I'm not a puzzle/platformer guy. I tend to prefer fighting games and indie RPGs (because those are the only RPGs that don't feel like playable Teen Nick content anymore, but I digress). But when I was offered a chance to try "Toby: The Secret Mine", I took one look at the trailer and said, "yes, please."Toby: The Secret Mine" is another game in the long line of puzzle/platformers that have been inspired by Jonathan Blow's Braid. Braid led to Limbo, Limbo led to VVVVV, VVVVV led to In Between, and now we've arrived at Toby. So how is Toby? Does the game knock it out of the ballpark with visuals, gameplay, and story or does it fall short of gaming greatness?
Toby takes a lot of its visual cues from Limbo (which I've never played, but I am aware of it), something that seems to be a point of contention with other gamers, but "what the heck," I say. If a game can take a style that others identify with something else and they can do it well also, then who cares? There's a saying that goes "take it and make it your own," and that's exactly what Toby does. Toby takes the Limbo style and runs with it, creating a game that feels familiar, yet unique, while remaining succinct.
What sets the game apart from Limbo are the game's visuals. The graphics are beyond gorgeous and exactly why I wanted to go hands-on with the game. I'm fortunate enough to have a 55 inch TV in my living room (best wedding present ever), so when I'm traversing levels, colors jump out and the levels depth seems that much more three dimensional and well, deep. Level prominently feature a lot of black backgrounds and characters (including the main character) and uses a second color (and different shades of that different color) to break up all the black. The end result is like watching an animated pop-up book come to life. Even in the game's obligatory snow scenes, the entire snow-scape looks like something out of a kids show, in a very comforting non-threatening kind of way.
Notably, the main character moves just so incredibly slow, which may be a detriment to other players (seriously he moves even slower than NES Mega Man), but I kind of appreciated it. The slow rate of movement helped me think about my next moves: where to jump, where to land, what to do once I landed, and where I'm going next. With other hazards flying around on the screen, it's nice to have a character that I feel like I have a lot of precision with. I catch people criticizing this, but trust me, the slower movement is a welcome reprieve that helps players plan at some points of the game.
If that sounds like a lot to manage or it sounds like a stressful tense gaming experience, it really isn't. Toby is on the shorter side of a downloadable title, so players won't be on the edge of their seats panicking about making that next jump or scrambling to GameFAQs and YouTube to see how to get past certain areas, it's just not that kind of game. Even with my lack of puzzle/platforming experience, I was able to get through the game in about two and a half hours and I'm certain even the least experienced gamer would only take three or so hours to finish. Either way, it's fun, but it's also a very low investment game that gamers can conquer in an afternoon or evening.
If I had a complaint about Toby it's that there's not a ton of conveyance. It's an easy enough game to pick up and play, but the game itself forgets to express what certain buttons do from time to time or that a certain button might be needed in a certain situation. As mentioned in an earlier review, if Street Fighter (which has been around for 30 years) can get a quick tutorial to remind players how to move, jump, and hit the opponent, then other games can do with a full explanation of the controls. I always prefer games with hints and reminders that can be toggled on and off, that would've been a huge help with Toby.
There's also not a ton of story going on in the game. It's a little generic with Toby having to save some of his friends from bad company, but it's forgotten as quickly as it's brought up. In addition, players aren't told why Toby's friends are so important and require saving as there's nothing explored in that category, so there's no real incentive for Toby to save said friends (again, another conveyance issue).
Conveyance and story issues aside, I can't hate! Toby: The Secret Mine was a lot of fun in a tiny little package! Gamers that go in expecting a quick romp through a Disney-Pixar-like world will be impressed and glad they spent an afternoon or an evening with their new pal Toby. TOV RATING: 3 stars out 5.