It’s no great secret that action/platform games have been growing increasingly stale with each new release it seems. We’re getting to the point where each sequel or new release is just more of the same stuff that developers copy and mold together for their own games, offering very little new or unique in the way of gameplay or presentation. Leave it to Tecmo to take the platform idea and combine it with a unique way of playing and navigating the levels. The best way to describe Tokobot would be to say that it resembles a cross between a puzzle-style platformer with Nintendo’s Pikmin series of games. Instead of aimlessly wandering around levels, blowing everything to bits as what you’d find in many of today’s platformers, Tokobot puts you in charge of 6 tiny robots that you have complete (well, almost complete) control over and you must find a way to use these Tokobots’ many moves in order to successfully navigate the many puzzle-laden levels set before you. While it might sound simple, the game manages to offer up a solid, yet enjoyable challenge to go along with its unique approach.
In the prehistoric times, there was a civilization that developed some extremely advanced technology. Having no one to pass this technology on to, or develop it further before they all died off, much of this technology was left in ruins scattered across the land. Thousands of years later, a new civilization has been born but their technology is nowhere nearly as advanced or powerful as the ancient technology found in these hidden ruins. Luckily there’s a research group bent on unearthing all of these ancient ruins and locating and restoring this lost technology. A new agent in the research facility, Bolt, somehow stumbles upon a bit of this ancient treasure when he finds a small group of tiny robots called “Tokobots.” Since Bolt is the only one the Tokobots will respond to, he’s put in charge of exploring these ancient ruins in search of the lost technology of old.
What makes Tokobot so unique is the way in which the game forces you to manage and make use of your group of six, or even more, Tokobots. Not only do you have to keep up with them, you also have to learn to make use of these robot’s many intricate moves if you’re going to get anywhere in the game. The Tokobots can follow your character in one of three formations. Each formation allows for the use of a number of special moves called “Joint Actions.” For instance, using the “V” formation, you can line your Tokobots up in a straight line and then toss this line of Tokobots at magnetic platforms. This causes the Tokobots to stick to these platforms and form a bridge or ladder that will allow you to move across normally insurmountable areas. To make it even more challenging and fun, you’ll also be using the joint actions to defeat enemies, and at times, large enemy bosses. The majority of the fun is trying to figure out which moves to use in different situations and which of these moves is more effective in disposing of enemies.
While the control setup in Tokobot is unique and fun, it does take some time for you to familiarize with the game’s large variety of joint action moves. Luckily, the game doesn’t throw you into the deep end of the pool, rather it starts you off slowly and teaches you the many moves as you begin to progress through the early parts of the game. Only then does the game start to expect you to figure out which moves to use on your own. Moving around is simple enough using the analog stick, but as with most games in this genre on the PSP, the camera will sometimes become a hindrance in tight spaces. It’s nothing unbearable, but it can be a little tricky until you get used to the way in which the game handles it. Executing the joint actions takes some time to get used to as well, but once you get a feel for pulling these moves off in all of the game’s many situations, you’ll find that it becomes almost second nature. The difficulty is a little on the easy side, especially early on in the game, but it does begin to pick up in the second half. The biggest thing that can be said about the gameplay is that it’s extremely unique and entertaining, but it also shows that there could have been a lot more to the game than is included in this first release, as the game never gets very intricate with the joint actions or platforming elements the way this style of the game might lend itself to. Overall Tokobot is a very fresh approach to a genre that needed a kick in the pants.
It would be easy to criticize Tokobot for its sometimes simplistic visual style, but one positive aspect of this is how smoothly the backgrounds and many areas of the game look in motion. There’s never a great amount of detail in the surroundings, but what’s there has a crisp and sharp look to it that resembles some of the later PS1 platformers. The colors in the game are also a little flat and lack the dynamics we’re used to seeing in these cartoon-style platformers. It’s worth noting that the gameplay is what really makes this game shine, but it might have been nice to see a bit more detail in the areas of the game, not to mention a few special effects here and there. A bit on the mediocre side in terms of visual quality, but it manages to get the job done.
Trying to describe the sound effects and music in Tokobot is almost impossible. It’s got a very zany sound style that’s not really like many other platformers out there. The sound effects are mostly simple beeps and other “space” style rumblings and certainly nothing to get excited about. It’s the soundtrack that might catch some the most off-guard with its over-the-top quirkiness. If there was such a thing as a techno band from outer space, the music in Tokobot is probably what their music would most likely resemble. It’s really unique, almost to the point of being funny in terms of silliness, but it somehow seems to fit in perfectly with the eclectic style of the game. While nothing I would rate as outstanding, the music and sound effects are a lot like the visuals in the game. Good but nothing to write home about.
You’d assume that judging by the ratings of the graphics and music that Tokobot isn’t a good game. The simple fact is, you’d be wrong. While the game isn’t going to win any awards with its overly simplistic visual style and quirky musical presentation, the gameplay is where the fun’s at. It’s nice to see something a little fresh and different in a genre that’s just not offering a lot of innovation as of late. The bottom line is that Tokobot is a fun, challenging, and well-constructed game that will offer any PSP owner at least several hours of mind-bending, platforming fun. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed for a sequel because after playing this game, it’s obvious that Tecmo is definitely on to something with this type of gameplay.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Pay careful attention to the game’s tutorials sections that introduce you to new joint action moves. They’re there for a reason.
- Remember, different formations offer different sets of moves. If you find yourself stuck in one particular area, don’t be afraid to experiment with all of the different moves. Sometimes only one move will work in a certain area.
- Watch the patterns of the bosses. With each boss fight, there’s generally one move that works much better than all of the others, so keep trying the different joint actions until you find the one’s that are most effective.
- Remember, you always have to have at least 5 Tokobots in your party to perform a joint action, and some moves and puzzles require even more. If you lose any Tokobots along the way you can always hold down the “R” button to call them back to you.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Lacking some of the flashy visuals of some other PSP platformers, Tokobot manages to take what it has and use it effectively. Better detail would have been a nice luxury, but given the fun of the game it’s hard to complain too much. Bolt and the Tokobots are the high point of the visual depth, and sometimes tend to stand out a bit too much in their bland surroundings.
The music and sound effects aren’t horrible by any means, they’re just a little too eccentric for most casual players. The sound effects work well enough, but after a few hours of the background music, you’re going to turn the volume down on this one.
If there’s one category where Tokobot shines, it’s this one. You’d be hard-pressed to find a platformer on the PSP more fun than this one. It sports enough of a fresh gameplay approach to make it stand out from the crowd and the unique way the puzzle elements are presented really add an entirely new level of playability to what would otherwise be a standard platforming affair. Would have been nice if the quest had been longer, but it’s a ton of fun while it lasts.
Once you’ve figured out all of the game’s puzzle elements, the game does lose a little of its appeal. I can’t see players coming back to this game very often, at least not until enough time has passed to forget the solutions to many of the puzzles in the game. In all honesty, the game is so much fun, it’s a hard game to put down, so at least that does lend itself to players eventually coming back to this game for another go round, at least until a sequel is released.