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Review: Toki Tori (Wii)


Released two months ago on WiiWare, Toki Tori is a remake of a Game Boy Color game that came out late in the system's lifespan. As was the situation with system stablemate Shantae, also published by Capcom at the time, the game was largely ignored as everyone's attention had shifted by then to the shiny new Game Boy Advance. I was among those who had little clue of the game's existence, which would have been a shame if not for this excellent remake.

Toki Tori is a puzzle-action game, much in the same vein as the Adventures of Lolo/Eggerland series, or Lode Runner. The eponymous player character is a fuzzy yellow chick who must traverse more than 70 stages spread across 4 themed worlds with the goal of rescuing his still egg-encased siblings. Each stage has a number of eggs, all of which must be collected, and collection of the final egg completes the stage. There are a number of obstacles in the way, including enemies and the layout of a stage initially rendering certain eggs inaccessible. To deal with these challenges, Toki Tori is given certain tools. These vary from level to level, both in which tools are available and how many times each may be used, but unlike in Adventures of Lolo all tools are given to the player at the beginning of a stage. The first tool encountered is the bridge, which allows Toki to place a small section of bridge across a gap while standing next to it, thus allowing Toki to cross without falling. Other tools introduced later include the stone that Toki can use to create a large immovable stone block, a limited teleport that can transport Toki in one of four directions at a set distance, and the freeze gun that stops enemies in place and turns them into ice blocks. The tools are introduced one at a time in simple tutorial levels just before the first level in which they are used, preceded by brief instructions on how to use the tool, and they can be replayed at any time. While most tools appear throughout the game, each of the four worlds also has it's own unique tool.

The core of the gameplay is figuring out how to use the tools to collect all of the eggs. At first this is relatively simple, with a small number of tools in small stages with limited opportunities to use them, but as the completed stages pile up things naturally get more complicated. Level design quickly becomes quite clever, forcing the player to think quite a bit about how to use the tools, both when and where, and in what order to collect the eggs; poor planning will often leave Toki stuck with no way to continue the puzzle, and force the player to restart the level. Each world has a unique enemy, but all behave in exactly the same way, walking left and right, only stopping and turning when there's a wall or an egg in their way. In general, there aren't very many stages where dealing with enemies is a frantic affair (contrast once again with Adventures of Lolo or Lode Runner,) though there are a couple that put enemy management in the spotlight for a change of pace. Indeed, Toki Tori on WiiWare is a pretty laid back, leisurely puzzle game, perhaps moreso than the Game Boy Color original, which apparently had a time limit on each stage that has been eliminated for the remake, and for the better. By pressing the minus button, the player can pause the action a view the stage as a whole to plan a route, but the relative complexity of later stages makes trial and error almost imperative, and this is where much of the challenge and addictive satisfaction in solving the puzzles lies. A strict time limit would potentially serve only to make stages more frustrating- imagine a situation where you make it about halfway through the puzzle, but come to a point where you need to assess the situation, but time runs out. Now you have to complete the early part of the puzzle again, and when you reach the point where you were stuck you've forgotten what you considered previously. Perhaps this happens a few times, with each attempt giving you a bit more time to think before the timer kills you again, until you finally complete the puzzle. I can see merit in requiring the player to think quickly, but the reward to the player is far outweighed by potential frustration. In the end, a timer would serve as an artificial way to lengthen a stage without really changing the dynamic of the puzzle solving, an unnecessary roadblock to the primary joy of solving the puzzles.

I just spent an awful lot of time talking about a mechanic that isn't in the game, which seems kind of stupid for a review, but I want to emphasize the ways in which Toki Tori serves to reduce frustration. One nice thing that wouldn't be noticed unless it wasn't there is the painlessness of restarting a puzzle when you know you're stuck, or get killed by an enemy or obstacle. A quick trip to the pause menu and selecting "restart" quickly resets the level to the beginning with no penalty and no insufferable loading or unskippable cutscene that's cute the first time you see it but grows tiresome almost immediately. Another good addition is the Wild Card. The main stages progress in a linear fashion, and must be completed in order. However, if the player is stuck on one puzzle and tired of trying to figure it out, the Wild Card can be played on that stage to skip it and allow the player to attempt the next level. There's only one Wild Card, but it can be reobtained by going back to the level it was used on and clearing the puzzle normally, at which point it can be used again. There are some stages that the Wild Card cannot be used on, and these are the "Hard" stages in each world, but this fact doesn't serve to undermine the whole point of the Wild Card. As I said, the main stages progress linearly, with about 7-10 of these in each world. Upon clearing all the stages in a world, the next world is unlocked, along with the hard stages in the previous world. These are available to play in any order and do not need to be completed to unlock any more stages, effectively making them bonus levels. It's a fantastic method of structuring the game, providing a nice sense of progression and leaving the more difficult, potentially game-stopping frustrating sections as secondary content that can be accessed at will. All of these things together serve to highlight the game's best points without anything getting in the way.

Speaking of good points, Toki Tori's presentation is very nice. Visually, there's nothing spectacular, but nothing needs to be. The graphics are crisp, colorful, and clean, with each world having its own visual theme. Aside from Toki and the enemies, there's not a lot of animation, but Toki has a lot of frames for his movements, and both he and the enemies move quite smoothly. The high point of the game is probably the music, with an appropriately bouncy main theme on the main screen and menu, and unique pieces for each of the four worlds that fits them nicely, the castle and underwater themes being highlights. As for controls, the game provides two options, either the remote and nunchuk or remote only. Using the remote only, movement is handled by pointing at a spot on the screen and pressing A, switching between tools by pressing left and right on the D-pad, and using items with the B trigger. I tend to play with the nunchuk, which leaves all the remote functions intact but allows you to move using the control stick, cycle through the tools by pressing C, and using them with Z. The only minor annoyances with the controls are a lack of Classic Controller/Gamecube controller support, and the need to point at the screen to handle menu choices.

My only real substantial criticism of Toki Tori is that it screams for a level editor and yet has none. A solid number of great levels are in the game, enough that I haven't yet finished it; however, I know the day will come when I'll crave more, with no way of satisfying my urge. I remain hopeful, though, as being a downloadable game the potential to patch in a level editor, for free or otherwise, is there, along with the possibility of downloadable levels. Should those dreams be dashed, I suppose that's what sequels are for. This one disappointment aside, Toki Tori is a wonderful game worthy of your 1000 Wii points (or 9000, for Europeans.) If you've already downloaded both Adventures of Lolo games on the Virtual Console and are suffering withdrawals while waiting for the third game to finally make an appearance, download posthaste. Those looking for unequivocally the best game on WiiWare right now, get it.

Screenshots courtesy of the official site, http://www.tokitori.com.
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About A New Challengerone of us since 3:56 PM on 04.15.2007

You may have seen me commenting on things. I'm a nerdy dude in my mid 20s. Shocking!

My Articles:
The 3rd Party Memory Card- In which I rip off Chad the C and expound upon my favorite moments in games.

It's A Secret To Everybody- In which I highlight and babble on about various Easter Eggs, cheats, and so on.


I own:
Game Boy
Game Boy Color
Game Boy Player
Nintendo DS

I like:
Fighting games, scrolling shooters, puzzle, platformer, racing games, adventure.... actually, a little bit of everything, including an occasional sports game. Also, pinball. Pinball rules.