Review #005: Toby: The Secret Mine (Nintendo Switch)
Developer: Lukas Navratil
Publisher: Headup Games
Release Date: 07.24.2018
Side scrolling puzzle platformers have a very special place in most gamers hearts, especially mine. So when I got my hands on Toby: The Secret Mine, I was very excited to dive right in. Once I found out that this was in the same vein and being compared to Limbo, I was even more elated! However, there was a bit of hesitancy on my part as I wondered if it could stand on its own or if I’d only see it as just a clone of Limbo.
Tell me a story
The story of Toby: The Secret Mine is an intriguing one that you’ll slowly unwrap over the course of around three hours and spanning 21 levels. It has the dark undertones, puzzles and the main characters eyes burn bright hot white just like Limbo, but that’s where my comparisons stop. Beyond that, Toby: The Secret Mine story stands on its own as you are tasked with hunting down a mysterious red eyed character that has kidnapped your fellow villagers. As you journey to find your friends and unravel the story, you are met with many challenges. That’s a really nice way of me saying prepare to die a lot.
Who says you have one life to live?
Dying in Toby: The Secret Mine is not only inevitable , but it almost felt like a tool. Sometimes I was just going too fast and not paying attention, but I noticed other times I had to sacrifice Toby to find the correct piece to make the puzzle work. Some points in the game I’d get frustrated at, often wondering if they were just trying to kill my character. After a while I got in the groove and noticed that this was much more than just a side-scrolling platform puzzle based game. You have to pay close attention to your surroundings as you will use certain key signs to help aid you moving forward in the future.
While heading through the landscapes, rather than having a feeling of uncertainty, I was guided by the calling to free my fellow villagers and hunting down this red eyed antagonist. When I reached the finale I was surprised by a choice that stuck with me. This also immediately added replayability as I had to tear through the game again to see how else it could turn out for Toby. While that gave me a reason to go back once, I could also go back and search for any villagers I might have missed or simply make runs to see if I can make it through without dying. Good luck on that one!
The controls are simple and straight forward with only utilizing two buttons and the directional pad or stick. For the most part they felt tight and spot on with one problem. I did have to get used to dying a lot because of the characters very high jump that was almost comical. Yet, rather than allowing me to find puzzles and work them out it did sometimes feel like the deaths had more of a “gotcha type” effect. This left me feeling they could have been remedied in ways that would make the gameplay and controls more seamless. The rumble was a nice addition and gameplay always felt good either docked or handheld.
The visuals were beautifully hand drawn and really have more of a fantasy and adventure feel rather than a scary Gothic vibe I was expecting when compared to Limbo. Yes, the game can be dark, but at the same time it’s colorful and each level has its own palette that sets the mood for what the story is telling you as your mission continues. Also knowing that, in each level nothing is as it seems visually, as you’ll have to jump to reveal hidden switches and captured villagers.
Do you hear that?
There is no in-game dialogue so the story is told with not only what you see, but what you hear. Toby: The Secret Mine uses the in-game sounds and music to help unravel the story as well as keep you immersed in the journey. The ambiance sounds in each level were their own characters telling their own story. Whether it is the winding blowing, the rain crashing all around, arrows whizzing past or just tiny rocks falling into the water below, they all seemed to help paint the picture. The music also gave an adventurous feeling that always set the tone. I knew the second I saw the red eyed antagonist that this fast paced jungle music would kick in as I took chase and pursued him.
Summing it all up
Toby: The Secret Mine was a delight to play through and just as fun on my return visit. Though at times the puzzles and controls felt they were bordering on gimmicky, I still enjoyed the game and it never changed my overall experience. I came to not only appreciate the beautiful visuals, but also the story that left me wondering about the backstory and wanting more. Toby: The Secret Mine can definitely stand on its own merits and should be experienced.
Final Score: 8/10
Download Toby: The Secret Mine from the Nintendo eShop here.
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