Reviews February 6, 2017
Toby: The Secret Mine
Reviewed By: Ricardo Benitez
System: Xbox One (Also PC, Wii U, iOS, and Android)
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Release Date: 01/19/2017
Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: Lukáš Navrátil
At first glance, Toby: The Secret Mine instantly reminds you of Limbo. The art style with its black and white tones, similar puzzling nature, and minimalistic approach to storytelling all hark back to that hit indie title. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite reach the bar set by Playdead back in 2010…
"A peaceful way of life in a small mountain village is shattered. Someone has kidnapped most of its residents. A few brave souls tried to rescue their friends but none have returned.
… Brave little Toby didn’t want to just sit and wait to see what happens next, so he has set about on his own to solve the mystery. Entering the deep forest, he sees this may be an adventure bigger than him, but he won’t stop. "
Toby begins with these words sprawled across the screen. They provide a reason for you to go traversing this strange world. The goal of course being to rescue your friends from some dastardly fiend – this larger, silhouette of a character that Toby chases throughout the entire game – while avoiding the numerous traps/environmental hazards. This thin narrative is stretched across 21 handcrafted levels, all of which reinforce Lukas’ artistic touch; they feature a design and feel that a lot of developers working within this genre dream of creating.
When it comes to the story, I wish there were more to it. I mean, with Limbo, it was all about the mystery of this little boy’s plight. In Toby’s case, we already know what’s going on (for the most part anyways). I guess the fact that there was a little more at the start of the game lead me to expecting more from the plot? Regardless, the gameplay is what’s most important. The speed at which Toby moves takes some getting used to. Same with the jumping, as he tends to go higher than what is needed to make reach certain platforms; combined with his quickened pace, his floaty jumps makes it easy to accidently sail past an intended landing area. All of this is at the developer’s discretion. Long presses or taps of the jump button won’t respectively increase or decrease the heights toby’s jumps.
As I moved through each level, I started to notice that I wasn’t just having a problem controlling Toby. I also couldn’t seem to land on certain ledges. Just looking at it in game, it would seem as if he could obviously reach a platform. But when making the jump, I’d somehow catch the edge of the ledge before plummeting into the pit below. I had to maneuver in such a way that Toby’s body wouldn’t touch the ledge with anything but his feet (something that took several tries to get my head around). There were also some glitches hindering my progress. Most weren’t too bad, though I did occasionally fall through the world and be forced to restart the entire level.
This actually brings me to another issue, namely the options within the pause menu. There is no “go back to checkpoint option”. Only a restart to return to the main menu – basically when I got stuck via a glitch, I had to start over instead of loading a previous checkpoint. Thankfully the levels are short enough to dismiss any bouts of real frustration. Still, it can be a bit annoying to have to restart the same level more than once for something you had no hand in.
The game isn't all glitches and floaty mechanics though. As I mentioned before, the artwork is high quality and reminiscent of earlier games of this type. Also the audio is spot on, from the buzzing of beehives to your footsteps when walking on different surfaces. Sound cues are sometimes ignored by indie games, but this one comes through with flying colors. The fact that Toby: The Secret Mine was developed by a one man team adds emphasis to the parts that were well received!
Floaty jumps and some glitches hinder what could be an entertaining experience, even with the noteworthy puzzles and excellent level design.
At times subdued but very gorgeous. The Foreground is black and the background features a lush atmosphere.
Details that are sometimes taken for granted by other developers are in definitely on display here.
Replay Value: 3
Without a grand mystery, an intriguing story, or levels that suffer from glitches, there really isn’t a reason to return to Toby’s world once the game is completed.