Review: Toki Tori 2 on the Wii U is a satisfying puzzle adventure despite its imperfections

When developer Two Tribes released Toki Tori on WiiWare back in 2008, it was one of the finest puzzle adventures on the platform. The game was well received due to its interesting mechanics, fun items, and charming style. Now Two Tribes is back with Toki Tori 2, a sequel that dynamically shifts the series into a largely different direction. The end result is a puzzler for the Wii U that's not exactly as entertaining as its predecessor, but still totally worth playing due to its high level of challenge and refreshing open-ended design.

Right from the get-go, Toki Tori 2 tosses you into its world and requires you to fend for yourself. There's no tutorial, and you're never told what to do to progress in any given situation. All you're taught is that the A button on the Wii U GamePad is used to whistle and the B button is used to perform a ground pound. Once you have that knowledge, it's time to set foot in the vast world of Toki Tori 2. This minimalist design choice on the part of Two Tribes is certainly bold, and for many players it may be a bit scary and confusing at first, but it's a design choice that creates actual feelings of wonder for the player.

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Unlike the titular Toki Tori's previous adventure, this romp doesn't feature power-ups or items. The aforementioned whistle and stomp mechanics are the sole abilities used to progress. That said, they're used in a myriad of intricate ways and in numerous types of situations, so you're often solving puzzles with entirely different strategies. This speaks volumes about the developer's creativity and ability to do so much with so little. It's possible that you'll miss the use of items, especially if you thoroughly enjoyed the last game, but even then, there's a lot to be said about Toki Tori 2's profound ability to use simple mechanics in progressively complex ways.

Manipulating your environment is a main component of the gameplay in Toki Tori 2. One common example is a crab character that finds refuge in large block rocks. Oftentimes this character can be used as a platform, and whistling draws him closer while performing a ground pound makes him move away. If you spot a ledge that's too high for Toki Tori to reach, you can utilize your skills to move the crab dude around and use him as a platform to reach the previously unreachable ledge. Of course, this is just a simple example. Later in the game you can use the crab's block platform shell to help move objects around to other areas, a task that's often trickier than it sounds.

There are instances where the world around Toki Tori changes drastically, tasking you with thinking up different ways to continue on your quest. For example, if you enter a gloomy area with creepy masks that thrive in the darkness, it's up to you to figure out how to shed light on the level to temporarily knock the masks out. Sometimes it's as simple as doing a ground pound and setting off some little light creatures. Other times you need to transport said light creatures using the aid of a frog buddy that can blow bubbles strong enough to carry other characters. Still, you need to ensure that your frog pal doesn't eat the light creature, making a point to feed the amphibian a non-essential critter first.

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Unfortunately, if you're not a fan of trial-and-error gameplay, chances are you'll find yourself a bit frustrated several times during your Toki Tori 2 playthrough. Many situations (like the one with the frog) are a bit tough to wrap your head around at first, and with absolutely no real tutorial or guide to push you in the right direction, chances are you'll feel a bit lost more than a handful of times. Thankfully, any frustration you do feel is rewarded with an immense sense of satisfaction once you finally figure out what to do to move on to the next area.

Another source of confusion arises as a result of the world in Toki Tori 2. The areas in the game are actually smaller parts of an interconnected world. This is a really cool idea that comes with its own set of problems. For starters, because the game doesn't explain anything at first, it's hard to tell how you actually travel through the world when you first check out the map. Additionally, you're going to have to do quite a bit of backtracking if you want to visit areas that you couldn't open in previous sections of the map. In a way, this is kind of cool and encourages exploration, but not everyone will be fond of this mechanic, and some players will be discouraged from revisiting past areas.

As far as Wii U-specific features are concerned, this version of Toki Tori 2 offers off-TV play. The game is due out on Steam in the future, but because the GamePad's on-screen play is actually really cool and functional, I'd recommend playing this iteration now rather than waiting for the PC version. Additionally, once you obtain camera mode, you can use the GamePad to snap pictures of different creatures and landmarks, which are added to an in-game photo album. There's also a planned level editor that will be patched into the game at a later time, and while it's disheartening that you can't create and share levels just yet, at least we know this mode is on the way. Hopefully it will put the GamePad to good use to allow for simple creation mechanics.

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Toki Tori 2 is quite a lovely game to look at. Levels are rich with color, making you want to press on to see what else there is to witness in the lush land that this romp is set in. Characters are also pretty interesting to stare it, mainly because they have this comical wide-eyed look to them. Animations are neat, too, and I couldn't help but get a slight Donkey Kong Country vibe from the way the characters move around the screen.

The musical presentation of Toki Tori 2 is also good. Themes range from appropriately cheery to delightfully quirky. Some songs are better than others, but the overall collection of music is fun to listen to. Toki Tori's whistles are great, too, and hearing the little guy chirp away as I pressed the A button never got old. That may just be because I'm a big fan of feathered animals, though.

It's taken Toki Tori 2 a bit of time to get here, but Two Tribes delivered on its promise of creating a unique puzzler that's worth playing. This game goes in several different directions, and it's really unlike any other puzzler out there due to its engrossing mystique and deceptive depth. Some players will be put off by these things, but those who can accept Toki Tori 2 despite its few missteps will find a puzzle game that inspires the sense of getting lost so that you can find your way through and ultimately get an unbridled sense of fulfillment.

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