Why Toki made platform fans go ape

Strictly monkey business for Amiga Power's 1991 review

Toki Hero

Toki was one of the more inventive platformers on the Amiga (and there were a few). With graphics that impressed at the time thanks to its parallax backgrounds, huge end-of-level baddies and a punshing difficulty level, Toki proved that Mario wasn't the only side scroller worthy of your attention in the early 90s. Here is the original review from Amiga Power in 1991.

Why is it that arcade machines such as Mitchell's Pang and Taito's Bubble Bobble, Rainbows Islands, Plotting and The New Zealand Story didn't become popular until they are converted to the home machines? It'd be understandable if they were dogs. But no – not only were they well-crafted and extremely playable, even top game designers find them an invaluable source of inspiration.

  • Publisher: Ocean
  • Price: £25.39 (around $37)
  • Authors: Michel Janiki, Philippe & Lionel Dessoly (graphics
  • Pierre Eric Loriaux (music & sound FX)
  • Release: Out now

Maybe these corky coin-operated releases simply aren't suitable fodder for arcade-goers who demand short, sharp thrills to get them hooked. Oh, I don't know. And I don't really care, just so long as they keep 'em coming.

Toki is another one of those run 'n' jump romps, there's no denying that. What makes it stand out from the rest of the whoop is the fact that it's such a well-rounded piece, with all its learning curves in the right places and some neat features to boot. It's real pretty too, not to mention smooth.

No expense has been spared with the colour, and combined with the layer of parallax for the background a a healthy arcade feel is created. (Having said that, all this is more testimony to Ocean France's conversion skills than the quality of the Tad Corporation's coin-operated original).

Toki

And so to the plot, which doesn't offer anything new, that's for sure. A boy, Toki, meets a girl, Miho, and they call in love. Aah. Enter the evil wizard Bashtar. Now, Bashtar has the hots for Miho. Oooh. His big blue magic hand picks up Toki's missus and steals her away, along with Toki's manhood.

No, it's not what you're thinking – before Bashtar does a runner he knocks Toki down to the lower rungs of the evolutionary ladder by turning him into an ape. Booo. But this chimp's no chump. He's still man enough to retrieve his true love (and his original form for that matter) and give Bashtar the bashing he deserves. Why, it's almost a scrolling Donkey Kong in reverse.

Believe it or not, being an ape does have its advantages. Toki has new-found versatility and a range of facial expressions which exceeds that of most actors. He walks. He jumps (and can be manoeuvred while he's in the air). He crouches. He climbs. He swims. He swings. He instinctively ducks to allow him to crawl through narrow gaps. He curls up into a ball and covers his head when he gets clobbered.

And, best of all, he spits glowing balls in eight different directions (and he even gets a grobbly together before he gobs), which comes in handy for removing the wildlife from his world. Toki's pucker power can be boosted too, though this is more convenient than essential.

The more intelligent animals do their stuff when Toki triggers invisible 'switches in the scenery. Toki has two methods of disposing of inhabitants of his world. He can either jump on them until they drop of he can shoot them down with his spit, which his slightly less powerful but often more convenient. For each hit with spit Toki is awarded 50 points. The Hit Points relate to the number of standard shots it takes to remove the creature from the scene. Note that jumping on creatures with a single Hit point yields a better score.

The ape's remarkable repertoire, along with the aforementioned arcade feel and the lush parallax-scrolling scenery (the underwater section especially – oh, and the dark forest's snowy stuff, and the waterfall), are just three of the Tasty Tidbits in my Toki Top Ten. The other seven are as follows …

  • Time limit permitting, you can scroll around the environment to your heart's content. This also proves useful when it comes to disposing of creatures or avoiding their projectiles
  • Restart positions are plastered all over the shop, so whenToki loses a life, play is always resumed near the point of death (well, unless it was his last life and the CONTINUE option is used, in which case he goes all the way back to the beginning of the level).
  • Sound and music are used to good effect. There's a different tune for every stage (including the map screen) but not at the expense of sound effects.
  • Choosing between one or the other just isn't necessary as every worthwhile event has an associated noise and the music suits the pace, which is … pleasant, I suppose. Leisurely sounds too dull, and it's not that.
  • The creatures all have character – especially the Bosses. Being able to gain extra height by jumping on the little buggers is also neat (and occasionally useful for collecting items which are otherwise out of reach).
  • The scenery is a little more interactive than usual, with walking up and down diagonal platforms and – best of all – the business with the seesaws and the 16-ton weights.
  • There's always just enough warning to allow disaster to be avoided. Some sections seem far too hard, but once a technique is sussed, it can be done again and again…well, almost. It's never so straightforward that you can stroll through a whole level.
  • The ending is…No, I shan't tell you what happens, but suffice to say that it's (sigh) nice.

Short stuff

So if Toki's so mighty fine, how come it hasn't got a higher rating? It is difficult to put down – in every sense. The problem is that the six levels are small but near-perfectly formed. What's there is so good, there should be more of it.

However, the biggest gripe I have about Toki has nothing to do with the gameplay, on the face of it anyway, and it hasn't actually affected the rating, though maybe it should. You see, it's the packaging – in particular the manual, a tiny, uninspired, two-colour booklet, two thirds of which isn't even in English. For £25.99 I expect a complete package. It's not just Toki. Too often software is treated like meat.

It's terribly disappointing to open a box to be greeted with an expanse of white and a plastic bag containing a disk and a small manual. Why can't the care and attention lavished on the program itself extend to the packaging? Yes, a glossy full-colour manual would obviously be less cost effective for the publisher, but so much more could have been done with a two-colour affair.

Still, at least if the mood takes you, you can always take the box lid and rub its edge against a matt surface to recreate a sound not entirely dissimilar to the grunting of an angry gorilla. How very appropriate.

We have seen worrying inconsistencies between versions too – some boxed copies have been so pugged as to be unplayable, while others seem fine.

  • Rating: 87%
  • Uppers – Has all the gloss and playability you'd expect to find in a genuine arcade machine\
  • Downers – It's disappointing but true: what's there is smashing but there's just not enough of it
  • The bottom line – An excellent – you could even say stunning – coin-op conversion, although the lack of size and depth (it doesn't have as much to it as, say, Rainbow Islands) keeps it from the top rung.

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