It may not be a WiiWare game you’ve paid a great deal of attention to, nestling as it does next to the universally praised LostWinds and big name franchise fare such as Dr. Mario and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. But pay attention to Toki Tori you most certainly should, because it has the potential to be the biggest sleeper hit in WiiWare’s early release schedule.
Actually, ‘sleeper’ isn’t exactly the right word, as Toki Tori has already picked up a healthy wedge of plaudits through its original release on the Game Boy Color in 2001. Don’t go running away in a screaming fit of portophobia though. The tight, immediate action-puzzling you’ll find here is a perfect fit for WiiWare, and this new and improved version of the game is a very satisfying little package of fun indeed.
Blending elements of The Lost Vikings, Dizzy, Lemmings and Troddlers, Toki Tori puts you in control of the titular egg-shaped chicken on a quest to find his still shell-bound siblings. No seriously, come back. It’s great, we promise. You’ll mount this epic rescue attempt across forty 2D platform levels – plus additional, unlockable, extra hard ones – utilising Toki’s full range of physical attributes; namely the ability to walk left and right and fall down holes. Thankfully though, his pioneering levels of ineptitude are augmented by an ever-increasing array of tools with which he can get around.
For a small, naked bird he manages to keep a hell of a lot of hardware hidden about his person, and can make use of everything from bridges and teleports to building blocks and a variety of interesting methods of neutralising enemies. The catch is in the fact that he usually only gets a limited number of pre-allocated items to complete each level, a la Lemmings, and your task is to ration them off tactically for use in the right situations in the right order.
It sounds like a simple concept. Boring even. But Toki Tori’s deceptively accessible puzzles quickly evolve into gloriously infuriating head-scratchers. Between the logical, the spacial and the causal you’ll eventually find yourself having to juggle a huge array of inter-relating elements to achieve success. It’s one of those games that will hear your impassioned screams alternate between “I’m an idiot”, "I’m a genius”, and “This level is broken. It can’t be done” on a constant loop.
The scale of each level is beautifully tuned in order to maximise addiction. The compact, often single-screen stages always give you an overview of the bigger picture, meaning that you’ll never feel over-faced. And the rationing of the items is often designed to give you only marginally less that you need to make the level a walkover and just enough to make it seem impossible, particularly in the later stages.
You’ll always feel like the nailing of the level is tantalisingly close, even when your approach is miles off, and when you do find the right solution you’ll often discover it to be painfully obvious in hindsight. Hard puzzles that pretend to be easy, easy puzzles that pretend to be hard, and the whole lot wrapped up in the kind of classic, simple to grasp 16-bit style platforming that made the SNES and Amiga days such a joy.
It’s a concentrated formula for “Just one more go” syndrome. Throw in a cleverly implemented 'wild card' system which allows you to skip a level if you're stuck but makes you return to complete it if you want to skip another one, and you've essentially got a videogame crack house run by a smiling cartoon chicken. For 900 Wii points - about £6:50 - it doesn't get much better than that.
Negatives? Not too many. The motion-controlled point and click interface is rather too fiddly and imprecise to be of much use, but given the presence of a more traditional – and much more comfortable - Nunchuk option, that really isn’t a problem. Other than that any issues you might have will just come from the peripheral stuff. Depending on your gaming heritage you'll either love the soundtrack or switch it straight off and pretend you never came into contact with its horrors, and your appreciation of Toki Tori's visual presentation may also depend on your tolerance for old school 2D gaming.
But aside from those considerations - and they really are mostly just matters of personal aesthetic taste - Toki Tori does what it does as well as you could ask it to. Fun, clever, friendly and rewarding, it will stimulate the old noggin without ever feeling like hard work. And that's exactly what puzzle games should do.