There’s no denying that a popular trend in recent years has been to have a little rummage through the dusty old archives and bring back games that we often think back on with rose-tinted glasses. Whether it be a collection of faithfully restored classics, or, a full on remake, these can be great reminders of why we fell in love with gaming in the first place. Sometimes, however, they can serve to show just how much progress has been made in the intervening years, and why not everything was better back in the day.
Toki unfortunately falls more on the side of the latter example. Originally released in arcades in 1989, Toki is a side on platformer in which you must traverse the levels while avoiding various hazards and enemies – as you may expect. Story-wise it’s a pretty simple affair. The nefarious Bashtar has kidnapped your girlfriend Miho and transformed you into an ape. It’s up to you to hunt him down and save the day. Each level has some brief text about what to expect, but that’s really it – though to be fair that’s more than most arcade games would get.
Let’s start with the positives – the updated visuals and soundtrack are pretty nice. The hefty, expressive way your character walks across the level is great without being overly animated. Comparing to videos of the original game, everything has been brought to life in a vibrant way, far exceeding the dull browns and greys that were present back then. Once bland backgrounds have been filled with detail, and enemy designs are faithfully recreated while still looking brilliant. The audio too is a massive step up, with a catchy modern take on the old chip-tune soundtrack.
There’s nothing here that is brand new as far as I can tell, but if you remember this game from your youth, chances are you’ll be pleased with how well these aspects of the game have been brought into the modern day. However, it’s all a little downhill from there. The gameplay feels… well, like an old arcade game. While I praised the actual animation, character movement is slow and unrefined. Enemies and hazards are at every turn and you’ll likely rinse through your first set of 4 lives before the end of the first level.
Concessions are made in that you no longer need to insert extra money to continue – you now can have 9 continues to use for free! – but no attempt appears to have been made to balance the gameplay outside of offering a few difficulty options. You attack by spitting out some sort of energy ball – obviously – but can only aim in 8 directions, rather than have full analogue control. While firing you also come to a halt (ahh, the good old days) so unless you have lined up right, chances are an enemy, especially any flying ones, will just evade your attacks and hit you, with no easy way for you to defend yourself. As our hero can only withstand one hit, things get frustrating when you die yet again.
It’s not always clear what you can and can’t touch either. One early example saw my way blocked by a giant rotating golden… thing… being ridden by two enemy monkeys. Hitting one was straight forward, but the other I couldn’t seem to hit. Moving forward, I was able to move behind part of the contraption to attack – until somewhat randomly I couldn’t and it killed me. There was nothing visually to indicate what part of it was safe or not, and it became yet another hangover of trial and error to grab more cash.
This way of thinking is around every corner. Whether it’s getting killed from a enemy spawning literally under your feet, or, your character not being nimble enough to dodge something you can see coming a mile off, but can do nothing about, when the arcade atmosphere is removed and you’re sitting a home playing, it’s just not fun. Regular checkpoints remove some of the controller smashing frustration, but should you run out of lives and need to use a continue, you’ll be sent back to the start of the level.
Of course, if you remember the original, you may find some enjoyment from revisiting it, and may even relish the fact that it’s just as you remember, difficult design choice and all. But things have moved on, and for the better. There are more 2D arcade platformers out there than you could ever need, many of which are excellent, so unless you are hankering for this specific nostalgia kick, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
I’m a big fan of playing old games, remembering how things were, and appreciating where we’ve come from. Sometimes though, it’s best to leave things in the past, and Toki is a prime example of that. Whilst the updated visuals and audio work will please those that hold fond memories of this classic, everything else just fails to impress, and if anything, only demonstrates exactly why we’ve moved on from such tedious functionalities.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.