Rusty Sabre

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The Quest: Cursed Chess Set for iPhone
Toki Tori by Chillingo
I tend to approach games that have been hyped up with extreme caution. In the case of a game like Toki Tori, I'll even consider going into it with the attitude that I'm not going to like it. After all, if it's everything that it's supposed to be, then it shouldn't take long before I like it anyway, right? As it turns out, Toki Tori deserves every bit of the hype that it has received. Some people might be turned off by the cartoonish appearance, but underneath the colorful exterior beats a fun, challenging puzzle game that will keep you wanting more.

You are Toki Tori, and in true Saturday morning entertainment fashion, you must rescue a bunch of eggs with little webbed feet sticking out of them (oh, those devilishly cute unhatched baby chicks!) To do this you will navigate four worlds, from a lush forest to the depths of the sewers. Each world has 10 stages that must be conquered to reach the next world, and 10 more "hard" stages that can be played later on, for a total of 80 mind thumping puzzles. As you progress through the game you will be introduced to the various tools that Toki Tori will use on its quest to rescue the chicks. Some tools will persist throughout the game, while others are specific to the particular world you're in. Even the tools that persist throughout the different worlds will take on the look of the particular world you're in (for example, the bridge tool, while serving the same functionality, looks different in the forest and castle worlds).

The great thing about Toki Tori is the level design often requires you to think outside the box. There are frequently several paths that will get you part way through a stage, but only one right way to truly complete it. Even though you can zoom out to get a fuller picture of the stage, there are times where it will take you several play through attempts to discover the true path through the stage. Thankfully it never feels like a burden when you have to do that in Toki Tori. Toki Tori is also one of the few puzzle games I've played to date where the level design is consistently good. I don't think I've run across a level yet that I didn't actually enjoy. The variety of tools is pretty nifty, and there's even a wild card that lets you bypass a particularly tough stage. You only get one wild card, but if you go back and beat the level that you used your wild card on, you'll get the wild card back to use on another level. My only real complaint is that there seems to be just one creature type per level. A little more variety in that department would have been nice.

The mechanics in Toki Tori are pretty straightforward. To move Toki, just click on the area you want it to move to. You can click directly on Toki to get it to turn and face the opposite direction without moving. To use a tool, you simply click on its icon in the tool menu. The game will be kind enough to tell you if the tool can't be used where you're standing, though it's not nice enough to tell you that it shouldn't be used in a wrong location! You can navigate around the map in normal mode by using two fingers to "drag" the screen around, and you can also zoom out with a pinch motion. Both techniques are quite useful, but sometimes motions not issued correctly can trigger movement in Toki Tori instead of map manipulation. While the pinch / drag movements are nice, it would also have been nice to have a secondary option to have those functions on screen somewhere.

The graphics are absolutely wonderful. There is definitely a "cuteness" factor to the visuals, but there's also a nice level of detail. And, as mentioned previously, the artists went through the trouble of rendering different images for the same items when they appear in different levels. For example, the eggs are in simple crates in the forest world, whereas in the castle world they are in cages wrapped with locked chains. By far the coolest visuals belong to the star of the show, Toki Tori. Besides being fluidly animated while walking through the level, there are plenty of "in place" animations to amuse you while you're thinking. Toki might pull out a pair of binoculars to look around or whip out a map to study the surroundings. My personal favorite, however, is when Toki decides to start juggling eggs. A classic animation given the premise if I ever saw one!

The sound effects are decent, but really end up getting overshadowed by the music. That's okay, though. The music in Toki Tori is incredible, and really compliments the stunning visuals. Each world has its own theme, and while there doesn't seem to be much to a given tune before it loops, the music never gets repetitive. Sometimes I even like to just sit and listen to the music while I'm doing something on my computer (like writing this review).

After playing through over half the basic levels and a couple of the hard levels, I can say that any puzzle game enthusiast would be remiss not to add this to their iPhone collection. Even if you're not really into puzzle games, this would be a great place to start. The audio and visual elements are some of the best I've come across on an iDevice, the puzzles are challenging but certainly not frustrating, and Toki Tori is just so cool looking. The only real down side is that there's not really any replay value once you've solved the levels, so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that the developers come out with some new ones in the future. Regardless, with 80 levels already at your disposal, it's a win-win situation no matter what.

Overall Score: 9/10

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