Toki’s story is a pretty brief one and is shown at the very beginning. It all starts with our protagonist’s girlfriend just watching the birds, when suddenly, she’s kidnapped by a large floating hand. Enter our hero, who comes to her aid after hearing her screams, only to end up being transformed from a human… into a dirty ape.
Without hesitation, our newly transformed simian chases after the sorcerer to rescue his girlfriend. He then finds out that he can now shoot strange balls out of his mouth… Okay, that’s an unfortunate side effect! But for this hero, it’s a useful one!
What we have here is a remake of the 1989 shoot-em-up platformer, also called Toki, which originally appeared as an arcade game. This remake has a fresh coat of paint, thanks to its beautiful hand-drawn art style that is prevalent throughout this adventure – it’s one of the main highlights of this remade classic.
While the graphics have had an overhaul, the gameplay remains intact, so much so that it’s practically identical to its retro self, which is good. The bad thing is; it keeps what made the game great in the first place but doesn’t change it enough to make the experience feel fresh.
While I’ve never played the arcade version, I did watch the whole play-through of the arcade original on YouTube. The game, the enemy placement, and the platforming are identical, but with a shiny, new appearance which looks fantastic on a big screen or in handheld mode. This remake is very close to the original and I think that people who have played it before will like the new look. But is it enough? Let’s find out.
Gameplay in Toki is all about platforming and shooting. Believe me, you’ll be doing a lot of shooting, to the point where my thumb was aching. There’s no auto shoot here sadly. After my thumb dropped off from repetitive strain injury, I started to enjoy the difficulty of this little shooter/platformer. The game has you moving through 6 chapters with a boss battle at the end. After defeating the boss, you move on to the next level and the process repeats.
In the beginning…
After the brief intro, you’re brought to a sparse main menu. There’s not a lot going on here, no bells or whistles. You only have a few options: play game, and your choice of 4 difficulty settings, which are: easy, medium, hard, and hardest. That’s pretty much it. Hardly a spectacular offering. I understand they wanted to keep the game in line with the original but it’s a pretty lacklustre offering.
I would have liked to see some concept art, a survival mode… something to warrant the £29.99 price tag. But there’s nothing here to get excited over. There’s also the insanely expensive £40-price tag for the physical edition… yes it comes with a pretty cool arcade cabinet, but its price blows me away on how expensive it is. Considering there are games out there – like Warframe – which cost you nothing to play, it’s a hard sell from the very beginning. Unless you are a diehard fan of Toki, then the price tag for this title may be a tough pill to swallow.
The art of monkey business!
Once you’ve picked your difficultly setting, you’re taken to the map screen, which moves automatically to each new area after completion. Score, stage, lives, and credits are visible here, as well as a brief description of the story.
Once you’ve pressed A, you will begin the game. Straight from get-go, you will notice how lovely and well-crafted the visual style is in Toki. Every enemy is animated with so much personality, it’s just lovely to see it all in motion. Little details like the enemies wearing scarves in cold levels is charming. Every movement of the main character is so wonderfully created – the animation is top-notch. It’s definitely the highlight of the whole package.
Levels also have multiple backgrounds – parallax scrolling that brings Toki’s world to life. If you’ve ever played the original, you are going to be in for a visual treat. While some may dismiss the visuals, the nostalgic fans of the game will see Toki as a wonderful recreation of this retro hero.
Toki is all about good aiming, platforming, and memorising enemy locations to maximise your score. After watching the original, playing the remake shocked me as to how everything was on point and the same. I also was a little disappointed they didn’t change things up a bit for a new audience.
Change can be a good thing and I think it would have been a good way to go with Toki. As some of the old mechanics, like dying in one hit, are really annoying and may frustrate newcomers to the game. It’s great to relive old classics but there’s just not enough new here apart from the new paint job to get you excited.
However, the game’s fun, run-and-gun gameplay can be very challenging and can test even the toughest gamer’s patience. Remembering enemy placement and how to reach all the trophies to earn extra points is the order of day here. And while it can be enjoyable, and platforming is okay, it feels a little too safe for my liking. No new mechanics are added, and it can become a little boring after multiple playthroughs.
