Review: Toki Tori 2

TokiTori2

So there’s a cute chicken. And this geyser of bubbling, jet-black ink that’s threatening to pollute the entire world.

And that’s pretty much it. That’s about all you need to know—and about all you’re ever told–in Toki Tori 2, the beautifully minimalist platform-puzzler that landed recently on the Wii U’s eShop.

When I say “minimalist,” I’m not talking about the game’s art direction, which depicts colorful forests and creepy caves packed with all kinds of achingly cute critters, feathered and otherwise. No, I’m talking about the control scheme, where you can only do three things—move around with the analog stick, smack the Y button to stomp and hit the B button to unleash a tweet (no, not that kind) that summon or scares other animals in the environment to help you escape a predicament.

And that’s it. There’s no droll narrator to provide tutorial assistance or running commentary, no help menus or hints that pop up to give you a clue about why exactly collecting artifacts and activating Aztec-looking statues is going to forestall this world’s version of a BP oil spill. In fact, there’s not a single line of text associated with Toki Tori 2 beyond its title screen. Just keep moving, little chickadee. Just keep tweeting.

In this respect, Toki Tori 2 follows in the silent footsteps of memorable and groundbreaking games like Braid, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and Limbo, indie offerings where the contextual bells and whistles are stripped away in favor of an immersion that’s either creepily affecting, or, as is the case here, charming to the point of cute overload. That feeling really pops on the big screen. (If you’d rather, you can just play on the Wii U Gamepad.)

So how do you find your way in this universe? Why, trial and error, of course. Sometimes, what your chicken needs to do is obvious, like stomping to wake up the crustacean living inside the block that’s barring your path and then tweeting to get him to move the blasted thing out of the way. At other points, you’ll find yourself trapped in a dead end or stuck and at a complete loss, at which point you’ll have to tweet a specific melody that will teleport you back to the last checkpoint.

The thrill of discovery is Toki Tori 2’s palpable payoff. It’s really fun to experience that moment when what was obtuse suddenly makes sense and you can see your way clear to the next challenge. The agony of execution isn’t always quite so entertaining. There are points where the meticulous steps you’ll need to take to overcome an obstacle become frustrating, especially when blowing one piece of the solution means backing up and doing it all over again. Let’s put it this way: Luring creatures in this universe where you want them to go shouldn’t drive your blood pressure skyward.

Toki Tori 2 covers an expansive amount of territory—this isn’t a game you’ll finish in one or even two gameplay sittings—and it’s not nearly as limited as you might think it is. By the time you’ve used the Gamepad as a camera to snap pics of the environs, blazed through the silhouette levels and reached the point where you’re using teleporters to move around, you still won’t know all the tricks needed to bring the action home.

Toki Tori 2 is a textbook case of (much) more than meets the eye. Anyone who dismisses its simple puzzle mechanics and adorable vibe as mere kids’ stuff is missing out on a serious brain-teaser, and one of the eShop’s essential downloads.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ The minimalist approach amps the immersion
+ Trial and error at its simplest and most entertaining
+ Wonderful, evocative levels

Cons:
- Stumbling on solutions doesn’t exactly make you feel brilliant
- Sometimes, a hint or two would be helpful

Game Info:
Platform: Nintendo Wii U via eShop (also coming to Steam later this year)
Publisher: Two Tribes
Developer: Two Tribes
Release Date: 4/4/2013
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by developer

About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.