plasticpals's Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri (PlayStation 2) review

Deceptively cute appearance hides annoying issues

Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri is an odd little puzzle-platform game where you play as Bolt, a young treasure master. You’ll explore ancient ruins in the search for rare treasure and adventure. You’re always accompanied by a throng of up to eight robot helpers (the Tokobots) which can link together in different formations to serve various functions. It’s a cute little game that offers something unique, but it falls short in key areas.

Game Play

Players can change between different Tokobot formations with the press of a button. Tokobots can line up behind him, line up on either side of him, or cluster around him. When “jointing”, everyone holds hands to create a solid formation. The team formations can be used to attack enemies in different ways or attach to special magnetic blocks. You’ll gain a few extra tricks as you progress, which open up new areas for exploration.

Additionally, you’ll get overdrives which perform a quick special move with the press of a button. These attacks momentarily pause the action while the Tokobots transform into different forms and unleash their attack. Unfortunately, you never get quite enough money (even if you root out the rare treasures) to upgrade all the overdrives to their full capabilities.

Some of the overdrives are used in special situations that play out like mini-games. These help to break up the action a bit, like throwing you into a fast-paced mine cart ride. Others aren’t quite as fun, such as the UFO-catcher-like hook arm, which doesn’t always pick up blocks properly.

Presentation

Tecmo originally released Tokobot on the PlayStation Portable, and later ported the game to the PlayStation 2. The controls were refined, and some extra content was added, but the game’s PSP roots are evident in the simple graphics which leave much to be desired. The blocky enemies (including the bosses) would not look out of place in a PS1 game.

Challenge

The game’s cute veneer hides what is often an exercise in frustration. Awful camera control and imprecise collision detection is made worse by some questionable design decisions. For example, if you fall into a pit you are not placed at the nearest platform, but returned to the beginning of an area. Make one mistake in the optional challenge areas, and you are expelled without the option of trying again immediately. You’ll then have to get back to the challenge portal itself to try again, which is often placed after a series of precarious jumps. It’s not that the game is broken, but it is ever so slightly off.

Conclusion

Tokobot Plus’s general lack of polish makes it less fun than it could have been, which is a shame. The underlying premise could make for a great game, but things just aren’t as precise or forgiving as they ought to be. These issues, along with the simplistic presentation, make for a somewhat mediocre game that is saved (just barely) by its primary game play gimmick. It’s just unique enough that the 8 hour quest may be worth playing for gamers on the prowl for an odd puzzle-platformer.

This review is a repost from my site, www.plasticpals.com (with images)

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