Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri, while not being a direct port of Tokobot for the PSP, still contains much of the original game while containing a plethora of new levels and features for its Playstation 2 debut.  Published and developed by Tecmo, Tokobot Plus is the story of Bolt and the Tokobots, a number of little robots which are capable of a number of abilities.

While it’s not the first title to be essentially ported from the PSP to the PS2, it’s still rare enough to inspire curiousity.  Did the jump to the PS2 give the game enough legs to continue on its new console, or is this one port that should have stayed on the PSP?

Note for this review:  While I have not played the PSP version of the game, I researched it to attempt to make some comparisons for those who might have it already.

While I never played the PSP version of Tokobot, as I don’t have a PSP, the graphics between it and Tokobot Plus appear to be somewhat similar.  It’s very obvious early on that this game isn’t really pushing the Playstation 2 to any great heights.  In fact, it pretty much only compares favorably to some of the PS2’s launch titles. 

Granted, this isn’t a game that requires stellar graphics, so it really doesn’t hurt the gameplay and even keeps to its ‘kiddie’ focus, but it would have been nice if, during the process of porting this game from the PSP, if the graphics were at least somewhat redone. 

The characters are bright and vivid, and the environments are clean, although lacking in much detail.  One oddity though, is that the game seems to jitter a bit, as if there’s some frame rate issues in the game.  It’s not all the time, and it’s not always noticeable, but it does tend to niggle at the back of the mind when it happens.

As with many games, the sound in Tokobot Plus is really a mixed bag.  The sound effects all work quite well, with the various attack sounds, monsters, and various bits of environment all working pretty solidly.  

A bright spot in the game is the music.  It’s suitably catchy, and could even make someone’s playlist, if they were into video game music.  It never gets too repetitive, and doesn’t drag the game down either. 

The voices, however, are average at best.  Some of the characters sound like they’re obviously reading lines off a script, without much in the way of inflection or emotion.  Others are passable, keeping the entire group from feeling like a high school play gone horribly wrong. 

It seems somewhat odd to add voiced dialogue into the game, then not bother to make sure that the voice work is solid, but it could definitely be worse.

While the controls from Tokobot have been mostly ported over from the PSP version, there are some changes involving changing formations, as well as an improved camera set in Tokobot Plus.

The left analog stick, of course, controls Bolt while the direction pad changes menu options.  The camera is now controlled by the right analog stick, but that still doesn’t keep it from getting caught behind things at what would seem to be the most inopportune times. 

X jumps and selects while triangle cancels.  Holding down the R1 button will allow you to ‘joint’ your Tokobots, and change formation in conjunction with the other three face buttons:  The circle button moves your Tokobots to surround you in a circle formation, allowing you to stomp on buttons or enemies.  The triangle button shifts the Tokobots into U-formation, which puts them on either side of Bolt with him in the middle, which is useful for keeping enemies away, short bursts of flying or getting gears to move.  Square changes into V-Formation which puts the Tokobots behind you, useful for slapping enemies around or latching onto magnetic ladders.

L1 is used for pushing or pulling items, opening doors and using equipment, while R2 is used for the various Overdrive attacks. 

The story of Tokobot Plus is quite similar to those who have played the game on the PSP.  In fact, the level design is the same, as is much of the enemy placement.  Most of the changes to the game come in cosmetics.  However, for those who have bought and played the PSP game before, there’s still enough new to perhaps prompt a purchase. 

For those who haven’t played the game before, the game revolves around the world of Moritari.  Thousands of years ago, an extremely advanced civilization existed, living in peace and harmony with the world around them with the help of the Eternal Engine.  However, nothing lasts forever, and eventually the Eternal Engine failed.

Thousands of years later, the world was a much darker place.  You take the role of Bolt, a young treasure hunter who wants nothing more than to get treasure like the legions of treasure hunters before him.  On one of his earliest expeditions, he finds a number of small humanoid robots that he calls ‘Tokobots’.  The robots, for reasons of their own, take an immediate liking to him….or an attachment. 

There’s no quest to save the world here, only to get through puzzle-filled ruins and discover ancient treasures.  Of course, it’s not allowed to be as simple as that, as there are enemies to conquer beside the treasures themselves, as well as a rival who seems hooked on the giant robot theme, determined to beat you at anything you attempt.

Bolt gets through the puzzle-filled levels by ‘jointing’ the Tokobots with him into one of three formations, with himself as the focal point.  He then can use them to reach areas that he couldn’t normally get to, open doors long-closed, and defeat enemies.  Through the game, items can be collected which can then be turned in for powerups, allowing you greater power.  You can also find more Tokobots, increasing your range and power. 

Again, all of the levels from the PSP version are in the game with the addition of hidden ‘Treasure Levels’.  These are hidden in the normal levels, which give you something to search for, and are basically deathtrap-filled levels which play out almost like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when they’re running from the boulder.  They range in difficulty from rather easy to “throw your controller at the wall”.  Still, it’s a nice addition to the game.

You can also gain new Overdrive moves, which allow you to temporarily turn your Tokobots into one giant machine, including a giant drill, Samurai robot, or giant crane.  A note must be made, however.  This game is very linear in scope, and rather short.  It might last 15-20 hours, including the Treasure Levels, and outside of a few spots (and the aforementioned Treasure Levels), the game’s difficulty simply isn’t there, reinforcing the fact that the game seems to be aimed at children.

Also new to the game is a Time Attack mode, which allows you to replay previous levels in an attempt to finish in the fastest time possible.

Really, if you already own the PSP version of this game, the only new content is the improved graphics and controls and the Treasure Levels.  As one of the biggest knocks against Tokobot on the PSP was its length, or lack thereof, that’s not really enough to make this much more than a glorified port.

What this really feels like, in essence, is a quick way to make some additional money while the next game is being worked on, an easy port of a simple game designed to hook into the 10 million+ install base of the PS2.  At $30, it’s not really worth it for PSP owners, but for those who are into the puzzle genre and don’t have a PSP, this is a worthy purchase.

The additional Treasure levels and Overdrive moves are a nice addition, but it might have been nicer if they had just made a sequel for the PS2, including multiplayer modes and new areas.