Simple Simian Shenanigans
Retro remakes are all the rage these days. And why shouldn’t they be? They provide an opportunity to bring classic games back into the limelight whilst also offering a semi-new experience for those that enjoyed their original releases. More often than not, when a retro remake gets announced, I find myself responding with either a lack of surprise in the game getting a remake or a blatant shock that it took as long as it did to happen. But every once in a blue moon, I am taken by surprise by the title in question and, with Toki, I couldn’t possibly have been more shocked.
Toki was originally released as an arcade game in 1989 and then later on the Sega Genesis as Toki: Going Ape Spit. The story goes that the evil wizard Vookimedlo kidnaps the beautiful maiden, Miho, and transforms our hero, Toki, into an ape. As a bizarre side effect to this transformation, Toki gains the ability to, literally, spit hot fireballs from his mouth. Now the envy of every rapper in the kingdom, Toki sets out with his newfound ability to rescue Miho from the dastardly villain and hopefully be restored to his original human form.
Toki plays like a combination of a “hop-‘n-bop” and “walk-‘n-gun” platformer. As a timer counts down at the bottom of the screen, the player is tasked with traversing across six stages of varying themes. Whereas a lot of modern day platformers are fast-paced affairs to give your reflexes a workout, Toki takes a different approach by being more of a slow and steady experience. With no run button to be found, players are made to be extremely careful to avoid oncoming enemies and hazards – some of which move faster than Toki himself can. And, true to its arcade roots, there is no health bar in this game so one hit kills are the order of the day. What this translates to is a rather pure arcade platformer experience that places an emphasis on difficulty.
Even The Flora Wants You Dead
Fortunately, the deck isn’t completely stacked against our simian friend. Sometimes positioned in precarious locations or acquired by killing certain enemies, a variety of spit fireball modifications can be acquired. These range from an extra-large lava loogie to the very powerful flaming charged saliva shot. On the defensive end of the spectrum, there is a football helmet which protects Toki’s head from attacks and a pair of sneakers that make him faster and capable of jumping higher. Unfortunately, however, these power-ups are timed so they usually tend to run out just when you feel as though you would need them the most such as to collect an out of reach 1-Up or to tackle the end-of-level boss.
While I never personally felt that the original Toki was anything to write home about visually, I can say that this new version is absolutely gorgeous in execution. Every enemy is very well animated and even their death animations are peppered with a sense of personal style and care. Between the vibrant backgrounds, large and detailed characters, and environmental animation effects, it felt like I was playing something out of a long forgotten cartoon. Unfortunately, there is one negative side effect to these graphics and that is the fact that it makes for the occasional off-screen enemy assault. Toki can’t harm enemies that are off the screen but on occasion, a speedy tiger shark or a winged spear-wielding sky baboon (yes, that does exist in this game!) will swoop in from off screen and land an unfortunate killing blow. This is hardly what I would call a game breaker, especially given the source material, but I would say that it is something to be mindful of going into the game.
Winged, Wretched and Cheap Foes
The difficulty that has been described above may sound scary but the developers have designed this game in a way that is should be possible for players of all skill levels to make it through the adventure with a little practice. During my playthrough on Medium difficulty, I was given nine continues with each continue yielding four lives and I was able to complete the adventure with three continues to spare. I would wager that Easy would be even more generous on the lives and continues. However, for those wanting to extend the experience beyond shooting for setting a high score on the offline leaderboards, there are also “Hard” and “Hardest” difficulties lying in wait for the particularly brash player. And even if a player is incapable to complete the game on one set of continues, lessons learned on the first run will likely carry over to the next.
Eyes On The Primate Prize
With only six stages and no unlockable content to be found, the player’s time with Toki will only be about as long as it takes them to tire of the main campaign run. But the question lies in whether or not that experience proves valuable to them. For this reviewer, I can say that Toki took what I remember as being an uninteresting game sitting on the wall at Toys R Us and turned it into a visually splendid challenging romp that harkened back to my days plopping coins into a cabinet at Time Out. Though a short-lived experience, I felt that it was a quality one. For fans of the original Toki looking to see how their old friend holds up in the present day, they have nothing to worry about. Those that passed him over in the past, as I did, may also come away pleasantly surprised as well by the end of their time with this game. Toki doesn’t disappoint.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: Microids; Developer: Golgoth Studio; Players: 1; Released: December 4th, 2018; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $29.99 (Digital), $49.99 Physical
Full disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.