Toki, Arcade

Toki is a relatively obscure platform-based arcade game, by Japanese developer TAD Corporation, which was first released in 1989. And it is as bloody hard as nails!

It doesn’t look like a difficult game, does it? Toki actually looks quite simple; with its cute monkeys and colourful, cartoony backdrops. But underneath that ‘kiddie’ exterior is a monster waiting to tear your head off…

The aim of the game is simple: as Toki you must run, jump and climb your way through a series of platforms and vines, in order to beat the boss at the end of each stage. Toki can ‘spit’ bullets to protect himself, and can also pick up powers-ups to enhance his firepower for a limited time. Other power-ups (such as the football helmet) enhance Toki‘s defensive capabilities temporarily.

One ‘hidden’ ability that Toki does have – that is worth remembering – is that he can jump on the heads of most enemies, which can mean the difference between life or death in some situations (because it is an escape route, and a way of killing monsters more quickly, although it usually takes more than one hit to kill most monsters).

The first stage (one of six different stages) really takes some getting through. There’s a menagerie of killer critters, exploding cactus, spear-throwing ghosts, spiders that fire bullets in 360 degree patterns, bosses and sub-bosses… Toki is an absolute onslaught of hostility! And against such a cute main character it seems like a bit of a one-sided battle…

The second stage, Lake Neptune, is set mostly underwater and is even harder than the first stage. Key to survival, at certain points, is to grab the aforementioned power-ups that give Toki special weapons, like fire breath or multiple bullets. Also: knowing how to ‘squeeze past’ the mid-level boss helps too.

The third stage (Caverns of Fire) is where I gave up. By this point pretty much every inch of Toki‘s adventure is met with instant death, and anyone wanting to progress further must know the game intimately and also be highly skilled at controlling the main character.

Toki does have the distinction of having been converted to a number of home systems, and these are probably better-known than the original arcade game. They are mostly much easier to play than the original too. The NES version, for example, gives Toki a health bar, so that he doesn’t die in one hit, which is most welcome.

Unless you enjoy a serious challenge you’re unlikely to get anything but frustration from Toki. It quite literally is a beast of a game.

More: Toki on Wikipedia

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