Toby: The Secret Mine sets itself up with a simple yet interesting premise – your villagers have been kidnapped by forces that seem fearful of you, and you need to go about rescuing them. You play as Toby, a little guy determined to save his friends and uncover what’s going on.
Right from the first moments of the game, it’s inspirations are made clear – The 2D art style is reminiscent of Limbo, while its more vibrant color palette reminded me of Badlands. The game looks great, and there’s enough visual variety to keep the game from looking stale.
Similar to Limbo, you’ll progress across levels by solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles. The problem, however, is in the game’s heavy reliance on ‘trial and error’ style of gameplay. Often you’ll die in a level because you came across a trap that sprung on you by surprise, and you die instantly. You start over knowing the upcoming trap and avoid it, only to have another one of those sprung on you. Rinse and repeat. This would have been much more tolerable with more frequent checkpoints between levels or if Toby would move a lot faster. Without that, the constant back and forth can become tedious.
The level design is actually pretty great and the game controls really well. This helps specially in some of its rather clever puzzles, many of which are not predictable or simple.
The enemies themselves do not play much of a major role apart from setting up the basic premise, and showing up every once in a while. Like I mentioned before, they fled whenever I approached them, though I was never really clear on why they did that.
The game did start a bit abruptly, for my taste, with me simply rushing into the game with minimal premise or context. And the same theme follows throughout the game. By the end of it, you don’t get a lot of answers. I actually would’ve liked to see more of a story here, since once you finish the game, there’s not a lot of replay value. It’s also not a very long game, with my playthrough lasting just under 4 hours, and mostly because I had to repeat sections because of some really cheap deaths.
I don’t want to harp on Toby: The Secret Mine too much. The game does have its charms – it looks and sounds great throughout, and has a fair amount of variety across levels. It’s clear that the devs put in a lot of love and care in making a game similar to ones they took strong inspirations from. And if you are the kind of person who really enjoys games like Limbo and are hungry for more, you actually might like Toby quite a bit.