When you first boot up Toby: the secret mine your first and only thoughts are of Limbo, because Toby shares a lot of the visual and game mechanics of Play dead’s cult classic, but they do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so Limbo should be very flattered.
A brief introduction before the main titles has you chasing a larger red-eyed duplicate of your playable character after it has kidnapped the entire village, obviously, it soon gets away leaving you perched on a cliff top ready to start the game and its various challenges and obstacles properly. If you have played Play dead’s Limbo then it should all feel instantly familiar, black silhouette with a dash of colour during certain levels or events, even the basic jump, move and pull interactions are exact the same so no real multiple button mashing on this game.
The visuals are basic but striking, with your character, NPC’s and the backdrops all in silhouette black. Colours are often used to highlight your current environment be it green for the forest level or an orange/red tinge to the screen for the desert level and bright white for the snow levels. Sound is the bare minimal but Is implemented very well and I feel only helps to improve the game by matching its basic visual style perfectly.
Gameplay is simplistic requiring you to navigate the path ahead solving simple environmental puzzles to get your character from point A to point B, locating and freeing captive villagers on the way, you occasionally catch up with your evil red-eyed kidnapper/s but are soon held back by deadly traps and zombie like attackers who just suddenly appear from the ground around you. Unfortunately, this is where I began to struggle a little with frustration as after an hour or so of simple puzzles and minimal enemy interaction the game turns its difficulty level up too many notches far too quickly.
This would be fine if there was a graduation to the difficulty but it just swaps from being a laid-back stroll to all out defence and It feels as the checkpoints early on are forgiving and pretty much place you were you died but further on it seems along with the ramp in difficulty the developer thought it would add an extra challenge to respawn you just before the last hard section.(or maybe the frustration made it feel that way), death is a certainty in the later parts of the game and putting you back so far from you dying point reminded me of old school games and made me rage quit a few times, but Luckily the arrival of enemies and location of traps are scripted so once you have engaged your memory glands you can prepare for whatever the later parts throw at you.
The major flaw with Toby is the answer to many of its puzzles and some of the villagers you’re looking to save are hidden within the black silhouette of the environment and the game gives no hints to these and what is required of you to continue so it’s just constant trial and error and sometimes fruitless exploration.
I realise I have written some quite strong negative points concerning Toby but all in all I feel the positive far out way these and if you can adjust to the sudden difficulty spike half way through and the expected frustration brought on by the repetitive trial and error of such simple puzzles then you can expect a clean, crisp beautifully presented 2D platformer that deserves to be acknowledged for its familiarity to the classic Limbo and the sometimes genius but simple puzzles. I personally loved limbo because it told a dark story using the 2D Puzzle platforming of by-gone days with rich visuals, haunting sounds and fluid movement and I can only applaud the developer of Toby: the secret mine for replicating that.
Considering it’s only a supposed to be a minimal 2 hours playtime the constant fail, die, repeat certainly stretches it to at least double that so it feels like you’re getting your monies worth, and at £11.99 you expect it, but within its minimal 2 hour playtime Toby: the secret mine tells a simple story of courage and determination that leaves you wanting more, so luckily the developer has created two possible endings so you will certainly play through again at some point to see if there are any drastic changes to the outcome.
I can highly recommend this game if Limbo was a part of your gaming catalogue in recent years but if frustration is not a feeling you appreciate during your gaming time then it’s probably best avoided.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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