Indie titles have become a pivotal element this gaming generation, with numerous exceptional ones that set new ground for both developers and gamers alike. With ingenious indies such as Braid, Limbo, and Journey (just to name a few), it’s hard not to pay attention to unique and fresh titles. In 2001, developer Two Tribes released a puzzle-platformer called “Toki Tori” for the Game Boy Color. It was a well received title for the GBC and was also, one of the last to grace the portable console. Over the years, Toki Tori has received enhanced versions available via Steam, iOS devices and WiiWare. Fast forward to 2013 and Two Tribes has delivered their sequel, Toki Tori 2, to the Wii U. After many years, has Two Tribes delivered the next indie hit?
Upon starting up Toki Tori 2, there’s no story, no HUD and no tutorial to what the game is about. All you’ll realize is that black smoke seems to be affecting the land. Other than that, you’re literally thrown into the game knowing nothing else. While this may sound a bit odd, it slightly felt like Limbo…which is a good thing. Toki Tori 2 is still the puzzle-platformer the original was, yet it’s scale has been significantly increased. Gone is the “level” format and in is the “adventure, open-world” aspect. While the world is broken up into areas, they’re all connected through gateways along the path. The closest thing to relate this to is a “Metroidvania” type of game, which is always a very welcome style. The controls are as simple as they can get. You’ll control Toki Tori with the GamePad’s analog stick or D-Pad, stomp the ground with the B button and whistle with the A button. However, it’s figuring out what stomping and whistling near another creature will cause that’s part of the fun. For example, a crab may be sleeping in a movable platform and you’ll need to have him move it toward you. Whistling at him will cause him to wake up and make his way toward you so you can advance forward. However, if you stomp next to him, you can push the platform away from you. Basically, whistling will attract attention while stomping will scare them. Another example are certain little bug creatures that may need to move along a ceiling since they can’t jump platforms, so stomping right next to them will make them jump up and attach to the short ceiling. When in dark caves, there will be fireflies that can illuminate the area. Whistling will lure them toward you as the sound attracts them. However, there may be skulls that live in the dark, ready to stop you in your tracks, but having the fireflies near you by whistling will make this obstacle go away. Toki Tori can’t “fight” anything that poses a threat to him, but rather, can rely on using his whistling and stomping to aid in his defense. If Toki Tori gets hit once, he’s done for and it’s back to the nearest checkpoint (which are very close together).
Now I mention the “whistling” as one of the abilities…and honestly, it’s not just a simple button press. Instead, the closest aspect to relate it to is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time when you would have to play a song on your ocarina with certain notes. Toki Tori can whistle short, long, low and high notes. Depending on when and how long you press the A button affects the notes whistled out. When exploring the land, you’ll come across a white bird occasionally. The white bird will teach you a certain “tune” to whistle that will have various effects. Should you be caught in a bind with no means out, whistling a “short, short, long, long” tune will teleport you back to the nearest checkpoint you activated. Another tune will let you use the GamePad and snap photos of creatures in the environment. Doing so will add a picture to your Photo Lab collection (or as the developers put it, “Tokidex”). As you venture the land, you’ll come across gold fragments that you can collect. However, finding all of them will take time and since there’s no HUD, keeping track of which areas you completely collected them from may be difficult. Thankfully, another tune points arrows in all the directions of the area you’re in to find the remaining pieces. Lastly, a few hours into the game, you’ll learn one of the most handy tunes which allows you to fast travel to “teleport stones” you’ve found/activated around the world. A bird will snatch you and you’ll then see the whole land through Toki Tori’s eyes as you dangle in the sky. I won’t spoil anything but you’ll need this to fulfill the rest of your adventure. Should you ever need to refer to your song list, it will be displayed on your GamePad. Speaking of the GamePad, when viewing the world map, you’ll be able to drag “yellow balloons” as markers for important areas you know need to be revisited. Since there’s no text in the game (other than the title), that means the locations won’t have names either. Additionally, when in areas, you’ll see a meter at the bottom of the GamePad showing where you are, as well as where the exit gates are and the direction they’re in. It’s a handy addition to have on the GamePad when playing on the TV.
Toki Tori 2 is a game that demands you pull out your thinking cap…and be prepared because some of the puzzles are real mind-benders. Everything in the environment is there for a reason, so pay very close attention to your surroundings. Honestly, some of the puzzles had me completely stumped where I had to walk away from the game, then come back to it with a fresh mind and realize the solution. The puzzles in this game are very clever and immensely rewarding upon solving them. With the Wii U, players have access to the Miiverse, so naturally people will be posting screenshots and asking for a little bit of help…and that’s very much encouraged. Honestly, this is one of the few games on the Wii U where talking to each other will help people advance through the game if a puzzle may seem too difficult. While there’s no in-game Miiverse connectivity like New Super Mario Bros. U or Need for Speed: Most Wanted U, the community will surely be a great one to be a part of. In the near future, Two Tribes is looking to add the “Level Editor” feature to the game, which will surely add a ton of longevity to an already lengthy game.
Visually, Toki Tori 2 looks absolutely beautiful on both the TV and GamePad. The lush colors of the environment, whether it be the trees, water, rocks, or the creatures that inhabit the world, Toki Tori 2 is one of the most stunning looking games available on the Wii U. Every environment is ultra-detailed, with excellent backdrops and foreground that show a superb level of design, while all running in 60 fps. Toki Tori, as well as the other inhabitants, are rendered and animated astonishingly well. Little details such as pollen in the background of the forest and seeing Toki Tori’s feet when dangling from the sky are nice touches. When switching the game from the TV to the GamePad, you’ll see Toki Tori on the TV leaning over the top of a Wii U GamePad on the screen while you’re playing on your actual GamePad. You’ll see a fraction of the GamePad’s screen on the TV and impressively, this isn’t a static image. It’s a replication of your GamePad’s screen and while it’s a very tiny portion of it, it’s clear that the developers wanted to show that it wasn’t a simple image. Toki Tori 2’s audio is equally as impressive as the visuals. The whimsical and charming music that accompanies the game is very catchy and goes hand-in-hand with the setting. The sound effects are also cheery and effective, whether you’re hearing Toki Tori whistle, other creatures make sounds or other environmental ambiance, it’s all done quite well. Two Tribes cut no corners in the game’s visuals, audio and presentation.
There are a few minor complaints that slightly hurt the game’s overall score that should be mentioned. The first was that some of the puzzles’ solutions required very precise object placement. When coming across some of these, frustration started to kick in a bit. Second, as integral as whistling is, there were times that I was trying to keep signaling fireflies to follow me and as I was doing that, I’d end up teleporting back to the nearest checkpoint. Apparently, I kept whistling the tune to go back to a checkpoint by accident. It just seemed a bit easy to accidentally whistle a specific tune when you’re only trying to get the attention of a creature. Aside from these, it’s hard to find anything at fault.
Simply put, Toki Tori 2 is one of the most refreshing, unique experiences of 2013. Two Tribes has delivered a superbly crafted world to explore, with astounding visuals, charming audio and clever gameplay mechanics. The Wii U has become a prime console for developers to bring indie titles to and Toki Tori 2 is a stellar example of originality and creativity at its finest. Two Tribes deserves a round of applause, as Toki Tori 2 ranks up there amongst Braid, Limbo, and Journey. If you own a Wii U, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick up Toki Tori 2.
Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!