Story: This game doesn’t tell you much about what’s going, but it becomes clear some bad dudes are kidnapping your friends. As you start, you watch a large, red eyed character grab one of your buddies and run off, so you give chase and after some obstacles, you’re able to rescue your friend. That’s most of what you know here, your friends are in trouble and you need to save them. Some might not appreciate the minimalist narrative, but I think it works. The game is more about atmosphere and visuals than traditional storytelling, so it works.
Gameplay: Toby: The Secret Mine is bound to garner comparisons with Limbo, as both have a similar visual design and share gameplay elements. While it is true that Toby has a lot in common with Limbo, this game is more than capable of standing on its own and is by no means a knock-off. The concept of puzzle/platformers has been around for a while, so there’s room for everyone, I think. The basic idea in this one is to march to the right, avoiding traps, solving puzzles, and saving your buddies. In order to do all of this, you’ll need to pay attention to the level designs and learn an assortment of mechanics to help you traverse the levels. The game does well teaching these mechanics, such as an early moment when a quick death makes sure you know that some platforms drop and rise on a timed schedule. You also need to flip switches, use momentum based platforms, and more, including watching for symbols around the stages that are then used to solve a puzzle and open up a new path.
As you’d expect from this kind of game, there is some trial & error involved, but the game is a great teacher, so the lessons are effective. And if you happen to slip up or mistime a jump, the checkpoint system is more than fair. You still need to pass the challenge, but the game doesn’t crush your spirit by taking a lot of progress, you’re normally placed just before the moment you failed. This alone makes the game so much more fun, as you never feel punished and even if it takes a few tries, it never feels like a grind or an unfair experience. I know some prefer a more soul crushing approach, but I was grateful for a more forgiving system. In addition to just surviving and moving from level to level, you can explore and find secret areas. After all, dozens of your friends have been captured and most are not located on the main path, so you have to tinker a little to track them all down. I think Toby: The Secret Mine offers a great balance of challenge vs. progress, it makes you work to move forward, but never slams down on your mistakes. In the end, I had a lot of fun with this game and fans of puzzle/platformers should give it a look. I played this on PS4, but it is also available on Xbox One and PC.