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A nice remaster of an arcade classic that made football helmets and pellet-spitting monkey essentials.

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What’s with the influx of remastered games lately? The Switch seems to have gained the reputation for being the perfect vessel for ports and older titles with a spit and polish to prepare them for a new lease on life with modern gamers anxious to fill in their knowledge gaps of classic gaming. One game that fits this description perfectly is Toki, originally released to acclaim back in 1989 as a quarter-gobbling arcade side-scrolling platformer in arcades by Tad Corporation.

Eventual ports brought the game home to lots of computers and consoles like the Amiga and NES, though kudos to Sega as their Genesis version clearly had the best name: Toki: Going Ape Spit.

Now Toki is back – on the Switch! And yes, there’s even a story! Toki is a caveman living with his girlfriend Miho in a crazy, mixed up world filled of monsters and magic. An evil wizard steals Miho and transforms Toki into a hairy ape, there is no reason given why. Cursed in this new form, Toki must venture forth to save his girlfriend from this crazy old wizard by defeating an array of enemies and traveling through exotic landscapes to reach her. Sure, it’s not exactly a fantasy epic, but at one point Toki wears a football helmet, so maybe it’s the adventure we truly deserve.

Toki isn’t the most agile or graceful of characters, he moves slowly and his ability to move is limited. He can crouch, jump, climb, and swim, which does make it a little easier to maneuver him around trickier spots. Did I mention he can even spit magic pellets? There are power-ups available to temporarily boost his attack and defense, like wearing a football helmet (yay!) to protect him from airborne attacks or breathing fire to reach enemies who are further away.

I know it’s not rocket science, but there’s a constant sense of movement and flow with each level. Toki kept me moving forward every second, spitting in a flurry to get rid of a zombie climbing out of the ground to turn in a split second to take care of a flying fish trying to sneak up on me. The onslaught of obstacles he has to face feel endless from spiked plants exploding with just a few hits and trying to avoid being taken out by an infinite number of piranhas who just want him for lunch.

Did I mention Toki dies after taking just one hit? Yeah, it sucks. Can we get a health bar in here, please? Then again, maybe that’s part of the appeal, the constant threat of dying from just one stray nibble on a toe or being smacked by random debris. Everything is trying to kill our poor monkey hero as he attempts to save his beloved Miho, though in true arcade fashion nabbing that high score can be extremely satisfying. If you live long enough, that is.

This being a remastered classic you’d expect the game to look better than the 1989 original, and you’d be correct! As we’ve seen in other meticulously redrawn classics, most notably the recent Monster Boy remakes, Toki’s graphics have been completely redrawn from scratch by French artist Philippe Dessoly, and look pretty good…for the most part. The animation looks a bit stiff, though, but it’s not like this is a game requiring silky-smooth animation.

Toki isn’t a long game, if you’re the type to sit down and play something to completion it’ll probably take you anywhere from forty minutes to an hour. It’s a good palate cleanser if you’re waning an escape from the modern stylings of today’s more sophisticated platformers, delivering something quick, clean, and to the point – just like arcade classics used to be. There are no overarching storylines or convoluted crafting systems to take advantage of, but that’s really part of the charm with these retro reissues. Make some time for our football helmet-wearing, pellet-spitting monkey friend and you’re sure to have a nice trip down memory lane.

About the Author: Nia Bothwell