Monday, March 26, 2018

Toki Tori 2+ (NSW) Review

How many reviews can SuperPhillip Central pack into the final week of March? Let's find out! Our first review of the week is a recent release on the Nintendo eShop for the Nintendo Switch, Two Tribes's Toki Tori 2+. Should you chirp happily about the game or derp sadly for Two Tribes?

Bird is the word.

Toki Tori 2+ feels like a 2D side-scrolling puzzle-platformer with levels that command you to go in one specific direction with very little in the way of choice in how you want to do things. In your first hours with Toki Tori 2+, you might figure that the game has one path in mind of where you're supposed to go. I mean, how am I supposed to get past THIS obstacle!? I don't have the right ability However, as you progress through the game, you quickly realize that these thoughts of limitation are, in fact, in no way, shape or form truthful. The roadblocks you encounter in Toki Tori 2+ are merely those of illusion.

You see, something that Toki Tori 2+ veterans know going into the game that beginners do not is that you can pretty much go anywhere you want in Toki Tori 2+ right from the get-go. There's no obstruction or obstacle you can't get past or figure out away through or around. Unlike a Metroidvania game, you don't get access to new abilities to reach new areas of Toki Tori 2+. Instead, you already have access to all of the abilities within the game; it's just that you don't know how to use them immediately as a beginner. 

Starting off, our heroic, chirpy friend can only whistle, stomp, and move. That's pretty much all you get throughout the entire duration of the game ability-wise. It's up to you to figure out how to use these in isolation or in combination with other creatures, obstacles, and pieces of environment in order to progress in Toki Tori's adventure. 

Toki Tori 2+ is one amazing puzzle-platforming adventure.
Toki Tori 2+ is an ingenious display of having a tutorial that shows and doesn't tell players straight out on how to proceed. Hints in the environment and context clues provide what's necessary to learn how to interact with the game world and move forward. One of the earliest examples of this is being impeded by a big, stone block, which is the home of a hermit crab. Seeing as Toki Tori can't jump in the game, some other solution is needed. That's when the two aforementioned actions come in: whistling and stomping. Standing next to the hermit crab and whistling doesn't seem to do anything, so the logical next step would be to stomp. In doing so, the crab and its block move to the right, no longer impeding your way ahead. One can even experiment with the hermit crab and its stone block further by whistling while standing on the other side. The hermit crab will move towards Toki Tori. This shows the player that when they whistle and move, the hermit crab will move towards them, and when they stomp and move, the hermit crab will move away from them.

Stomping while on this side of this hermit crab will cause it to move away from Toki Tori,
building a staircase for him to climb across and proceed through this level.
This type of experimenting is key to learning how to progress in Toki Tori 2+ because, again, the game doesn't blatantly let loose what you need to do in text or spoken form. It's all on you to teach yourself on how to get through levels while solving the game's puzzles. Toki Tori 2+ lets you learn how to use your abilities in simple scenarios before eventually pitting you against puzzles that really have some involved steps to complete. Once you learn how certain abilities interact with the game world, you can go back to previous areas and reach all-new spots that you couldn't figure out to enter before. That said, if you're already familiar with how Toki Tori's basic move set interacts with the game world, you can essentially reach these areas and go anywhere you want. There is no one correct way to play Toki Tori 2+. There is no one correct path through the game. It's an interconnected game world where your knowledge on how Toki Tori's behavior influences the world around him means you can start at as easy a series of levels or as challenging as you want. 

One of my favorite-looking locales in Toki Tori 2+. Just so soothing and calming to gaze upon. 
The levels of Toki Tori 2+ span a great number of locales. Though levels have no names, you can easily tell them apart by their distinct backgrounds and environments. Such locales include a sunny beach, a hot and intense volcano, a forest filled with running windmills, a central town for the local chirping residents, cascading waterfalls that spray enough mist in the air to show off gorgeous rainbows, heavily wooded areas, and even the underside of the island itself. The island map, which is pretty sizable, tells you where you currently are, and this pops up as you move between levels. You can also call it at any time in the game by hitting the "-" button. 

This is but one half of the island map of Toki Tori 2+.
Eventually, you learn various songs played by Toki Tori as he whistles. You merely press the whistle button for a short note or hold the button for a long note. You can do a 4-6 note melody to perform a handful of songs. Some call upon a bird holding a camera to take photos of nearby creatures and obstacles. Others can call upon an eagle to pick up up and transport you to any warp point you've already found throughout he island. 

Then, there's a song that helps out if you manage to botch a puzzle, which is anything but rare in Toki Tori 2+. Levels contain an ample amount of checkpoints, usually placed before and after a puzzle. Playing one of the songs as Toki Tori transports him to the last checkpoint he reached, setting everything back as it was to the time he touched the checkpoint. This can easily rectify a costly mistake in a puzzle that would otherwise force you to completely reset the level and start from its beginning. That said, this isn't perfect. Some puzzles have two checkpoints involved, and if you find yourself butchering a puzzle and creating a no-win situation (a common occurrence in Toki Tori 2+) and then hit another checkpoint, your progress will be saved. This means that if you play the song to return to a checkpoint, the puzzle will still be unwinnable and you'll have to reset the level. 

Are you yawning because you haven't moved in quite a while,
or are you crying because we're going to have to reset the level?
It would be better if the game had a "reset the puzzle" option instead of resetting the entire level, as it's quite easy to innocently mess up a puzzle and not want to have to redo minutes of hard work all over again because you accidentally hit a checkpoint. A Switch-exclusive song does mitigate this issue somewhat, allowing you to put down your own temporary checkpoint, but it doesn't really fix the problem here.

It's like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds!
Another song is a blessing for the endgame, a song that reveals if you're missing any collectibles, aka golden feathers, in a given level. In levels, this shows up as a ring, pointing in the general direction where the golden feathers hover. On the island map, the song reveals which levels still contain golden feathers, so you don't have to revisit every level in the game and individually play the song from one location to another. Golden feathers have a special bonus at the end of the game for diligent and persistent players, and the reward is well worth it.

Toki Tori is just trying to help this lava go with the flow.
Speaking of the endgame, Toki Tori 2+ will definitely give you your money's worth. It's a game that took me close to 15 hours to reach what is essentially the end of the game. A whole slew of in-game achievements encourage even more playing, and one even welcomes the idea of completely sequence breaking the game. That's just how open the game world and rules of Toki Tori 2+ are. Just be prepared to have access to a guide, preferably a YouTube walkthrough, just in case you find yourself getting frustrated at not being able to wrap your head around a particular puzzle (or especially the timing necessary to solve a particular puzzle). 

Toki Tori 2+ is a brilliant puzzle-platformer that is so much smarter than it initially appears to be. The game world is only as limited for you to explore as your experimentation with it and the knowledge of how to use the game's mechanics. Being able to slowly and safely learn the tricks you need to utilize with only a two-ability system becomes a mighty revelation when you figure out you've always had the option to plot your own course across the island. It makes subsequent runs through the game and potentially speed-run opportunities all the more special. The lack of a "reset puzzle" feature and some truly antagonizing puzzles can cause some mild annoyance with this game, but overall, Toki Tori 2+ shows that going to the birds isn't always a bad thing!

[SPC Says: A-]

Review copy provided by Two Tribes.

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