokiTori2Hiding[rating=4]

Toki Tori 2 has one of the most physically underwhelming video game heroes of all time. You’re in control of a rare breed of bird that doesn’t seem to mature past the excessively cute, fuzz-ball chick stage of the chicken life cycle. The sum total of your abilities are; stamping your cute little chicken feet and tweeting your cute little chicken beak. That’s not a whole lot of options for a bird in charge of saving his chicken village from destruction by some creepy and destructive smoke/gems. I can only think of one other video game hero with the odds stacked this badly against them, Abe from Abe’s Oddyssey. Toki Tori 2 has more than just a diminutive hero in common with Abe’s Oddyssey though. Toki Tori 2 is a welcome addition to the shamefully under represented Puzzle Platformer genre, and for fans of the genre it’s well worth chick’ing out.

As Toki Tori 2’s chick you will have to figure out how to use your seemingly useless abilities to interact with the environment and the myriad of creatures populating it. There’s a surprisingly wide range of things that Toki Tori 2’s chick can get done with a little bit of noggin scratching. For example; early on you should work out that your tweeting attracts frogs and then stamping your feet will get those frogs to release an air bubble that will float you onto a higher platform. Progressing through Toki Tori 2 requires you to work out how all the floating, croaking, squeaking and rolling things interact with each other and how they can be manipulated to your advantage. Each new area will introduce new creatures and obstacles that constantly flow into a healthy and entertaining stream of new puzzles.

TT1Calling the interactions in Toki Tori 2 simply puzzles doesn’t quite do the game justice. The whole experience feels much more fluid and naturally occurring than an arbitrary set of puzzle sections that need to be overcome one after the other. Each new way of interacting with the world is always discovered through organic exploration and curiosity. I felt a buzz each time I worked something new out, stemming from the fact I was both chuffed with how clever I felt and how damn impressed I was with how cohesively the puzzles fit in with the world. Nothing is ever explicitly spelled out for you, Toki Tori 2 avoids tutorials and the use of text blocks to explain how things work. This organic approach is even applied to things like restarting a checkpoint or quick travel, which makes things that are normally taken for granted in other games an additional act of exploration and discovery.

TT2I’ve seen Toki Tori 2 referred to as a Metroidvania here and there across the internet.  I don’t think it’s an entirely accurate categorization, much the same way as Abe’s Oddyessy also wouldn’t neatly fit in to that pigeonhole. Toki Tori 2 isn’t obvious in its progression, you don’t get new abilities or items. Instead the game has a wonderfully subtle way of showing you new ways of doing things that new environments hint at rather than obviously point out. You slowly realize these things can be done at earlier points in the game to open up new areas to explore. Toki Tori 2’s chick never gains any additional powers, instead the person playing the game does. It’s your understanding of the world in Toki Tori 2 that unlocks doors rather than simple colored keys.

TT3Unfortunately Toki Tori 2’s devotion to organic gameplay and user interface can lead to some minor annoyances throughout the game. Outside of the fact that some gamers will find it irritating they’re not specifically told how to reset to a checkpoint, the system used to traverse the game’s map is overly obtuse. You will often find yourself re-doing areas as you try to get to back to a specific point you are searching for. That’s if you can even work out how to use the bird song/ bird travel quick warp system. The scale and interaction between the over map and the actual levels is also a bit all over the place. This normally doesn’t matter for a platformer but Toki Tori 2 at times requires specific navigation and the over map isn’t ideal for this. While there’s a couple of shortcuts to be taken advantage of while in-level, I feel more checkpoints, travel points and a clearer over map would have eliminated some unnecessary confusion and annoyance.

Any gamer that’s been longing for a smart and engaging puzzle platformer in all the years since Abe’s Oddyssey came out owes it to themselves to check out Toki Tori 2 (and I’m sure fans of the original Toki Tori will like it as well). Playing a little chicklet may not be as grimy and edgy as the meditating mudokon but Toki Tori 2’s cute exterior hides a decently challenging game that’s a pleasure to play the whole way through. You will get stuck, but with enough trial, error, and experimentation your little chicken will continue his journey and you will feel like a genius for the next 2 minutes. That’s until you get stuck again. Toki Tori 2 is getting 4 out of 5 golden eggs.

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