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Toki (NES) artwork

Toki (NES) review


"Toki is an ape. He even walks like one, and it's an endearing trait. I was pretty impressed by the genuine monkey gait he gets into, especially when he's going down a slight grade, and you see his little legs adjust and buckle as they work down the incline. It's a really cool sight, and it had me smiling. Speaking of smiling, Toki smiles a wide, gap-toothed grin after clearing a level, which looks a little bit like this: =B "



A friend of mine made me play this. It's because he loves this game, but I wonder if nostalgia has more to do with that fact than anything else. Not to doubt his skill at picking out great games (especially of the side-scrolling jump and shoot platform class, of which Toki is a definite member) to suggest others play - this is, after all, the same guy who implored me to play Rocket Knight Adventures, and I can say with confidence that that experiment turned out exceptionally well.

Regrettably, this one, however, did not.

This doesn't mean that Toki isn't a worthwhile distraction - it is, but it's not much else. It's a good way to spend a few hours on the first day you get it, and that's about it. Remember Commander Keen? The early shareware versions of the boy hero for your PC decked out in T-shirt and football helmet? That's what Toki is like, only on your NES. Interestingly enough, Toki can wear a helmet too. But even more interesting is the fact that apes don't play football.

And Toki is an ape. He even walks like one, and it's an endearing trait. I was pretty impressed by the genuine monkey gait he gets into, especially when he's going down a slight grade, and you see his little legs adjust and buckle as they work down the incline. It's a really cool sight, and it had me smiling. Speaking of smiling, Toki smiles a wide, gap-toothed grin after clearing a level, which looks a little bit like this: =B

This bears mentioning, because the smile will melt even your crappiest mood - it's that funny looking. Toki's head is big, and he has a hunchback and long sweeping arms, as you might expect. He can kill enemies by jumping on them, as you might expect. What you might not have expected is gobs and gobs of spit figuring into the equation.

Yup, our hero is a spitter. He spits balls of red something - I can't be sure what it's composed of - and this is his number one way of killing enemies. No, I'm not kidding. Toki can even find power ups to turn his gobs of spit into larger, more powerful ones, than the normal thin stream. Other power ups turn his spit into flame, like Dhalsim from Street Fighter II ( I think I mention that game in every review), and others allow him to spit a sort of bolo pattern of undulating aspect. Running shoes are available to allow the bloody ape to reach greater heights than he's normally capable of, and the aforementioned helmet provides invincibility. All of these abilities have a fleeting life span, so use them hard and well when you get them.

I wasn't really interested much in the story of Toki, and you probably won't be either, but it's worth noting that Toki was actually a proud young man, and through some horrible misfortune, has been turned into the ape you now control. Also, as per usual, his girlfriend has been stolen away from him, and success on this singular mission means becoming a beautiful buffed stud again, and having your ho back in your arms. No really, she's a ho! Her name is MIHO! As in ''hey, dat is me ho,'' which is just what an apeman sort of guy might say.

There are six levels for Toki to get through before he can have MIHO back on his lap, without the bothersome fur there to chafe her delicate skin. There are lava and ice worlds to name a few, and those worlds are pretty much par for the course in a platformer. Any platformer worth its salt has to have its slippery world, and its hot-ouch-that's-fire world as well, and both these stages, as well as the others (like the underwater swimming one and the difficult final palace) are done reasonably well in Toki. The music is often billed as a standout feature; I found it to be very upbeat and memorable, and that's a good thing. It reminded me of Alex Kidd in Miracle World, with its mascot anthem-like midi strains bleeping away while our hero covers scores of enemies in delightful phlegm.

And the enemies are strange, even before you break their compositions down with your corrosive salival assaults. One common foe resembles a head of lettuce, and another, a charging gray gargoyle thing, reminds me of those fast moving demons from the latter stages of Ghouls and Ghosts. They're definitely a strange menagerie, and the bosses are the real standouts among them. One boss monster actually burps out the word ''burp,'' one letter at a time. The game is quite 'way out' and clever that way, and the strangeness along with the engaging tunes and pretty skies makes Toki likeable in its way.

Despite this, I was a bit concerned with the level of the game's challenge. It's not that Toki is a cakewalk... well, alright it is. The levels aren't so easy when you're actually playing, but the nature of the start back points, and the good number of lives and credits, allow you to amble ape-like through Toki on your first or second play. The only reason that you mightn't, is that the last level is suddenly, shockingly challenging. It involves you riding mine carts suspending high in the ether, making difficult jumps from one cart to another. Difficult, because the game brings into play some strange physics, ostensibly to demonstrate that the momentum of riding a fast-moving cart will cause your jumps to go much further than you'd think. This causes you to overshoot badly until you figure it out.

What's worse, is that the last boss is a departure from the earlier ones; levels 1-5 featured end guardians who could be pounded into submission with continuous, unrelenting spitting (if you have a Turbo gamepad, you'll have a far easier time with this thumb-bruising contest), and without dodging of any sort on your part. Not so with the last guy. He requires some Ninja Gaiden-esque skills - you've got to jump to avoid his floating hands and head and the plumes of fire his projectiles shoot up, often at precisely the place you need to land after jumping his head or hands.

All in all, Toki has quite a bit more going for it than against it. The disposable nature is due more to the start back points than the continues, so sadly, restricting your credit use as a handicap won't help make things more challenging. This brings the mark down quite a bit, and suggests that Toki would seem to be an ideal 'rental' in its day. But of course, NES games are mostly dirt cheap now on Ebay or anywhere else, so by all means, pick this up for peanuts and spend a fun-filled afternoon with an ape.

Rating: 6/10

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Staff review by Marc Golding (January 07, 2004)

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