The idiom of “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is clichéd and old as time but it remains as apt as ever, particularly in this case. I went into Toki Tori 2+ figuring it to be a light puzzle-platformer with an obscenely cute little bird; what I got was a deviously designed open world game in which you can totally go off the beaten path… assuming you even know you can do that to begin with.
The beauty of Toki Tori 2+ is that our fine feathered friend can do all of two things. He can whistle, which is used to call other animals to you and, as you later discover, to belt out a few game altering tunes, and he can stomp, which can often send things careening off in the opposite direction. Obviously you can move around and hop over short ledges, but the gist of the game comes from using this somewhat simple move set to the fullest by manipulating your environment.
At first the game is as I assumed it would be: a pretty straightforward puzzle-platformer that will gently guide you from scenario to scenario, showing you the ropes but without holding your hand too much. The pieces are laid out in front of you – your job is to work out how to put them together. There are moments where this can be frustrating, such as when you don’t pick up on cues or don’t realize you can do something. But usually this is just a failure in your powers of observation, as the game is very slick at building you up to certain challenges. However, whether you figure things out immediately or after throwing everything at the wall in the hope that something will stick, the sense of satisfaction is immense and will immediately wipe out any ire you might have had.
Much like the actual game design itself, your goals are rather fluid – meaning there are plenty of things to do, but not all of them are readily apparent. Your main objective is to save the world from an all-encompassing evil, but there are collectables that will lengthen the experience and raise the difficulty in that familiar, Nintendo-like way. There are also hidden tunes that, once discovered, give you some sweet bonuses such as the ability to take photographs of other animals to fill a bestiary, or the option – which is exclusive to the new Switch version – of creating an instant checkpoint. Whether you’re trying to re-do areas or want a nice place to stop and save if you have to quit, the checkpoint song is a welcome addition.
The beauty of Toki Tori 2+ comes from the realization that there’s more to the game than meets the eye. At first blush it feels, and perhaps intentionally so, like a straightforward, level-based affair. But doubling back through areas reveals objects that may have passed you by on your first attempt but that you later learn can be manipulated to reveal new routes. That “a-ha!” moment is a thrilling one; it makes you feel accomplished in that your ability to read the world has improved. There are no special power-ups to find that will get you over the next obstacle or open the next door – the trick is that you were able to move that object the entire time, you just didn’t realize you could do it until now.
The presentation still doesn’t do anything for me; the cutesy visuals feel a bit vanilla and the soundtrack is forgettable. But what it lacks in first impressions, it definitely makes up for in ingenuity, creativity and solidness. If you take anything away from this review, I hope it’s that you can overlook your instinct to avoid Toki Tori 2+ because it looks like it’s for the younger set and give it the chance it deserves. You’ll find a challenging and rewarding experience that transcends its cutesy trappings and will change your expectations of a genre.
Toki Tori 2+ is available for Steam, PS4, Wii U and Switch. We reviewed the Switch version (head this way to see the new additions to the Switch version, including the checkpoint song).
Disclosure statement: Review code for Toki Tori 2+ was provided by Two Tribes. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.