Sometimes a clone is just a clone. However, if the 1996 Michael Keaton vehicle Multiplicity taught me anything, it's that some clones aren't a perfect copy of the original. This is what I found when I was playing Lukáš Navrátil's Toby: The Secret Mine, which just got a release on the Xbox One. It looks, feels, and plays exactly like Playdead's Limbo, but to call it a mirror image does a disservice to the original.
Toby: The Secret Mine has our title character chasing after cat-eared demons, who have kidnapped his town's residents. Without any weapons to defend himself, Toby must save the villagers and defeat the head demon. Traversing through forests, snowy mountains, and hot deserts, Toby comes across many traps and challenges along the way that may slow him down. Using a trial-and-error method and the power of exploration, players will have to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B with your head still attached to your shoulders.
For the most part, the challenges can be pretty good brain teasers. By maneuvering through areas, you'll be able to piece together proper solutions and reach the next part of your destination. What I like about Toby: The Secret Mine is that not only do you have to count on your eyes to find the correct path, but also your ears. The smallest of creaks on the ground can lead Toby to discovering another path right below his feet, leading towards the next area you'll need to travel through.
Perhaps the better parts of the game involves a race against time. In both the snow and mine levels, you'll find yourself rushing to avoid being swallowed by an avalanche or rolling through a cave on a cart. With very little time to spare, the challenges up ahead give way to some creative solutions and some heart-pounding moments. (Also on-par are some of the later levels' puzzles, which can be tricky while giving your mind a good workout.)
Although I do appreciate these sort of challenges, the game can be rather frustrating than rewarding when it comes to at least half of them. Many times I found myself wandering though the same areas looking for a solution, only to accidentally wander into a secret entrance and solve what should've been a far easier problem to handle. Without anything to really guide you, players might find themselves searching through every crevice of the level, only to stumble on the answer and make you feel like a fool for not finding it earlier. I know it sounds like I'm bitching, but I'm not really fond of games that make you feel like an idiot without reason.
As mentioned in the beginning, Toby: The Secret Mine has a lot of similarities with Limbo. The game's silhouette-looking hero and villains embarking through some shady areas that can lead to danger at any time is supposed to always keep you on your toes. While both the style and gameplay is there, what Navrátil's game lacks is that big emotional aspect that kept players talking about Limbo for many years. I felt nothing whenever Toby bit the bullet each time I failed, as his deaths lacked any sort of depth. It may sound cruel to say, but I found it hard getting attached to the hero of this story.
Toby: The Secret Mine can be completed in just a couple of hours. While there is a counter to see how many of the villagers you can find scattered throughout the levels, there really isn't much replay value to be found there. The game has two different endings, which can easily be discovered by playing the final level twice (which, to be fair, is a very nice boss battle that's often challenging.)
- Nice environments
- Chase levels are pretty exciting
- Uses both sight & sound to solve areas
- Lacks emotional punch
- Can be more frustrating than challenging
Toby: The Secret Mine may have its moments, but the overall execution is lacking of memorability. Something challenging, often frustrating, Navrátil's title is a clone less powerful than its predecessor. Let's just say this Secret Mine lacks any real diamonds or gold worth digging for.
Promotional consideration provided by Headup Games. Reviewed on the Xbox One.