Toki Tori 2+

I became interested in Toki Tori 2 after seeing some talk about the metroidvania-like aspect of traversing its connected levels, and it’s interesting that you can go straight to some tough places at the beginning of the game just by understanding what puzzle elements you’ve been given to work with. But does it really matter if you can do one frog bubble puzzle earlier than another one? I doubt it, but there’s certainly some cleverness involved in the set-up. Most importantly, you don’t collect items or powers, so you always have what you need to solve any puzzle you come upon. But even that’s not perfect: more than once, there wasn’t really a puzzle there, and I wasted time trying things to reach a ledge that was inaccessible from my position.

But a metroidvania should be fun to simply move around in (like Super Metroid or Castlevania, of course) with wall kicks and double jumps and bomb jumps and super jumps and… well, I guess jumping tends to figure pretty heavily into it. In Toki Tori 2 you do not jump. You can’t even influence the direction of your own fall. It’s a puzzle game, after all, not a falling game, and I suppose puzzles should be about knowing where to fall from, not about having really good aim.

So it’s not the best metroidvania. But it breaks some cardinal rules for puzzle games, too. If you try to do some self-directed collectible hunting, or you try to return to some area you were at before but don’t remember exactly where to find it, you’ll have to repeat the same tedious busywork every time you pass through a room you’d already covered. Break this bridge. Get wet. Splash water on that thing. Push this thing onto that thing. Make that frog fall down this ledge. It sucks and it feels like it takes forever. There were some small puzzles I must have “solved” a dozen times. If you have to pass through a major puzzle room again, there will usually be some kind of mole tunnel that lets you bypass it, but god help you if you missed a collectible somewhere in the middle of one.

On top of that, even though I can praise their obvious cleverness, I have to say that the major puzzles can be incredibly frustrating the first time around. They usually involve micromanaging the facing of a bunch of frogs who will kill themselves the second you turn around. The animals follow various rules about whether or not they’ll follow a noise or hop down from ledges and so on, but it still feels like the whole game is one long, horrible escort mission. And even after you’ve figured some puzzle out, you’ve got to spend several minutes lining up little creatures to make it happen, and if a bug you need crawls out an inch too far before you launch a bubble or block a light or whatever, you’ll probably have to kill yourself and start the whole process again. The game does require some intelligence (oh uh), but it rewards good timing and the patience of a saint far above that, and I seem to carry those traits in even shorter supply.

I think these sorts of games should be played blind, but finding your way around is a huge pain, to the point where I made several fruitless google searches for an annotated map. As I said before, there wasn’t always some puzzle or trick allowing you to traverse each area from a given direction. There were numerous times where I’d noticed a warp beacon I’d yet to activate on the in-game map, would start heading towards it, and would find out fifteen minutes later that I’d taken what was (to the best of my knowledge) a dead-end. Maybe these paths would connect to where I wanted to go, but only as a one-way street going the opposite way.

I think I did (sort of) beat the game, because I gathered a bunch of unique frogs (including one that I also gave up and googled; turns out the goddamn frog was invisible) and made some stuff crash on a beach, and then I saw no other immediate objective besides gathering all the collectibles to open a big door somewhere. On the Deadly Premonition post I talked about what makes collectibles fun, and this Banjo-Kazooie shit–gathering hundreds of identical, charmless trinkets scattered around arbitrarily–is the worst of it. Gathering them all kinda sounds like a post-game objective for obsessives if you ask me, but in any case I got about 85% of the way there, realized that only the most tedious ones were left, and decided I did not care enough about whatever was behind that door.

The reviewer believes this game stands above total mediocrity. It has something going for it, but ultimately few real merits. Most of the time, it isn’t fun, and doesn’t otherwise provide any sort of emotional payoff. Even though it does some cool things, you should play something else instead.
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