In the fall of 2001, the Game Boy Color was facing its waning months due to the release of the technologically superior Game Boy Advance three months prior. While Nintendo’s new system was fully backwards compatible, gamers were understandably enamored by the higher resolution, increased number of simultaneous on-screen colors, and a faster CPU which allowed for more sophisticated experiences. As such, when Toki Tori was released for the GBC on September 12th, the title initially didn’t make much of a stir. However, subsequent ports to a plethora of platforms across the next decade ensured that the game’s engrossing puzzle and platforming mechanics would receive some well-warranted recognition.
Given the industry’s tradition of producing sequels which offer a paltry progression from their predecessors, players might expect Toki Tori 2 to recycle many of the design decisions from the original games. Yet, except for the title’s enchanting visual aesthetics and plucky main character, the follow-up abandons many of the gameplay mechanics that have become mainstays in the last decade of puzzlers. Those expecting a return of the enemy immobilizing Freeze-o-matic or invaluable teleporting tools might be surprised to know that Toki Tori 2 largely discards its toolbox of gratifying gadgets.
Instead, the title’s protagonist relies on two organic talents: the ability to stomp and whistle. While this toolset may seem tragically truncated, developers Two Tribes have placed these two skills at the core of the game’s wide variety of puzzles. One early combination of the two talents prompts player to stomp a bug downhill, whistling to get a frog’s attention, stomping to make the amphibian swallow the insect, before riding the resulting belch, Bubble Bobble-style. Later conundrums impel the game’s protagonist to mimic the Morse code-like chirps of birds, revealing new capabilities which the tunes are duplicated.
To divulge anymore more of Toki Tori 2’s puzzles would be a disservice; much of the game’s enjoyment emanates for its involving sense of discovery. Remarkably, the title exhibits few text-based instructions, subtly conveying visual clues throughout the game’s characters and environments. For most of the journey, Toki Tori 2’s exploratory elements lend the game a pre-USENET vibe, as players are expected to make sense of the game’s logic. However, the lack of guidance can occasionally be a disservice. Sporadically, experimentation reveals a secret prematurely; other times players may become stumped by the title’s hazy direction. Ideally, the game would have closely monitored players, and extended sequences of diminishingly ambiguous clues. As it stands, players will have to crowdsource solutions though Miiverse.
Visually, Toki Tori 2 is a consistently charismatic experience, filling both HDTV’s and the GamePad with vibrant, charming milieus and characters. Considering the game’s protected pace and the minimal amount of on-screen action, it’s no surprise that the game has little trouble outputting a 720P picture at sixty frames per second. Even more impressive is Sonic Picnic’s soundtrack, which is so effervescent and jubilant that even Toki Tori can’t resist whistling along. Players who followed the title’s development know what a level editor was expected to be included. Unfortunately, this component wasn’t part of the built. Hopefully, Two Tribes will produce on their promises as the ability to create a share levels might expand Toki Tori 2’s playtime.
The original Toki Tori supplied a collection of gadgets, tasking players with the thoughtful utilization of each device. For Toki Tori 2, the developers threw this system out the window- creating an open-ended brainteaser than feels more like an adventure game than a conventional puzzler. While the title’s tranquil tempo and lack of hand-holding might appeal to a certain constituency of gamers, some might be put off by the radical redesign. As such, I’ve advice prospective purchasers to watch of bit of Toki Tori 2’s gameplay before making a commitment.