Enemies come thick and fast in Toki. We have your typical flying threats, zombie monkeys dragging themselves out from the ground, enemies that throw projectiles, and enemies with unpredictable attack and movement patterns, which can all make most gamers’ hearts jump out of their chest! Especially with one-hit deaths.
Traversing levels on your first playthrough will be a surprise as there’s no way you are going to know where and when things will appear, unless, of course, you’ve played the original or it’s your second run through the game. On my first playthrough, I managed to get right to the fifth chapter before losing all my lives and credits.
There are 6 levels in Toki which isn’t too bad as levels are pretty long and each has an end level guardian to fight. The game, while challenging, is addictive, and after I got defeated, I picked myself up and tried again. This time, having knowledge of enemy placement and doing a lot better for it.
One side effect of being turned into an ape, apparently, is the ability to shoot bullets out of your mouth, and it’s your main attack. Our hero can jump on enemies’ heads Mario-style or shoot them either in front, diagonally, straight up, or while crouched. You can also fire while clinging to vines as well.
You can move with the left analogue stick, fire shots off with the A button, and jump with the B button. It’s a pretty standard control set up and it works fine. However, while using the analogue stick, I experienced that my character would sometimes face the wrong way while fighting a boss. It didn’t happen all the time, but it did cause a few deaths which was annoying.
Not only can you shoot bullets, but you can acquire special bullet types that are scattered around each of the 6 levels. These can give you a spread shot, double shot, make your bullets bigger, or you can even acquire a flamethrower which is quite useful. Some of these power ups are just out of reach, so you may have to use your head bouncing ability to reach the power-ups that a normal jump wouldn’t be able to reach. Most of these power-ups are timed or have limited use.
The big, bad, ugly!
One of the other highlights are the boss battles which, again, look drastically improved when compared to the original Toki in arcades.
You can come across some tough fights that require pattern memorization and quick reactions to defeat. Some of my favourites were the woolly mammoth on the snow peaks that can throw his own tusk at you and a huge brain monster that burps huge letters out of his mouth while trying to kick and punch you. Their life bars can be pretty big and trying to avoid their attacks without getting hit can be tricky.
The music in the game is rather charming and is actually composed by award-winning musician Raphaël Gesqua, who has fully re-orchestrated the soundtrack for Toki. He has apparently also done a lot of work with other games too which is pretty impressive! I do like the music as it fits the game well.
Visuals & Performance
Toki has had its entire art style redrawn by hand by a very famous illustrator called Philippe Dessoly who has created a lot of well-known manga and he also worked on an Amiga version of Toki back in the day! As I’ve said before, the visuals look stunning in Toki and is definitely my favourite thing in the whole package.
Performance has been great too. No issues to talk about or discuss here, apart from the control hiccup I mentioned earlier. Toki also supports cloud saves, pro controller, screenshots, and video capture.
My biggest problem with Toki is it just played everything too safe. There is no innovation here. It’s a remake and that’s it, which is a shame as the game is fun but can get boring after multiple attempts. I very rarely play games again with different difficultly – it’s just more of the same but harder and this is already a hard game.
My other issue is the price tag. £29.99 is a lot for a game that can be completed in an hour – maybe a little longer if you enjoy playing on different difficulties. Other than that, you can maybe try and beat your score but there’s nothing to return to once that’s completed.
The physical edition is priced at £40 and that’s shocking to me! The special edition comes with bonus art and a really awesome arcade cabinet that you can put together and pop the Switch screen in to play. It’s really cool but not worth £40 of anyone’s money. I think the game should be about £10.99 max and the physical edition at £19.99 perhaps.
While the game is fun, I just can’t recommend it at the price point it is being sold at as I just think it’s too expensive for what’s on offer.
Beautiful art style and animation
Run and gun platforming shooter
Physical edition comes with an arcade cabinet
Way too expensive
Only 6 levels
No extra content