Review: Toki Tori 2 (Nintendo Wii U)
Toki Tori 2 is a new game developed by Dutch studio Two Tribes, and is a sequel to their breakthrough GameBoy Colour platformer Toki Tori.
Originally announced for PC and Mac, Two Tribes revealed mid-way in 2012 they had shifted development to focus on launching the game alongside Nintendo’s first HD home console, Wii U.
Following a delay last December to allow the development team more time to further polish and refine a game they’d waited a decade to make, Toki Tori 2 has finally hatched onto the Wii U eShop.
But was it worth the wait? Read on and find out!
If you ever played Toki Tori – Two Tribes’ 2001 GameBoy Colour original – and have any built up expectations for Toki Tori 2, you best leave them at the door. In fact, you better put them in a box and send them somewhere far away. Very far away.
Toki Tori 2 goes out of its way to build an entirely new gameplay experience, and by all accounts hits it out of the park. Rather than simply hand the player all the game mechanics they need to progress further; they’re revealed organically, instead of confining players into a rigid level-based game design; you’re presented with a open-world whose only limitations is your own knowledge of the game. Above all, it feels fresh, original and innovative.
What further pushes Toki Tori 2 far beyond not just any downloadable Wii U game, but most modern games period, is how the entire experience is driven without using text, at all – not even in the way of tutorials or narrative and story.
Instead, narrative is pushed forward using interactive cut-scenes. What’s nice about these scenes is player control is rarely taken away, and what’s happening on-screen is always implied, never forced – a refreshing change to the story-driven games currently clogging up shelves. Though in the end, and much like any video game, the story and narrative still help create context for gameplay.
Gameplay centres itself around the idea of ‘knowledge unlocks’. By using the only two abilities available in Toki Tori 2 – Stomp and Whistle – the game will organically teach players all the skills they need to make it through not only the various puzzles that will block their path, but the game-world itself.
Now, the concept of ‘knowledge unlocks’ is definitely a hard sell, especially for the modern culture of gamers who are so used to having all the things spoon-fed to them. It was even a bit of a hard sell to me admittedly, yet after a few hours I was taken aback by how refined and, well… how organic it all actually felt. The game subtly guides you down the right paths to acquire the skills you need, rather than forcing it down your throat, or on a silver platter, and does so in such a way you that you rarely notice it’s happening at all. For such a rewarding feeling to shine through in a video game is rare indeed.
But how to can you as the player ‘unlock’ the ‘knowledge’ you need to make it through the game I hear you ask? Whereas you can sit back and allow the game to lead you down the linear path that, in time, will reveal all that you need to know, you can take a more explorative approach. By to experiment with your two abilities, Stomp/Whistle, you’ll fast discovering what does what to who – usually with surprising results that’ll see the game-world bust wide open right before your eyes.
Toki Tori 2 boasts a self-described Metroidvania (Metroid-Castlevania) game world, one that is entirely open from the very beginning. As you move through the game you’ll probably notice paths you may think are blocked to you at that time, though when you find yourself having to backtrack to previously explored areas later on you’ll find these paths were accessible the entire time – only now you have more ‘unlocked’ ‘knowledge’.
Backtracking in video games is often seen as lazy game design, a quick and easy way to further pad the game’s length for the interest of longevity and is generally met with general destain. Toki Tori 2 avoids these pitfalls, instead rewarding players with a handful of ‘ah ha!’ moments as you discover new paths or secrets. Or in my case, kicking yourself because you ultimately realise you could had reached X ledge, or continued along path Y. This does so much to further draw you into this charming game just that little bit more, encouraging a deeper desire for exploration and experimentation.
And then there’s the puzzles themselves. Jumping from being either overly complex or incredibly simple, the puzzles found in Toki Tori 2 are perhaps some of the best-designed puzzles I’ve found in a video game. While I respect the desire to create sophisticated and clever puzzles so players can really feel like they’re being challenged, I couldn’t shake the feeling some were designed in such a convoluted way they potentially could ruin any and all of the game’s accessibly.
In some instances I found myself halted upwards of half an hour/to an hour for one puzzle, an experience I found frustrating. Though it may only serve to speak volumes about my own problem solving abilities, I fear it may cause some players to eject themselves from the game, writing it off as simply ‘too hard’. This isn’t to say puzzles ruin the game altogether, far from it in fact, but some type of in-game guide that can help players who find themselves stuck may smooth over this particular rough edge.
Outside of your two abilities – Stomp and Whistle – Toki Tori can also use ‘Songs’ for added effect. Songs are an extension of the Whistle ability itself and are ‘unlocked’ either as you progress through the game or if you successfully can figure out the chirp combination yourself. Songs allow you to skip back to a previous checkpoint if you find yourself blundering up a puzzle, jump straight to the over-world map or use the overly cool camera mode.
Using the Wii U GamePad – which acts as a viewfinder – you can snap pictures of various creatures, locations or objects, with pictures then stored in the TokiDex for viewing later. Surprisingly the entire process is painless and seamless, making it one of the game’s most fun and overly unique features, even if it doesn’t serve much of a point other than urging completionists to snap pictures of everything.
Outside of this, the GamePad’s screen displays already discovered songs as well as a small display that reflects where you are in your current area – including exits and more. Off-TV is of course included too, and Toki Tori 2 pops with those same sharp graphics seen on your TV, with practically no framerate drops or stutters which can pop-up with other games. I’m hard pressed to think of another eShop game that makes such robust use of the GamePad, leaving me with the impression Two Tribes have thought long and hard about how to use this unique controller.
On the more technical side, Toki Tori 2 is essentially perfect. The game is never bogged down by choppy frame-rates, texture pop-ins or general sluggishness. It also boasts incredibly vivid, bright and sharp visuals. To add further praise in this department; animations are fluid, colours crisp and clear and the whole game world is presented in gorgeous, true high definition. All of this works to compliment the atmospheric and melodic soundtrack that loops as you play through – reflecting quality you’d normally expect from a Nintendo first party game.
Toki Tori 2 has legions of fans anticipating its release. What awaits them is an incredibly refined, polished experience that is capable of delivering either a player-driven or more linear, predetermined yet organic experience.
As a Wii U title, it plays around with the TV/GamePad dynamic more than other game on the system – save perhaps for NintendoLand and ZombiU.
A game of this high quality doesn’t come around very long and it’s wonderful to see it find a home on the Wii U eShop, giving Nintendo’s fledging digital store a new ‘killer app’.