Some days I wonder what Peter Pan’s shadow does on his days off… Today I finally got my answer!
Toby: The Secret Mine is a spiritual sibling of Limbo, following a little silhouette on his adventure to save his friends from denizens of the deep. As you can probably guess, all of the storytelling is pantomimed and it is left to you to guess what takes place in the exchanges between you and the red-eyed creatures. They are highly hostile, and resemble your shape, so they might be the same creatures as you, but corrupted by whatever power their leader has.
Now, this game is a puzzle/precision platformer, and it really follows the Dark Souls approach to puzzle solving, which is “use your head as a ramming device to destroy the wall.” You will die quite frequently, and will be hard pressed to solve some of the puzzles because of the matte black color scheme. You will also die from traps in the floor, for you can’t tell if the tile is a trap or not, which could easily annoy many individuals. I ended the game with about 150 or so deaths, many of which were earned by traps that I couldn’t see from the lack of distinguishing colors.
The puzzles are a mixed assortment of really nice ones, and some that are just guess and check puzzles. There’s a wide assortment of them, but they aren’t really reused, so listing them would be pointless. One of the ones that was really good had to do with lighting up the background to find the combination to a door, but you don’t have to light it up to unlock the door. The game allows you to brute force the puzzle, which is a nice freedom to have.
That being said, some of the puzzles have to be forced, and it’s usually when you don’t have a lot of time. This causes you to take multiple attempts and really rack up the amount of deaths. This feels a little unfair to the player, especially when the game glitches and you lose control, forcing you to reboot the game and restart the level.
Which is another thing about this game: the levels aren’t too long. There’s 21 of them, but they really aren’t too long in design, or difficult enough to actually draw out the game. It’s a nice little balance for a short little game like this one. You feel like you burn through it, without too many hiccups along the way, but you don’t feel too unsatisfied with the concept.
Toby: The Secret Mine has a good side, and a very bad side. The very bad side rests in part with the Limbo-esque appearance. There’s no depth, no variety that allows you to tell if a jump will kill you, or if the next step is going to send a bunch of spikes into your legs and kill you. You would hope this would only show up in one or two levels, but it shows up in an alarmingly large amount of the levels. It feels unfair to the player, killing you as you make your way through a mission when you have nothing but trial and error to work off of.
Another issue comes with the movement speed of Toby. He is ridiculously slow and will constantly leave you wishing you had a run option. Instead you just have to dawdle through the levels at a snail’s pace. This also comes in with jumping and making some of the more lengthy jumps. If Toby were able to run or do anything just a tad faster, it would just take some of the sting out of the amount of times you will die, and it would certainly help with the frantic tone that the game instils with the short cinematics.
Toby: The Secret Mine is still fun, even with the slightly frustrating misgivings that are present. The game has some fun platforming and some nice puzzles, and would certainly be worth one or two dips into the mine. Make sure to rescue all of your friends, or else the denizens of the deep might get you!