It’s not uncommon for classic titles to receive high definition updates, but we would imagine that even the most ardent Toki fans would not have expected this game to be one of them. Toki was originally released in arcades the late eighties, but despite NES and Sega Genesis ports the game never gained as big a following as some other titles of the era. It was a unique little game with the protagonist, Toki, actually being a mighty warrior who was turned into a chimpanzee by an evil sorcerer who kidnapped his sweetheart, Miho. Being a large, slow simian doesn’t deter Toki from setting out on a rescue mission, though, and what follows is a run and gun platformer.
This remake of Toki was announced as far back as 2009, but it took a further ten years for the game to become more than vaporware. It must have been quite a long wait for Toki fans, but the results are worth it as the developers clearly treated the project as a labor of love. Not only does this remaster feature re-orchestrated music, but all the visuals have also been completely redrawn by hand. This means that Toki looks and sounds as good as some of the best platformers currently available, but don’t be fooled as underneath all the gloss it still has the cold, dark heart of a money-sucking arcade machine.
The fact that Toki doesn’t compromise on the difficulty is something that is going to deter a lot of casual players who were drawn in by the beautiful artwork and music. Although Toki features three difficulty settings, it retains all the tricks that arcades used back in the day to keep players pumping in quarters. These include giving the player limited lives, ensuring that Toki dies from just one hit by anything dangerous, and not allowing any saves. The latter is not too bad as Toki only has six levels, but the one-hit deaths will cause some consternation for players who are not willing to put in the effort to learn each level inside out. The game does appear to be a lot more generous with its checkpoints than what we remember from the original, but if you lose all your lives and continue it’s back to the start of the level for you. It does require some trial and error to get through certain parts of the levels, but the “Easy” mode which grants you nine lives and nine continues offers a good way to familiarize yourself with everything. Bumping up the difficulty decreases your lives and continues while also making enemies hardier, so you’ll need to know your stuff before attempting “Hard” mode. The game is not impossible, though, but judging how few players actually managed to complete it even on “Easy” it is more challenging than what many expected. There are a few spots with cheap deaths that can be frustrating, but players who put in the effort to get good will reap the rewards.
The gameplay in Tok is as straightforward as you can get as this remaster doesn’t try to tack on any unnecessary elements. Instead, it plays exactly as it did in the arcade, which means you move from left to right while dodging enemies and traps. Enemies can be disposed of by either spitting at them or jumping on their heads, Mario style. Toki can only spit straight ahead, upwards or diagonally, so you’ll need to be accurate, especially when facing the bosses. Many enemies also shoot projectiles and their attack patterns can be unpredictable, so you need to be on your toes at all times. The platforming is rather easy, so most of the challenge in the game stems from the enemies that you face. Although one hit from anything can kill Toki, you can find power-ups, such as a football helmet to protect your head, sneakers to jump higher, and a variety of different fire modes for the spit attack. Be sure to grab all the coins and extra lives in sight too as you’ll need all of them.
It appears that no effort was spared to make Toki look as good as possible from a visual standpoint. The hand-drawn visuals were done by Philippe Dessoly, who also worked on the Amiga version of the game back in the nineties. He is undoubtedly very talented and all the sprites, as well as backgrounds in Toki, look phenomenal. The levels are the same as the original, so you’ll still be traversing places like Neptune Lake, the Cave of Fire, the Ice Palace, and the Jungle of Darkness, but each is now packed with more detail than ever before. The sprites in the original Toki were already much larger than what was commonly seen in other games of the genre, which makes them look even better in this remake. Although your foes are pretty standard spiders, bats, fish, apes, and other critters, they all look amazing. The zombie simians in particular are some of our favorite enemies in the game due to their brilliant design and animations. Toki also features some underwater sections that look great in high definition. Finally, the bosses look amazing and we looked forward to each encounter with them just to see their updated designs. With so much hard work put into the visuals, it’s a pity that the gallery only features a handful of sketches as this is the type of game that deserves a full-on artbook. The game does come with a digital comic, though, which looks great and explains more about the backstory. The inclusion of five retro filters to alter the visuals is a nice touch, but sadly the original arcade game is not featured in this remake.
The music in Toki has been re-orchestrated and features the tunes of Raphaël Gesqua. He has an impressive resume, which includes work on Flashback, Mr. Nutz, Shaq-Fu, Fade to Black, MotoRacer, and many other titles. The new soundtrack is great, but the game can also be played with the music from the arcade original if you want to wallow in nostalgia for a bit. The sound effects are crisp and clear, but unfortunately, the game does not allow players to adjust the volume of either sound or music. There is, however, a jukebox option that allows players to listen to all 32 music tracks in the game, include the 8 from the original version, straight from the main menu. Seeing as Toki is a platformer it is most comfortable to play with an analog gamepad. Having to rapidly tap the fire button to attack, especially during boss battles, can be exhausting but rapid-fire would have made the game too easy.
Toki is a great game, but we do not doubt that the difficulty level is going to catch a lot of players unprepared. It’s also a very short game and can be completed in no time once you know what you are doing. The inclusion of a speedrun mode as well as a handful of Steam achievements does extend the longevity somewhat. We would have liked to see more extras included to celebrate the history of the game, but unfortunately, there’s only a digital comic and a handful of sketches to peruse. Still, the game is a lot of fun if you are up for the challenge and a great example of how great classic games can look with a fresh coat of pixels.
- OS: Windows 7/8/10
- Processor: 2 Ghz
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: 512 MB
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 500 MB available space
- OS: Mac OS X 10.13
- Processor: 1,4 Ghz
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: Intel HD 5000
- Storage: 500 MB available space