There are a handful of game genres that indie developers seem to constantly gravitate towards. Toby: The Secret Mine is yet another 2D puzzle platformer so let's put on our helmets, grab a pickaxe, and head to the mine.
I know what you're thinking, "Wow, Toby sure looks a lot like Limbo!" Although this is true, Toby: The Secret Mine does a good job of forming its own identity. For starters, I found the platforming to be a bit more immediately gratifying here. Toby can jump high and he runs around rather fast. It's all handled very intuitively and is extremely easy to pick up and play. The story is simple: he's on a mission to find out who has been kidnapping his fellow villagers and rescue those who are missing. Along the journey, you'll solve a few puzzles, avoid many conveniently-placed hazards, and play through some fun segments such as gliding through a spike-filled hallway while carefully avoiding danger and riding a mine cart while trying to quickly flick switches. It all adds up to a mostly enjoyable adventure that both gaming veterans and novices can play.
Toby: The Secret Mine's visuals are nothing extraordinary. It looks almost identical to similar games that star a character who's just a shadow with white lights for eyes. He does have horns, though, which is unique. The backgrounds are easy on the eyes with soft hues and little detail while the foregrounds are solid black yet you can't help but imagine what it looks like through Toby's eyes. My favourite area is the outside snowy environment which is almost completely white thus making platforming much trickier. Anyway, the music is excellent as it consists of moody melodies and atmospheric vibes that set the ambience perfectly. Sound effects as you slide boxes, agitate beehives, and walk over rocky ground are spot-on and make every onscreen action come to life. It renders the game world almost tangible. I can easily say that Toby: The Secret Mine has some of the best audio that I've heard in an indie game.
Unfortunately, Toby: The Secret Mine is a disappointingly short experience. If you play through without getting stuck or retrying then you could probably finish it in about an hour. On top of that, the only replay value is implemented through rescuing all of the villagers. Most of them are very easy to find but I'm assuming that a few must be well-hidden considering I was missing some by the end of the adventure. All of that being said, there are some rewarding segments that make the journey somewhat worth it. Some of the puzzles take a good amount of brainpower to work out while a few platforming sections require you to have fast reflexes and pinpoint timing. Not to spoil anything, but the final room is pretty cool and a fitting way to end the tale.
Besides its extremely short campaign, Toby: The Secret Mine's most significant downside is that it forces you to memorize many portions before you can pass them. Whenever something unexpected ends your life, you can't help but feel cheated. For example, while riding on the mine cart, you have three switches to flick and you pass them very quickly. Most gamers would activate all three of them but the middle one actually makes a saw descend. Therefore, you're forced to play that part all over again with your newfound knowledge. Additionally, some parts are far too unintuitive. At one point, in order to avoid a fast-moving obstacle, you have to jump on the ground three times to break through. Once would have been hard enough to figure out on its own but three times is just silly.
There are also puzzles to solve such as ones where you input symbols into machines. Honestly, I had to look up a guide for half of these because I had no clue what to select. I'm assuming there are clues scattered around the stages but when you're focused on the gameplay, you probably won't notice them. You could always start the stage over again but no one wants to do that.
Toby: The Secret Mine is a short and frequently frustrating adventure. You may occasionally get immersed in its simple controls and phenomenal audio but you'll quickly snap out of it whenever something unexpectedly ends your life.
- + Intuitive platforming gameplay
- + Fantastic atmospheric audio
- + Some segments are quite rewarding
- - Very short hour-long campaign
- - Many surprise deaths force you to memorize oncoming hazards
- - A few frustratingly perplexing moments