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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Microïds
Release Date: June 6, 2019

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Toki'

by Joseph Doyle on Oct. 4, 2019 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Toki is a remake of the classic arcade/platforming game that was originally released in 1989.

Buy Toki

Remakes have been hitting the market with fervor. We see one of the touchstones of video games, Final Fantasy VII, hitting the shelves with a complete remake next year, and 2017 through 2019 gave us Ratchet and Clank, Resident Evil 2, Shadow of the Colossus, and the Spyro and Crash Bandicoot trilogies, among others. Microids follows suit with its own release of Toki, a game that was released in the late '80s on a host of different systems, including the Commodore 64, Sega Genesis and Nintendo Entertainment System. Remaking games inherently presents quite the challenge; the options are to adhere to the original tone and feel of the game, or update it for modern audiences, taking artistic license in lieu of the original spirit. Microids decided on the former, at somewhat of a cost. While overwhelmingly true to the look and feel of the original game, this new version of Toki is lost in the past, creating a slow and repetitive experience, especially for those unacquainted with the original.

In Toki, Miho is just standing around and minding her own business when out of nowhere, the evil doctor Vookimedlo takes her hostage. When your character Toki comes to save her, the doctor turns you into a monkey and leaves with her. From here, you're sent through the gauntlet of six platforming levels, where you blast enemies to bits with your — and I kid you not due to the name of one of the original ports — Ape Spit (pun intended). What this entails is you controlling a surprisingly slow ape that shoots what looks like power pellets in eight directions at a bevy of enemies. The title shows its age with foes like birds, dinosaurs, dragons, fish, flying jellyfish, monkeys, spiders, turtles and more that'll pepper you with projectiles, storm you, and create new enemies and obstacles, among other challenges and heavy-hitting bosses. The host of different enemies is wacky but adds nice variety to the gameplay, making the player strategize depending on the enemies in each area.

However, the sands of time have piled upon Toki in rather unpleasant ways for the player. As I've mentioned, Toki's movement speed is incredibly slow and thus incredibly frustrating. The ape saunters from stage to stage, which doesn't make sense from a gameplay perspective since you should dodge and jump when necessary without thinking about lagging and cooldown times, but it is problematic thematically because he's trying to save someone from the grips of an evil villain!

Likewise, the platforming bring back players to the days of the tricky hitboxes, ranging in this game from when you'll get hit by an enemy projectile to if you'll actually land on a moving platform. There's even a point in one level where you're supposed to climb down and jump onto a moving platform, showcasing the worst of both of these mechanics. The combination of slow, unnatural movement and inconsistent hitboxes makes Toki much more infuriating to play than it should be. You can see how this remake is steeped in the norms of the past, where games were padded with incredibly difficult and, at times, cheap measures to pad the game for people who paid good money for the experience. That philosophy of game development, however, doesn't translate well into the modern age. While these two aspects were par for the course in their day and adhere to the original in ways that people appreciate in remakes, the strict adherence to these design choices takes away from the fun in the game.

The lion's share of love put into this Toki remake is seen through the art and visuals, especially in the enemy animations. The walk cycle of your character, like the gameplay, is static and clunky, but the enemies roll in with a different kind of movement and animation. Because they're not controlled by the player, they're much more fluid in their walk animations, and they feature well-executed death animations. While some spin out of control off the screen, others break into little pieces, melt away, or wilt and fizzle out of existence. It's incredibly satisfying and cathartic to see the defeated enemy writhe a little bit.

Everything else is updated in a vague cartoony sort of way, looking less like a full-fledged remake and more like an updated reskin that could have (and apparently, should have) been released roughly a decade ago, with Newgrounds games like Binding of Isaac and Castle Crashers coming into their own with similar, yet less polished visuals. Those games, however, made up for the visuals with crisp gameplay and charm, neither of which Toki delivers. These choices make the game look and feel even more dated, despite the work that one can easily see went into it.

The music, similarly, has been done up quite nicely from the original. Described as "re-orchestrated" from the listing on the PlayStation Store, these pieces have been brought back to life featuring heavily changed instrumentation, including synthesizers emulating the original chiptune melodies, drums pounding out driving rhythms, and violins and woodwinds spouting tunes that are sleek or stressful. While these reimaginings of the original soundtrack do a lot to update and redefine the music, they feel somewhat repetitive. The originals to these tracks came out years ago, when space on a cartridge was limited, music included. With the adherence to these pieces also comes the repetition, especially in the more challenging modes. It also feels out of place in the beginning of the game — Why are jazzy clarinets playing while my screen is inundated with fish monsters? — and while this pans out in the back half of the game, it feels a little overdone at times. Overall, the music is reimagined incredibly well but suffers from the woes of this adherence due to the constraints of the time.

After all is said and done, Toki is a labor of love taken on by Microids to refresh and rebrand a game that's been largely forgotten. We can see the effort expended in keeping the original intact, keeping the same types of enemies and levels, and even controls, while going to some lengths to update the visuals. However, the art style ends up looking a little amateur, and the overall controls, feel and gameplay end up seeming clunky. Sure, the redone music sounds good, and the cartoony aesthetic is snappy, but the bones of the game don't translate well in today's game market. Perhaps if this game had come out within a couple of years of its first announcement, the art issues wouldn't be so problematic, but as it stands today, Toki is a master class in a bygone era of video games rather than a fun time.

Score: 4.5/10

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