The indomitable spirit of dopey looking bird Toki Tori has come to the aid of the barren Wii U software landscape. Toki Tori 2, an eShop title, revives and reinvents a franchise created in 2001 on the Game Boy Color. That was problematic; something called the Game Boy Advance had already hit shelves, causing the general public to mostly ignore Toki Tori. So it is rather remarkable that all these years later we find a sequel in our hands.
If you’re familiar with the original game — well, that won’t help you in this title. The two games share the titular character and the puzzle/platform genre, but little else. Toki Tori 2 works very simply: Toki Tori is a pudgy little bird who can walk, whistle, and stomp. That’s it. The complexity and fun of the puzzle designs comes from the living environment surrounding Toki Tori. For example, whistling might cause a creature to come closer to you, while stomping might make them cower away in the opposite direction. These subtle manipulations result in a surprising number of combinations that will test your ingenuity and lateral-thinking skills.
Now you’re thinking with Portals!
The various creatures that Toki Tori can interact with are therefore the focal point of the game. Two Tribes does a great job of mixing and matching them for ever-changing puzzles, but I do wish there was more overall biodiversity. Near the end of the game, even though the puzzles still require some thought and reflection, the familiarity with your supporting cast speeds up this process. In a game where the lead character’s pupils dilate and constrict based on the brightness of the room he’s in, a couple more puzzle mechanics doesn’t seem like a big ask.
You're required to traverse some sections multiple times, as you explore the world to try and reveal previously missed passageways. This is a common mechanism in exploratory games, but I personally think it blends poorly with puzzle games. After all, a puzzle solved once is merely busywork the second time around. Worse still, sometimes getting the creatures positioned just so can mean even a solved puzzle can be failed due to a lack of execution. Thankfully, such occurrences are relatively rare, but they are no less infuriating for that.
The game doesn’t do any hand-holding: there are no tutorial levels and nary a written word to be found. You are left to deduce the inner-workings of the world for yourself. This has plusses and minuses. For example, Toki Tori can whistle in certain patterns to invoke various gameplay mechanisms, such as summoning an eagle who can drop you off at designated spots in other levels. The game teaches you the melody, but for me, it was unclear that the melody could only be used at checkpoints. I went to the deceptively decorated eagle totems to try and use it (which are drop-off locations only) and was frustrated when I thought I’d have to traverse a huge chunk of the world just to get back to my deepest point of progression.
Because of this, I actually got immense use out of the Miiverse while playing Toki Tori 2. This being a new, niche title, walkthroughs and pointers are actually hard to find online, but the Miiverse filled the void. While using the chat board for puzzle solutions would steal the fun, using it to determine these gameplay idiosyncrasies was rather beneficial.
Protip: Lava will kill you.
There's also a “reset” melody as well, for when you’ve botched a puzzle so badly it becomes unsolvable. This, for me, is a bit cheap. Good level design should mean a false step won’t force you to warp back to the previous checkpoint, all resources restored. Lastly, I actually stumbled upon a legitimate bug in the game, in which a grappling bird will continuously drop you and immediately pick you back up, effectively immobilizing you. Though the reset melody will resolve this, it reiterates the sloppy feel of that mechanism. Game gone buggy? Just reset!
Mush as I longed for more biodiversity, I also wished for greater variance of scenery. The game is well-presented, but a bit repetitive. The striking volcanic scenery stands alone as the only stark contrast to the rest of the game’s look and feel. Nonetheless, the world in place does ooze charm and the visual effects utilized are solid. If you can play it on a TV, do so, as the colors pop and the soundtrack really makes the world come to life. However, Off-TV play works flawlessly and allows husbands and wives to co-exist quite peacefully when Glee is on.
I like to picture these guys singing Don’t Stop Believing in perfect 16-part harmony.
Toki Tori 2 carries the seemingly standard $14.99 price tag, which in my opinion is a bit steep. The puzzles are fun challenges, but as with any puzzler, replayability is a weak spot. There are no alternative gameplay modes available, though there is some post-game content for the completionists among you. Ignoring the handful of sidequests the game offers, the main storyline clocks in somewhere between 10 and 15 hours. Of course, that number could fluctuate wildly depending on how quickly you solve each brain teaser. Still, if you’re looking to use your Wii U GamePad as something other than a TV remote control, this title could tide you over nicely.
This review is based on a digital download of Toki Tori 2 for the WiiU.