May 16, 2013
In Toki Tori, your task was to use your limited number of tools to gather up the eggs scattered throughout each level. In Toki Tori 2, Two Tribes decided it would be best to omit this gameplay mechanic in favour of using two skills that can manipulate the critters and subsequently the environment. There is no jumping as most of the little jumps are automated, there are no wall jumps, or dashing, or most of the typical ways you would platform in a sidescroller. Instead you are given the ability to whistle and stomp, and how they're used varies depending on the level, but they're both essentially used to manipulate the creatures in order to solve puzzles in the environment.
One of the first things you will influence is a crab with a platform as its shell. Chirping brings it closer to you and stomping pushes it away. Another is to lure a pink creature into the mouth of a frog. By doing so, the frog will burp a bubble that allows you to travel up to higher planes. Both mechanics sound rather simple on paper, but the game makes intelligent use of these puzzles throughout its very large and metroidvania-styled maps.
Another interesting mechanic that's new to the series is something called the Tokidex, and fans of the Pokemon will most likely understand what this mechanic entails. Throughout the game you will encounter a variety of critters and creatures. The Tokidex is a way for you to record their data. To do this you will need Toki Tori to whistle a specific song that brings up a camera controlled by the Wii U gamepad. The player is rewarded for taking pictures of every creature found in the game.
The simplicity of Toki Tori 2's core gameplay was important for Two Tribes, as they never wanted a game where it artificially locks the player from progressing due to items they may not have obtained. Instead, what you do unlock is knowledge about the world and its inner workings, in hopes that players can utilize this knowledge to progress. This was a way to encourage revisiting levels to find alternate paths; paths that were always existent in the levels but are now more evident.
Levels are all connected through an overworld, and it also has branching paths for the more experienced and inquisitive player to discover. There are no tutorials, no text bubbles or hints helping you beat the game; Two Tribes want a purely organic style of play that engages the player to experiment for themselves. There is ultimately the choice of taking the path of least resistance, or by going off the beaten path to take on the more advanced level puzzles. This is a wonderful treat to have a game where developers aren't holding your hand through oodles of tutorials or “crouch to remove the jam off your screen” texts that flash for players. Instead, this small Dutch team wanted to give players full control of how they experience Toki Tori 2.
Visually, while it may not be a benchmark title, as an indie game Toki Tori 2's aesthetic is quite beautiful and charming. The map designs are thoughtfully created, and the levels themselves are lush, colourful and incredibly crisp. Two Tribes have been working on the Wii U architecture and have managed to uncover a hardware feature that allowed them to shave 100MB of texture memory usage in Toki Tori 2. Basically this means they spend less time loading and they also have more memory available when the game is running.
This discovery is surely important for getting a better understanding off the Wii U's curious architecture. It seems the Wii U may have more than meets the eye, and I'm excited to see if there are any more tricks developers can utilize for performance improvement.
Toki Tori 2 is a wonderful indie title and it's been a joy to play. It's simple and yet has considerable depth to the game's level design. Letting the player experiment for themselves also rewards them with the option of discovering alternate routes, and all without the use of tutorials or textual hints. The levels are richly detailed, vibrantly coloured and very polished making Toki Tori 2 one of the most visually impressive eShop titles for the Wii U.
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