Update: The initial release of Toki Tori 2 has since been replaced by an expanded, retooled version called Toki Tori 2+ - the following is our review of the original. You can read our thoughts on the update - complete with a revised score - on the next page.
Writing anything about Toki Tori 2 seems counterproductive considering the game's own aversion to words. Only two words appear during its runtime - those on the title screen - and even they are interwoven into a playable level. Rather than spell out the game's aims, Two Tribes makes the risky move of leaving us to work it out for ourselves, teasing out the world's quirky logic through experimentation and good old-fashioned observation.
It's made possible by our chicken hero's streamlined moveset, a stomp and whistle that's miles away from the Lemmings-like abilities of his GBC debut. These rudimentary tools allow Toki Tori to manipulate the animal kingdom around him, leading some on like a whistling Pied Piper and causing others to scarper with an angry stomp. Different breeds in turn react to one another and slowly you see your potential influence on the world evolve.
The challenge - and joy - is coaxing out the rules that govern the animal kingdom. Some stroll happily to their deaths, others are more apprehensive. Some creatures eat others, some flee to avoid being eaten. Most react differently if placed in water, darkness or shady grass. To explain specifics is to take away the thrill of observation, a role that casts you as a hybrid of Layton and David Attenborough.
A gentle beginning - use the crab as a bridge, ride in a frog's burp bubble - escalate into top brain-benders, asking you to play multiple breeds against one another in mass ecological domino rallies. Often, finding the puzzles is a conundrum in itself, manipulating pieces of one obvious solution into opening a route to another problem entirely. The fact that Toki's moveset never evolves means everything is solvable from the outset, no matter how oblique it may seem.
And oblique it is. The lack of instruction isn't the problem so much as the lack of direction. The world map is deeply unfriendly, refusing to name levels or offer indicators of what collectibles they contain. You'd better remember the finer details, or face lots of backtracking as you try to sniff out a ladder passed several hours before. Delivering objectives in cryptic clues adds further grief: some players won't know what they're meant to be doing in a world they can hardly navigate.
Others will be whisked back to the good/bad ol' days, when even Nintendo had no qualms about dumping you in 8-bit Hyrule Field and saying "You're the hero, you work it out." In the back of your mind you know the solution has to be to hand - the benefit of there being no unlockable powers - so you persevere until you solve the puzzle and feel the smug warmth of the know-it-all course through your frontal lobe. That said, one man's exciting mental hurdle is another man's difficulty spike, so it's easy to see opinion being split on this one.
For our money, the individual puzzles are just too good to let a few structural issues get in the way. Deducing how to hide smaller critters from the eyes of swooping hawks or manipulate light and shadow in the dank mines has provided us with the kind of mental somersaults usually found in the best Zelda dungeons. Click (or stomp or squawk) with Toki Tori 2, and you'll discover this is one of eShop's best.