Hands On: Toki Tori 2+
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Toki Tori 2 was a bold, ambitious game in its design, and delivered on many fronts. Its deliberately hands-off approach, combined with occasionally ambiguous objectives and awkward backtracking counted against it in the eyes of some — certainly not all — gamers. In our review we awarded 7/10, concluding that a high degree of quality was let down, in our view at least, by a punishing structure and story design.
Toki Tori 2 takes the Two Tribes mascot in a bold, ambitious new direction, and represents a unique offering on the Wii U eShop. At its best it's a visually appealing, intuitive experience that truly teaches you to use powers of deduction and to think creatively. The offset of the hands-off approach to narrative is that the lack of guidance can be daunting and, at times, detrimental — it's simply too easy to miss a subtle clue and wander aimlessly with no suggestion of what you need to achieve. Like its toughest puzzles, the pieces eventually fall into place and bring satisfaction, but the move towards self-dependence, exploration and back-tracking doesn't always suit the puzzle-on-every-screen mechanic. As such this is a beautiful but flawed experience, worth an investment even if — occasionally — pride has to be swallowed and an online guide sought out.
Developer Two Tribes, it must be said, is very open to feedback and criticism. The studio sought gamer feedback on Miiverse and from those, including us, that had reviewed the game and expressed reservations about its design. As such the release on PC was Toki Tori 2+, which is now available as a substantial free update on Wii U for those that own the game, while new purchases will receive the updated version as standard; there's also a one week 40% discount in North America and Europe. If you want detail from the developer itself on what this update entails, which gives an idea of why it's merited a re-branding effort, check out our interview with Two Tribes.
Our policy here at Nintendo Life is that we review a day one release, and aside from an occasional note or status update that original review and score remain unchanged — that is still the case here. Such is the degree of change in this update and its attempts to directly address some of our most notable issues with the original release, however, we thought it'd be worth sharing a hands-on impression to outline our thoughts on whether these adjustments improve the experience in any notable ways. For the full outline, by all means hit up our review once these impressions are in mind.
We've been playing through this new build for the past week or so, and it's apparent that what are — on the surface — minor changes have made important differences to the overall design. Let's be clear, this is still a title that challenges you to figure things out for yourself and engage your brain matter. It's still hands off, giving you little instruction beyond the fact you can stomp and whistle to influence the behaviours of various animals throughout the environment.
This is still a major strength in many cases, where larger areas — all part of one sizable world — often knit together seamlessly with clever, challenging puzzles; frustrating puzzles are very rare, with just the occasional example a little too reliant on precise timing, or perhaps we didn't find the perfect solution. As you progress the mind-benders become seriously taxing, forcing you to figure out multiple moves and combinations; this can make for exceptionally satisfying moments of triumph.
While the aforementioned hands-off approach was always commendable, we felt it had gone too far in the original build, leading to confusion over objectives, where to go and leading to tiresome backtracking that necessitated completing time-consuming puzzles multiple times. With this new build Two Tribes should be praised for its changes, as it resolves those problems. You're still left to yourself, having to make mental notes and pay attention to your environments, but the visual cues and new tools for assistance revamp the experience from occasionally baffling and off-putting, to simply challenging.
The changes are so delightfully simple, too. One is with the world map, which now displays more clearly where you've been and, indirectly, where you probably need to go. Most useful is the location song — you whistle songs for various purposes — which acts as a GPS. If you're not sure whether you're going in the right direction in a stage it's a quick, valuable tool to confirm either way. It's often the case that you want to find a way to open up a certain path, so checking that you're looking in the right place in a relevant stage is a surprisingly important feature that was previously lacking.
With this being a title reliant on you figuring out where to go yourself — there are no "go here dummy" arrows to be found — Two Tribes has vastly improved, again with subtlety, the other visual cues on offer. All stages have additional landmarks and graphical flourishes, and these become hugely important when you get story-specific visions, as you have a better chance of remembering where to go to hunt out an important secret. After a fairly linear opening the main world map also gives you a visual cue to tell you where a key objective can be found. Finding your way to it is still up to you with little help, but it's pleasing to at least know you're looking in the right area of the world. We cannot emphasize enough how much these cues improve story progression, as in the original build we lost hours aimlessly collecting gold pieces when, it transpires, that wasn't the main task at hand — that's less likely to happen to players stepping in now.
Beyond these vital visual cues, there's clearly been work done to improve and balance puzzles further. Some areas certainly felt fresh and less cumbersome this time around than in the original version, with some puzzles feeling more instinctive without being dumbed down. Beyond that, we've saved the best change for last, as there are now Mole Tunnels that appear once you've completed a puzzle-heavy area. A flaw in the original was the necessity to sometimes backtrack and explore but to have to take on the same time-consuming and tricky puzzles multiple times. These shortcuts vastly accelerate exploration, as you can skip areas with challenges that can normally take upwards of 30 minutes to navigate. You still have to beat every puzzle to progress, but now you only need to beat them once.
What this update successfully does is alleviate and resolve our main complaints, making that + in the title more than appropriate. It's still a very deliberate, demanding game that insists on your focus to make progress, but now gives those eager to take on the adventure more of a fighting chance.
Newcomers will still need to concentrate and learn as they go, but the title always did this fairly well; this new version does, however, strip away the excessive vagueness that baffled multiple gamers before, leaving in its place a beautiful, challenging puzzle experience with a large, engaging world. What we can say is that Toki Tori 2+ is an improved, more finely-tuned game than Toki Tori 2. If you've been on the fence and hesitant up to now, it's worth serious consideration, while those that already own the game should give it another whirl in its new form.