Puff, puff, pass.
My initial reaction to Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri was “What were they smoking?” Seriously, I’m wondering whether the degenerate minds behind Tokobot are trying to corrupt our children by getting them to smoke weed. I know it sounds like a stoned conspiracy theory, but think about it.
First of all, the name of the game is pronounced “Toke-o-bots.” Secondly, the main activity of your little robotic brethren is “jointing”. On top of that, your character is dressed head to toe in – you guessed it – green
. And, you have to break ‘pots’ to get health and other items. Oh, you think that last one was a bit of a stretch? Well, get this. The main love interest of the game is named Marijuana McDoobie! OK, fine. I made that last part up. But, still, this is just too much of a coincidence to be anything but a thinly disguised advertisement for smoking the reefer
Once you get past the super-secret drug messages
, however, the concept of the game is actually pretty smart. You are Bolt, a budding Treasure Master who explores prehistoric ruins and searches for important artifacts with the help of your robot friends, the Tokobots. Along the way, you navigate clever traps and the ancient guardians of a former, powerful civilization, while simultaneously avoiding the dastardly robbers that infest the ruins with their modern weaponry. It’s not the world’s most original story line, but it’ll do.
The inventiveness of Tokobot Plus lies in the game play. As you travel around with your tokobot minions, you can rearrange them into different formations, and then joint them to gain new attacks and abilities. In the ‘V formation’, for example, your tokobots line up behind you like cute little mechanized ducklings. When you ‘joint’ them, they cling together to form a long, unbreakable chain, which you can then use like a giant stick to thwap your enemies over the head, or throw against magnetic walls to climb up like a ladder.
Each formation has its uses against different enemies, or in solving various puzzles. As you progress, you discover more advanced formations where your Tokobots join together like in your favorite robot-themed
kids’ show to create new forms. You can become a giant hammer to crush your puny enemies, or a huge crane to move giant blocks around and pretend you’re at Chuck E. Cheese’s trying to win your girlfriend a stuffed animal
. It takes a little while to get the hang of switching formations in the heat of battle, but once you do, it makes for pretty fun gameplay.
While the concept is good, the game doesn’t really take it far enough. Eventually, you end up using the same attacks over and over. Worse, Tokobot Plus
features the most limited, linear gameplay I’ve seen in a long time. At any given point, there is one thing and one thing only that you can do to progress. If you get stuck on a puzzle, you might as quit until you think up the solution. There’s no real exploration, no side quests, nothing. There isn’t even much to collect while you’re adventuring. Sure, you can pick up artifacts along the way, but you simply sell them when you get back to the lab to pay for a pretty standard set of power-ups. You just end up moving from one room to the next, the whole time wishing you were doing something more interesting, like getting high. Oh god! See? See?!
There isn’t even anything to do outside of the main game itself. The menu that appears when you turn on the game says it all: Load Game or New Game. There are no other options. Oh, wait, there is the Time Attack Mode, which lets you go through levels you’ve already been through to see if you can beat them faster. Thrilling. A two-player mode, or some kind of challenge mode, or really anything to round out the experience of the main game, would have been a welcome addition.
Tokobot Plus was originally a PSP title, and it shows. The levels all pretty much look the same, and the ‘cut scenes’, if you can even call them that, are really just the animated heads of the various characters with mediocre voiceovers. A couple of the music tracks are decent, but even those get pretty repetitive.
There’s a good concept here, and with a little more effort, this could have been a good game. As it is, Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri
could be your evening’s entertainment if you’ve already seen all the Cheech and Chong
movies ever made and your Pink Floyd DVD
is hopelessly scratched. Otherwise, I’d take a deep breath, hold it in, and pass this game to the person on your left.