When I first started Toki Tori 2, I was absolutely, thoroughly confused. You see, the game just… started. Like, okay, there were the developer credits, but then all of a sudden, I’m this pudgy yellow bird, and I have full control. So I fiddle with the controls a little. Okay, so A is stomping on the ground, but I don’t know what use that is. Maybe it’s an attack. B causes my bird to whistle. That’s… great, I guess? None of the other buttons do anything. Most importantly and jarringly, for a platformer, I mean, I can’t find the jump button. Uh oh.
So I just walk to the right. Just… walk. Five minutes of experimenting all by myself, and all of a sudden I get it. Toki Tori 2’s genius lies in its simplicity. Its appeal, in the deceptive complexity underlying all that simplicity.
Mechanically, there isn’t a whole lot to explain. The three actions I listed above: walk, whistle, stomp- they are literally the only ways you can directly interact with the world. But each of them has a range of consequences, consequences that you need to exploit to progress through the challenges the environment and the world throw at you. There’s a ledge you need to get on to, but you can’t jump, and so it’s beyond your reach. This means that you need the help of the surrounding wildlife, you need to set conditions up just perfectly that you’ll get from here to there.
Essentially, whistling works to attract attention. When you whistle, things turn towards you and move towards you. When you stomp on the ground, they either move away in fright, or just tumble away because of the stomp. Keeping that in mind, you need to work with the environment. Take that ledge puzzle up there I just mentioned. It sounds simple enough, but how you solve it will differ greatly based on your immediate environment. If there’s a frog there, then almost certainly there will be a little bug the frog eats nearby. You have to find this bug, cause it to fall from its perch (usually on an outropping or ceiling) by stomping, lead it to the frog by singing or stomping, let the frog eat it. What happens when the frog eats it? It ejects a bubble that envelops you and carries you to the ledge above.
Or there could be a bird above, a protective bird that carries everything it sees to its empty nest (a nest that is presumably on the ledge right out of your reach. You have to catch its eye by singing, and you have to make sure you aren’t hidden by any sort of grass. Once the bird sees you, it’ll grab you and take you to the ledge.
Or there could be a hermit crab near by. If you whistle, it moves towards you. If you stomp, it moves away from you. You make the hermit crab move close to you, clamber on to it, fall to the other side, whistle again so it moves back towards the ledge, clamber on to it, and then onto the ledge that is now within your reach.
Toki Tori 2 uses a variety of these sorts of puzzles in most situations, challenging you to think, and making you exploit your environment so that it works for you, as opposed to against you. The best part? It never explains any of the mechanics I listed above to you. Not a single time. Unlike modern games that force you to sit through painfully long, increasingly banal tutorials, Toki Tori 2 throws you into the mix, challenging you to observe everything around you, notice patterns, and then to work with them.
It’s a wonderfully refreshing game. As platformers work, it’s like nothing else on the market. Unlike other games in its genre which get increasingly fast, frantic and frenetic, Toki Tori 2 invites you to stop, observe everything at your own pace, and then to do it at your own pace. It’s more of a puzzle game than anything else. And it looks beautiful, and sounds elegantly simple too.
Toki Tori 2 hits the Wii U eShop later this month. Watch out for our coverage for the game, including a full review, around then.