IUGO’s Toy Bot Diaries: Entry 2 proves that the original Toy Bot was no fluke. We enjoyed practically every moment of our second Toy Bot experience, savoring its excellent level designs and admiring it for wearing its sense of humor on its sleeve… and then the game ran out of content. That’s Toy Bot 2’s main problem: Toy Bot’s crazy adventures are too good to be broken up into three installments.
Installment 2 of Toy Bot Diaries has the lovable, roly-poly robot working to avert a sinister Space Pirate invasion (we’re not exactly sure what they’re called, but they have a huge spacecraft and their leader looks kind of piratical to our eye). To that end, Toy Bot has to deliver a top secret package to his liege lord, King Bot; along the way, he decides to infiltrate the invaders’ dreadnought to find out what they’re really after.
Most of the game’s five levels are set inside the enemy ship, which is laid out like a giant Toy Bot obstacle course. Each area is filled with winding passageways, moving platforms, whirling gears, bomb shooters, automated defense drones, and other nastiness; traversing it takes major skill with Toy Bot’s grappling arm, which shoots out and latches onto any metal surface on the screen with a touch. Like Capcom’s Bionic Commando, Toy Bot has a vertical leap of zero inches, so grappling is really the name of the game here. If you grab a surface and keep holding your touch on the screen, Toy Bot will retract all the way up and stick himself to the anchor point with his magnetic boots, freeing his arm for another shot.
This control scheme feels very unusual at first, but once you realize you can just touch around the screen, you’ll quickly have Toy Bot swinging his way around the levels with ease. It’s remarkably intuitive once you get used to it. The level designers really have a field day making you use his entire bag of tricks, too. Some puzzles involve sticking yourself to the ceiling to pry open a vent in the floor; others require you to swing wildly from a rapidly turning gear, and then use the momentum to catapult yourself to a new area. The game uses a real physics engine, so dangling, swinging, pushing and dropping all behave pretty naturally. We did notice a few physics glitches, however–we got permanently wedged in tiny, inaccessible passageways a few times. We also ran into a couple puzzles that stymied us for a few minutes, until we finally noticed some small, poorly positioned detail, like another gear hovering just off camera. That said, the vast majority of the levels are a lot of fun, barring the insipid final battle.
The action looks and sounds great, too. Toy Bot is one of the more expressive characters we’ve encountered on the iPhone–the little guy grins as he toddles around the levels, hoots in a tiny robot voice, and goes wide-eyed when something scary happens–and his endearing cutesiness sets the tone for the whole game. This point hits home during the hand-drawn cartoon cut scenes, which tell the story in hilarious, non-verbal fashion. The level backgrounds are nothing special, but they’re rendered in sharp, bright colors to aid visibility. The music’s kind of forgettable, so it’s good that you can switch on your iPod instead.
Toy Bot Diaries: Entry 2 should last an average player between an hour and a half and two hours. The developers add a little more meat by scattering collectible memory chips across the levels (every 5 chips opens up a new cartoon “memory” that fills out the story); finding all of these is good for another hour or so of entertainment. Although we are disappointed by the relative brevity, we have no problem ponying up $3.99 for a game of this quality–in fact, we are eagerly awaiting Entry 3. Anyone who liked the first game, or enjoys platforming games in general, should pick this one up.