As soon as the game boots up, the game will appear much more text heavy than its successor to those who played the latter. Toki Tori, as a game, tells the story of a recently hatched little chick by the same name, who must retrieve its brethren, still trapped in eggs, mysteriously scattered all over a series of different environments. To do so, he will have to travel through loads of stages to collect every single egg in each before he can move on to the next one. As he progresses from one environment to the other, more of the mystery behind the disappearance of the other eggs unfolds.
Toki Tori on Game Boy Color presents what seems to be the exact same set of levels that is to be found in the modern versions of the same game, albeit in a slightly different order. What this means is that fans that discovered the game with the WiiWare, or any of the other versions that have been released since 2008, might find that there's no new challenges to be found for them in the original.
Contrary to the modern versions, some basic actions have to be performed manually here, such as hopping on stairs -- there's a jump button here -- and dashing, which is performed by tapping twice and holding down a direction on the D-Pad.
The rest, players will find, is strictly identical. Toki Tori can still move up ladders and jump down ledges using the D-Pad alone, scroll through different powers and objects he has in his position with the Select button, and finally use the one selected with the B button.
Indeed, he can use these special actions to help him through the stages, which come in limited quantity in the wide majority of cases, in a fashion much similar to the legendary Lemmings. Identically, Toki Tori has almost always just enough of those to allow him to overcome every obstacle in each stage. There are a handful of different ones, like teleporting two squares away from the current position, using an ice-shooting bazooka that freezes foes, building bridges across gaps or placing crates to use them as platforms.
Using them in the right order, at the right location and at the right time will clear a path to each egg, leading to the final one that, upon collecting it, will make that stage complete. Also, typically, there's only one way, only one solution to the big puzzle that each stage makes up. This is increasingly true as the game progresses and presents players with harder and harder levels.
This is where the core of the concept behind Toki Tori lies. It is indeed a very challenging game because of how hard the puzzles quickly become. Once past the first few levels that help familiarise players with the controls and how to use the powers and items, the difficulty immediately picks up, forcing them to spend a lot of time trying out different approaches to each level until finally finding the one that works. There will most likely be quite a lot of failures, but when finally succeeding it is the most satisfying moment, reminiscing on all the previous failed attempts. Each environment holds ten regular stages, which can already be quite tricky in themselves. However, once these are cleared, there is the challenge of five more "hard" stages, which are even more challenging, totalling sixty levels overall.
This original version of Toki Tori is different from the remake in that it uses a timer in each stage. Indeed, "Toki" in Japanese means "time" (while "Tori" means bird), which is where the game got its name from, even though there's no time limit in recent versions.
This makes it all the more challenging. In certain recent versions, there was also the possibility to rewind the action so that the whole level doesn't need to be started all over again should you realise that a mistake has been made somewhere along the way. This was not in the WiiWare version and isn't in this Game Boy Color iteration either, making the latter easily the most challenging of the bunch, although save states in this 3DS Virtual Console release help make things a bit easier, since personalised check points can be made as you progress through each stage, to which you can go back to instead of restarting the whole level.
As a game released at the tail end of the system's life, it is quite an impressive visual effort. Every moving object on the screen, including the iconic character, has a lot of animation frames, and the scenery is quite colourful. Screenshots cannot do any justice to some of the transparency effects that are used in early stages to represent waterfalls, as well as the parallax scrolling going on in the backgrounds, some of which are even animated separately from what's happening in the foreground. Such a level of detail and impressive effects are quite unexpected from a game in this genre, and this comes across as an excellent surprise.