Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri @ 28 March 2007 12:54 AM
Tokobot first made itís appearance on Sonyís Playstation Portable early last year. The platforming antics were a welcome breath of fresh air on a format that had been swamped by rushed ports and too many racing titles. The game garnered some very positive reviews and now developers Tecmo have released an updated version for the PS2.

The plus in the title doesnít actually amount to much. It is essentially the same game released on the handheld with you taking the role of a young kid named Bolt, who works in Professor Canewoodís laboratory. On his first research expedition he finds some ancient robots, the Tokobots, which contain many useful abilities. These Tokobots follow Bolt around the game and can be brought into action at any time to help him advance through the levels. The Tokobots can be set in different formations and gain new abilities as you progress. This is where the majority of the gameís puzzles come from; many of the puzzles are actually similar to those found in Zelda: Four Swords Adventure, albeit in 3D.

It goes without saying that if you already have the original you wonít really need to purchase this. Very little has changed since itís handheld adventure bar some extra levels and new secrets scattered across existing stages. The main gripes with the original, especially the controls, have been mended and it has gone through a general tidy up but nonetheless, there is little on offer here to make anyone want both versions. But for those of you who never played the first game (and judging by the poor sales thatís probably a lot of you) this is a fun and engrossing puzzle/platformer hybrid.

On the surface it would be easy to dismiss Tokobot Plus as a mere kids game and although it is styled towards a younger audience it is no less entertaining than other platformers on the market. Titles like Ape Escape and Sly Raccoon have already proven that such games can be just as fun for young and old gamers, despite their visual styles. And Tokobot is a very charming game, with itís well-designed levels now looking better than ever thanks to the transfer to the bigger screen. The Anime cut-scenes, backgrounds and Voice Acting are all of a high standard and draw you deep into the Tokobots world with incredible ease.

Itís hard not to love the Tokobots as they bounce along happily behind you just waiting to be bunched into various shapes for your gain. The environments they follow you through, while not especially detailed, look great and the level-design and the integration of puzzles is fantastic. Tokobot Plus actively encourages exploration and experimentation and the levels reflect this well. The gentle difficulty curve is also pitched well and is devoid of any nasty spikes, with most puzzles overcome quickly.

Unfortunately this is where Tokobots Plus falls short. The puzzles may be clever but are easily beaten after a couple of minutes of trial and error. It wonít be long till youíve seen all that Tokobot Plus has to offer as it is quite a short game. The main game will be polished off within five hours for most gamers and finding all the secrets wonít take much longer than an hour on top of that. There is some replay value, as a Time Trial mode has been included and most of the levels are designed with Time Attack in mind.

The budget price reflects the shortness of the game but donít let that or the visuals put you off. Tokobots Plus is full of charm and good old fashioned fun, just donít expect and epic.
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