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Review: Toki Tori

2:00 PM on 06.08.2009 // Brad Nicholson

It’s been, uh ... never since I last played a puzzle platformer starring a chicken. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always wanted to, but the opportunity has never presented itself.

Well, until recently.

As you can tell by the header, Toki Tori is a game that stars a chicken. It also so happens to be a puzzle platformer. (I can finally scratch this one off the bucket list.) It’s an iPhone game, so it’s a simple title -- one that I found myself playing entirely too much.

Hit the break for the review.

Toki Tori (iPhone)
Seller: Chillingo Games
Released: May 8, 2009
MSRP: $4.99

When I do mobile gaming, I always look for titles that can do two things: (1) be played with one hand, and (2) not have tilt functionality. Usually, with iPhone titles, these two personal preferences are thrown out of the window. However, Toki Tori foots my bill. It’s a simple platformer without any goofy platform-specific frills other than basic touch functionality. Hip and sweet, like the Kool-Aid Man.

But let’s talk about the game, shall we?

The objective in every level (under a themed “World” hood) is to collect several gargantuan eggs scattered throughout. Simple. There’s a catch, though. To get an egg, you must move Toki Tori (the chicken) directly to it by tapping the screen. Doing this correctly (good job!) ignites a glowing breadcrumb trail that Toki Tori follows somewhat blindly. Toki Tori has limited maneuverability -- it can only perform a pitiful hop over small barriers and it lacks the ability to fly. So help is often needed to grab an egg.

Enter the elaborate item system, and really, the crux of the puzzle mechanic.

At the beginning of most levels, you’re outfitted with an assortment of limited-use items in order to traverse the various pits, barriers and enemies that Toki Tori puts in your way. Often, one misuse of one of these items spells disaster; you’re expected to utilize them as the developers intended.

And this is the biggest problem with Toki Tori -- you’re supposed to play it a certain way. Levels are presented as if there are options (e.g., scale this ladder first, grab this egg, then use a bridge item to cross this lava pit), but there really isn’t any other way than the one the developer set out for you. There are no contextual clues, and hell, the game doesn’t even give you an indication that you blew your teleport load before you were supposed to. This can be a drag, no doubt.

Occasionally, it can take minutes before you realized you used an item incorrectly. Or worse, you can actually be stuck in levels for a depressingly long time while trying out a myriad of different ways to do what you were intended to do. It’s unforgiving, but also rewarding as a result -- you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you bust the level’s riddle. And really, that’s all I want out of a puzzle title.

Toki Tori is a lengthy game with a brilliant visual style. The backgrounds and enemies have flair and character that matches the game’s upbeat soundtrack. As a whole, the game has great artistic direction, a plus for those tired of dreary titles.

I enjoyed Toki Tori. I love its style and simplicity. At the same time, I’ve had my fair share of frustration and moments of questioning the design of certain levels. If the game had contextual clues or even a more forgiving item amount structure, I would have enjoyed it even more.

Score: 6 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)

Brad Nicholson,
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