Toki Tori 2 is a much different experience than its predecessor. Gone are the strict "levels" and tools that the previous game relied upon to create new platforms and pathways. In their place are two abilities that will allow the Toki Tori bird to accomplish the same general tasks, but in a brand new (and more challenging) way.
The world in Toki Tori 2 is connected by portals and archways, leading from one environment to another, and Toki Tori can navigate the many platforms and pathways within these areas by either stomping or whistling to manipulate creatures that inhabit each area. Stomping may cause critters to fall from the ceiling, for instance, while whistling will attract the attention of creatures, which may physically move to be closer to Toki Tori or will simply face in its direction.
In this way, Toki Tori itself is fairly helpless, and if you can't determine the correct pattern of whistles and stomps, you'll quickly find yourself stuck below a platform that's too high to reach or otherwise behind a dead end. Unfortunately, Two Tribes has stripped almost everything resembling a tutorial from the game. After you've learned how to whistle and stomp, you're left quite literally to your own devices, with no helping hand to free you from what's likely to be a few challenging and even frustrating hours with the game.
Certain puzzles are incredibly simple to complete, as you're given every creature or item you need to succeed on the screen at the same time and can therefore more easily visualize what needs to be done. Once you make some real progress in the experience, however, you'll need to travel all around before figuring out how to connect the proper creatures or items (like a critter that's eaten by a frog, causing the frog to swell and provide you with a bubble that will raise you to a higher platform). It would be great to see a hint system provided for these all-too-common confusing instances - perhaps a hint system that tracked how long you had been stuck in an area and provided an optional hint, but instead, you're left to figure everything out on your own.
These sorts of challenging experiences definitely have their positive elements, as there's a true feeling of satisfaction that comes when you finally crack a difficult puzzle. However, this same challenge greatly limits the amount of enjoyment a younger or even more impatient player can have with the game. It's not hard to let those feelings of confusion and helplessness overtake the entire experience, simply because there's so little in the way of help from the developer to push you forward.
On the positive side of things, Toki Tori 2 is a beautiful game, filled with dark but glowing caves and bright outdoor landscapes full of grass and trees. The game's critters are colorful and fun to look at and interact with, and the constant whistling by the birds in each area is lovely to listen to. These great details, though, can easily be lost on someone that just wants to figure out how to pass a puzzle or unlock a pathway that may or may not actually be a pathway, and it's the game's difficulty that ultimately eliminates the possibility for a more widespread audience for the game.
At $15, Toki Tori 2 is a challenging but satisfying experience for those puzzle-loving gamers that know exactly what they're getting into. However, the game definitely isn't for everyone, as it's too overly demanding with too little in the way of help from the developer to feel truly friendly for beginners.
Have you tried Toki Tori 2 on Nintendo Wii U? How do you think the game stacks up against its predecessor? Sound off in the comments!