Look at them! Such cute little birds! Chirruping and cheeping all day long, don’t you just want to cuddle them? There’s a whole world of beauty here: croaking frogs blowing bubbles, manic birds hunting for anything to take to their nest, singing bugs, tired hermit crabs just wanting to hide in their rocky shells. The world of Toki Tori 2i s a charming innocent place to frolic. But wait... despite appearances this game is no childish playground, instead it’s filled with intelligent and genuinely devious logic puzzles that will stretch those little grey cells to their limits.
Toki Tori 2+ is a port to PC and Mac of the successful Wii U version released back in April. Containing some extra content as well as a map editor it justifies that trailing plus sign but is essentially the same game. Anyone unaware of the original released on GB Color years ago (and also subsequently ported to PC) or the Wii U sequel will certainly be confused by the bright colour scheme or overly cutesy graphics and the contrasting challenging puzzles. Yet surprisingly the seemingly incongruous nature of the aesthetic and the gameplay work well to soothe the mind when it is frustrated in failing to find a solution.
It is hard to describe any of Toki Tori's puzzles without ruining some of their charm, as a large proportion of the gameplay is simply discovering how all the elements of the world interact. Indeed, the game makes a charming point of this with no tutorial text (or indeed any on screen UI) other than to inform you of the basic controls. At the early stages of the game you use the titular character's two skills, singing and stomping, to manipulate the animals and the environment around you, such as scaring hermit crabs to move their rocky shells so you can climb further. What is impressive is that Toki Tori never evolves any new abilities, instead discovering new animals to interact with and ways to make them serve your bidding.
The fantastic result of this is the world which seems like a linear progression from A to B via a few intricate puzzles is actually a plethora of paths waiting to be unlocked by anyone clever enough to find the entrance. Unlike the singular puzzle rooms of the original, this instead creates some rather genius Metroidvania-esque gameplay, so players can leave any puzzle they are stuck on and attempt something different, preventing frustration or committing that cardinal sin of searching for a walkthrough.
And have no doubt, at some point you will find yourself stuck. The pacing of Toki Tori 2 is superb with each proceeding puzzle (if you follow the obvious path) more challenging than the last resulting in some brain melters towards the end. Furthermore the inherently logical nature of the puzzles means you always feel satisfied when overcoming a challenge rather than just brute forcing it, an issue that hindered fellow indie darling puzzle performer Trine. In fact for comparison's sake it could be argued that the nature of the game is closer to the chess-like challenges of D.R.O.D than Trine or Vessel or any 2D puzzle platformers it otherwise bears resemblance to.
It’s not all cuddly critters and problematic puzzles however; Toki Tori 2 also has a couple of icky issues as well. Possibly the most obvious one is its brevity with the game clocking in at around four to six hours to complete, depending on competence. Though this is perhaps a little unfair, as arguably the game is only half finished when the credits roll. There will still be many avenues left to explore, memory tokens (the game collectable) to pick up and secrets to discover. It does lose some momentum in these later stages with puzzles relying on finickity solutions rather than intelligence. The level editor goes some way to solve this problem, but this relies on the community providing some rich and rewarding challenges.
The story, if it can be called that, seems to have been almost deliberately dismissed by the writers with your fellow chicks rocketed into space for some reason and leaving you to fix the breaking world by, umm, returning magical frogs to their stations? It is completely nonsensical, but at least it does not get in the way of the puzzles.
The port itself seems also to be a little bit rushed with very little in the way of options that PC gamers are used to. Players without a controller are stuck with the default key bindings and there is only a passing acknowledgement to graphics options, though admittedly it is enough for this style of game. The level editor is also hidden away in the tools section of Steam and not specifically linked to the game as if the developers are scared of people using it, which is a surprise since it is easy to use and quite effective.
These flaws should not really bother players as Toki Tori 2+ is a delightful puzzler with intelligent challenges built on a wonderfully logical system. The rules are simple but the results are almost genius in nature. Combine this with the bright and cheerful aesthetics and there is very little not to enjoy about the game. While it may not have a single mechanic that changes the way you feel about the game, such as Braid’s time manipulation or Fez’s 2D/3D dimensionality, it gets the basics of a logical puzzle platformer down perfectly, succeeding on many levels.