Toby: The Secret Mine (Playstation 4 Review)
Some say knowledge is power. Some say that knowing too much can make you a bit of a know-it-all. If you play Toby: The Secret Mine, you’ll realise just how little you really know. The newest puzzle platformer from Lukáš Navrátil Games is a game where knowledge, hints and explanations are the last thing you’ll receive.
As soon as you boot up Toby, you’re thrown in head first as the game has started before you even realise what’s happening. No explanation as to what’s happening, who or where you are: all you know is that a group of somethings have kidnapped your friends and it’s your job to weave your way in and out of the various puzzles to rescue them.
That’s about as much as a story as you’ll get from Toby. There’s no explanation as to why these kidnappers are terrorising you and your friends, they just are. Just in the same way that there’s no explanation why you are rescuing them but it’s safe to assume it’s because you’re a good guy and not a total waster.
Toby is a nice looking game, with some creepy levels that will have you paranoid about what is going to jump out at you and from where. There is the problem that it takes heavily from Limbo and you could be forgiven for thinking that Toby could be a spiritual successor to the 2010 puzzle platformer. The difference Toby has, ignoring the subject of kidnapping and imprisonment, is that it’s not as dark and foreboding as Limbo is and also doesn’t feel like nightmare fuel. Taking inspiration from a favourite game or games is perfectly fine but for it to be so similar, for me, can make it a bit distracting when you’re trying to properly sink your teeth into, was is supposed to be, a new game.
The puzzles you’ll find throughout Toby leave you to your own devices when it comes to solving them. This is where the “you know nothing” mantra kicks in. You’ll reach areas where you know a puzzle is to be solved but the outcome and how to get there are not easily seen. All that’s left is to spend the next ten or so minutes dying in repetitive ways until you’ve figured it out. Some people prefer not to have any sort of hand-holding,which is fine, but a little hint wouldn’t go amiss as the point of frustration can creep up on you quickly and makes you feel like you’re dying just to pass the time.
Speaking of dying, it’s going to happen a lot. I’m talking Dark Souls level of death count. So, if a high death count is as appealing to you as kicking a table leg with your little toe, you may want to give it a miss as the frustration will most likely drive you up wall.
Having said that, Toby is an extremely short game so you might not play it long enough to get to the point you want to throw your console out of the window. The length does depend on how long it takes you to complete the puzzles as well as manoeuvre around the various obstacles you come up against. An average playthrough, spending roughly a few minutes figuring out the puzzles, may take you around the 3 or 4 hour mark to complete. On further playthroughs this time will likely decrease to the point that you could finish it while waiting for an update to finish. For this type of game though, it’s not a bad length as anything longer could make it feel it’s being dragged out to the point you just want it to end.
An extra feature that Toby does have going for it is being able to replay from the start of each new section of the game. It doesn’t tell if there are friends left to rescue in a particular area that you might have missed on the first playthrough, but it is handy if you want to skip a section you’ve had some trouble with. You also have the option of starting a new game and wiping your progress up to that point.
Overall, Toby: The Secret Mine is a good game, even if it does feel like a shorter version of Limbo. It’s a charming puzzle platformer that I enjoyed putting a few hours into and what little story there was does give you the opportunity to let your imagination go and make up your own backstory for the characters and situations. If that’s the kind of thing you don’t mind doing. The thing that stops Toby: The Secret Mine from being a great game is the numerous similarities to Limbo as well as the lack of guidance around puzzles.