There's a fine art to a great puzzler, and Toki Tori, from developers Two Tribes and Polarbit, doesn't quite have it down.
It's not hard to see why the game conquered the iOS market - starring a cuddly chicken on a quest to rescue her eggs, Toki Tori is bright, colourful, easy to pick up, and comes with a hefty chunk of content.
It's just that a number of annoying design decisions and a general lack of character mean Toki Tori lacks the spark that would really set it apart.Have you put on weight?
Each broadly grid-based level is a maze dotted with the stolen eggs that you have to recover before progressing to the next level.
The levels range from tiny little training courses to sprawling multi-screen affairs.
Toki Tori herself is a bit out of shape, though. If you tap anywhere she waddles over to that location, as long as it's not out of reach.
But she can't fly. She can only descend slowly, and she can't hop up more than a tiny ledge or cross any gap a square or more across.
If you walk her into slime, lava, or a roaming monster, say, she snuffs it.
Thankfully the developers have seen fit to give her a set of tools to dodge these hazards.
You can lay bridges over the gaps, square by square, teleport to jump past walls or through floors, and use specific weapons on the nasties to get rid of or box them in to name a few.
They're typically introduced in a very easy level with the freedom to play around, but the proper levels limit them to a few uses.
Each map has a fairly strict solution, which is one of the reasons Toki Tori never quite becomes an addiction instead of a time-waster.Stick with it. Or not
The basic system of play is easy enough to understand, and the developers go out of their way not to put anyone off.
Though Toki Tori progresses in real time, there's no penalty for stopping to think, and you can rewind your mistakes. But persevere and several things start to grate.
Zooming in and out is set to just the two levels (very close or too far away) which makes the facility clunky to use - all the more so given that you need to do it for most of the levels as you can't see enough of them at once.Document your solution
The game also never really feels like it's giving you the opportunity to mess around.
Obviously, many puzzlers work on the principle that every level only has one set solution, but the great ones find effective ways to hide this.
The way Toki Tori clearly moves square by square and how there's only really one place to use each piece of the toolset seem unnecessarily harsh.
The option to rewind does soften the blow somewhat, but the lack of control over when you can resume playing can lead to some needless backtracking after you’ve worked out what needs to be done.
The visuals don't distract from this much, either. They're very professional, but you're still cast as a fat yellow blob wandering the same kind of cartoon landscapes you've seen many times before.But who wants safe?
Toki Tori's a solid piece of entertainment, but unless you're an obsessive fan of the genre it's hard to get too excited about it.
Next to something like the cheery Qbism from Blowfish Studios or Curved Cat's brilliant Tales of Pocoro, Toki Tori feels annoyingly restrictive and too blandly workmanlike to really stand the test of time.
If you must have another puzzler to fill your morning commute it's a relatively safe bet, but solving each level just doesn't carry the thrill it ought to when the setting and design are this underwhelming.