Toki Tori is a cute little chick that hatched just in time to see his siblings, all still in their eggs, get kidnapped. Without thinking twice, this valiant newborn waddles after the perpetrators to bring his unhatched family back home to their chicken coop. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because Toki Tori is not just a puzzle platformer, but also a remake of the Game Boy Color game of the same name from 2001, which itself is the successor of Eggbert, a game that came out for the MSX 2 back in the olden days in 1994. However, unlike its predecessors, this latest version has quite a vivid porting history to it. It originally came out for Windows Mobile in 2003, was brought over to WiiWare as well as iTunes in 2009, then to Valve’s Steam service in 2010, came out for Android, Linux, Mac in 2011, and was finally brought to the Wii U in 2013.
About the Game
One of the major reasons why this many ports exist, is that the idea of the game is simple, yet compelling. In each stage there are several eggs that Toki Tori has to collect without dying or getting stuck. Different types of enemies – like porcupines or slugs – will be on the lookout for the little guy, but his wit and gradually growing arsenal of tools should help the chick to always stay one step ahead of them. What’s more, the upbeat music, appropriate sound effects, alongside the endearing graphic design help create an overall uplifting atmosphere. But don’t let the cute design fool you, Toki Tori’s greatest asset is also its biggest downside: The puzzles are notoriously difficult.
This game is one that will demand a lot of patience from the player, as one has to think long, hard, as well as outside the box in order to progress. There is often only one correct solution out of a predicament and it is possible to get stuck in a way that makes stages unsolvable, forcing players to reach for the “level reset” button more often than anyone would care to admit. What’s more, every item – like the ice ray, ghost trap, or vacuum – has a finite number of uses per screen and in areas like the Slimy Sewer – 12, the tiny chicken also has to hurry to the goal, which can be frustrating, depending on one’s control scheme.
With that said, if you’re not used to puzzles, this game might be a bit too hard, but if you’re into brainiac-like games that really force you to use your noodle, you’ve come to the right spot. The controls are kept simple, Toki Tori only moves in four cardinal directions, everything on how to solve puzzles is explained to the player, and the levels are all kept very short, meaning that the punishment for screwing up is low and the incentive to try again high. This way, the game encourages players to experiment and see what works. Even when the mechanics are clear, no puzzle will feel half-hearted and too easy to solve.
The PC version
If you so happen to play the PC version, like I did,you may or may not have noticed that the game runs well on both newer as well as older machines, like my toaster (a 32-bit Windows Vista PC with an Intel Core 2 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce 9500 GT graphics card, 3070 MB RAM and DirectX 11). What’s more, Toki Tori allows players to freely switch back and forth between their keyboard, their gamepad, their mouse, or a combination of the three. Way more games should be optimized like that. The mouse is especially useful as it functions as a sort of cruise control and Toki Tori will simply follow the cursor anywhere on the screen (ideal when he has to climb up stairs and go around corners quickly). When using items, the area around the mouse cursor also shows a faint grid, which allows for the precise placements.
Aside from the different control schemes, the PC version also adds the ability to rewind time, something that players couldn’t do in previous iterations and that simplifies the game to some extent and encourages the player even more to try once again, if things went badly. This new mechanic, however, led to the misconception that this Dutch game might have a Japanese title, meaning “time chicken”, even though that is just a phonetic coincidence. (cf. Martijn, Remember Toki Tori GBC, in Two Tribes (2012, Aug. 2nd), URL: http://twotribes.com/message/remember-toki-tori-gbc/ , retrieved 2017, Jan. 6th) The confusion arises since Toki Tori sounds like the Japanese “トッキー・トリー” [toki・tori], two actual words that can also be written in kanji as 時・鳥. Moreover, those two kanji refer to an actual bird, known in English as the “lesser cuckoo”. However, unbeknownst to many Japanese learners, when these two graphemes are combined like this (時鳥), they usually aren’t pronounced “toki tori” but are read out as “ホトトギス” [hototogisu], but I digress.
If players are still stuck at a stage, despite the rewind and reset options, they can activate the “Wildcard” item from the menu, which will let them skip the level. Since this isn’t ideal, however, the game does encourage one to go visit tokitori.com for tips and help, yet sadly, at time of writing, this page has been put out of service and is unreachable*. Nevertheless, the Steam Community Hub, GameFAQs, and YouTube are filled with walkthroughs and helpful tips for this game.
According to Steam user mtomato, the Toki Tori page mostly held links to Two Tribe’s YouTube channel (cf. Toki Tori – Help, in Toki Tori (2012, Jul. 26th), Web Archive: Toki Tori – Help, retrieved 2017, Apr. 5th). From 2013 until being taken down, it redirected to twotribes.com where even today, one can find a link to the official video walkthrough on YouTube (cf. Toki Tori: All Solutions, in Two Tribes (2010, Aug. 25th), Two Tribes: Messages – Toki Tori – All Solutions, retrieved 2017, Apr. 5th)
Also on the homepage one can find help for level creation.
Sadly, the links to the example levels no longer work, but are still available from some engaged users.
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Aside from the controls, the PC port also has some nice additions, like the Test Lab world, where little Toki Tori ends up in the Aperture Science laboratory, as well as a level editor, which works great under Windows, but not so much under Linux.
Toki Tori is definitely a game for hardcore puzzle platforming enthusiasts and less for the casual puzzler. It even comes with different player profiles, in case siblings or significant others want to share a game. The game is very well made and the cutesy art style and uplifting music tie things together nicely. The ability to freely switch between controllers and rewind time are also great additions to this version.
As with all remakes, however, one minor complaint I have is that the original isn’t included. Even though many people might not care for it, being able to contrast the new with the old (like they did with the Monkey Island games) is always nice and lets us see how far the game has come and how much technology has evolved since. Nevertheless, I understand that this might not have been possible as the Game Boy Color original from 2001 was published by Capcom.
Toki Tori has a total playtime of around 11-15 hours and is available for $9.99 USD or your local equivalent on Steam and the Nintendo eShop.
Toki Tori gets an 8 how-do-I-solve-this out of 10 oh-that-was-actually-easy
Thank you for reading my article and thanks also to the Two Tribes Team for sending me promotional images to use for my title card in this review. If you like, please do feel free to leave a comment. There’s no need to register or login. Also, all screenshots shown here were taken by me during my playthrough. You can also follow my reviews on Steam: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/gaoscorner#curation Have a nice day.