Toki Tori

Spooky castle is blueHere’s a game that Steam has been pushing relentlessly, including it in various bundles and promotions. It’s priced at $5, but it keeps on being put on sale at 75% off and the like. I guess the main reason is that this is a year-old remake of a ten-year-old game. It’s an extremely slick remake, though. Slick and cute.

So, what we have here is a puzzle-platformer, with puzzles driven by limited use of tools, Lemmings-style. (Not that the game resembles Lemmings in any other respect.) Tools include simple things like the ability to create bridges and blocks, and also exotic mechanics like “ghost traps” that create a hole in a brick floor when a ghost passes over it. Between the ghost trap and the freeze gun, which turns monsters into blocks that you can stand on, monsters in this game are often less enemies than opportunities to alter the level. There are complicated puzzles based around getting monsters to go where they’ll be useful.

The goal on every level is to collect a number of eggs lodged in inconvenient places. As soon as you have done so, the level ends. The nice thing about this sort of goal is that the ordering of the sub-goals can be an emergent property of the level design. For example, sometimes there’s a particular egg that has to be collected last because it’s in a place that you can only leave by using up tools needed elsewhere. I’m reminded of the general “kill all the monsters” goal in DROD, which had a similar effect on gameplay. In fact, I’d call the puzzle content here overall very DRODdish in feel, even though the mechanics are completely different. At the more advanced levels, this is a game about what the DROD community calls “lynchpins”: realizations about what sort of interactions are possible.

One thing worthy of special note is the “rewind” feature, which I assume wasn’t present in the original version from 2001. You can take your actions back continuously, kind of like in Braid, except that it’s not part of the puzzle content here; it’s just a convenience for the solver, and a pretty useful one for this kind of puzzle-solving. I remember that when Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time came out there was a review that said that the ability to rewind your mistakes was such a staggeringly obvious improvement that every game from now on was going to have to have that feature in order to be taken seriously. Well, not a lot of games took that to heart, but Toki Tori is one of them. Also of note is the way that rewinding distorts the screen in imitation of rewinding a VHS tape. Now, the graphical style of this game suggests it’s aimed at children. Is the sight of a videotape rewinding something that children understand these days? Has it entered the lexicon of things obsolete but iconic, like the scratch of a phonograph needle?


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