The original Toki Tori was released on the Gameboy Color way back in 2001. Since then it has been ported, enhanced, and remade a half dozen or so times across a wide variety of consoles and system generations. After all these years, the game makes its debut on the Nintendo Switch. Besides a slick new coat of graphical paint and control modifications, it remains almost entirely the same. In this case that is a good thing since Toki Tori was always a darn good puzzle game.
Toki Tori is a puzzle platformer in the sense that you can scale across the screen horizontally, but you have no jump function. If you fall from a ledge, you're stuck unless there's a ladder or small blocks to get you back up. Puzzles revolve around carefully planning your moves and not trapping yourself. The goal of each level is to collect all of the eggs. Once completed, you automatically win, despite what precarious situation you find yourself in.
Toki Tori doesn't have a life bar. Even one touch from an enemy or hazard means an instant death. Couple that with limited movement options, no jump at all, and tricky platforming (or falling in this case), what is the little bird to do? Well, fortunately this bird comes equipped with a number of what the game refers to as "tools." Each level has a limited number of specific tools that are often exactly tailored to the amount you need to use. Some levels offer extra tools, but very rarely. The puzzles are designed around these tools so they must be used intelligently and usually incorrect use of a tool makes the level unbeatable. For example, one of the tools is a bridge which creates a platform over a hole so you don't fall. If a level has four holes but gives you three bridges, then you have to plan to fall at some point. Careful planning of your tools and strategic thinking of the level designs are crucial to success.
The game presents tools into two types: navigational tools and weapons tools. Navigational tools are things like the aforementioned bridges, which can be used to prevent falling to certain death. Other tools include a teleportation device and the ability to temporarily grant your bird super strength to move blocks. Weapons tools are used to combat the various enemies that populate stages. For example, the freeze-o-matic gun freezes an enemy in a block of ice which will either fall to the ground or float up to the ceiling, depending on whether the level is underwater or not. Frozen enemies can be used as blocks and platforms to complete the level, or you can freeze them to get them out of the way so you don't die. There are other weapons too, such as the Snail Sucker and Ghost Trap. Careful use of the weapons tools is just as important as the navigational tools. The enemies almost always just walk back and forth, although some of the more clever bonus levels chain their movements to create enemy stampedes and such.
Don't let the cute graphics fool you. Toki Tori is one tough game. Some of the puzzles are diabolical in their trickiness and complexity. Although starting off very easy, the game's challenge racks up by the third world. I will admit, there were a few times I had to look up the solutions to a few puzzles online, and I consider myself a puzzle aficionado. This is especially true with the bonus and hard levels, which are unlocked after completing all of the world's easy and medium levels. The bonus levels are often crazy and require odd and atypical solutions. While a lot of these aren't necessarily difficult, they often force you to approach the puzzle in unusual ways not found in the typical game levels. The hard levels are, well, really hard. Both the hard and bonus levels are optional content, though, and you can complete the main campaign without doing a single one. But the game doesn't really have a story or a campaign per se. If you're playing Toki Tori, you're doing so for the challenge and the puzzles, not for the quest. Why wouldn't you want to complete the ancillary levels?
The game also give you the Wild Card, which can be used if you're really stuck in a level and simply want to pass it and keep playing. You'll get only one Wild Card for the entire game, though. You can get it back by returning to the level you skipped and completing it the normal way. This is a nice little function for those who are having trouble on a puzzle and don't want to stop playing.
Another feature, which I consider to be a God-send, is the rewind functionality. You can rewind all of your actions for an entire level and choose where you want to proceed. If you find yourself stuck in a pit, you don't have to start the whole level over. You can simply rewind a few seconds. If you like, you can rewind all the way back to the start of the level, as you have full control over it. Frankly, this makes the game a lot more enjoyable than it otherwise would be, because you will get stuck a lot. Why don't more non-competitive puzzle games have a feature like this?
Toki Tori, unlike the sequel Toki Tori 2, is not an expansive open world puzzle exploration game. It's divided into separate worlds, each with its own theme (forest, castle, etc) and a simple level select menu. The levels within are very segmented and self-contained. The structure and the interface are very much like in a lot of the smartphone games these days, although Toki Tori predates the rise of contemporary mobile gaming by many years.
Ultimately, Toki Tori is a very simple game. But simple is not a bad thing here. The game has a clear vision of what it wants to accomplish and delivers a fun, challenging, and often rewarding puzzle/platformer experience. If you enjoy these kind of games but hate their "cuteness", don't let the graphics fool you. Toki Tori can be a mind stumper, but always a fun time.
P. S. I would have given the game five stars if it had a wider variety of challenge modes, achievements and a point system with a leader board for time trials and such. As it is, Toki Tori is a good game but lacks a lot of the ancillary bonuses we have come to expect in our day and age, given how simple the experience is.