Retro Games Challenge Week Twelve: Toki (Atari Lynx)

Toki is one of the finest arcade conversions you could hope for, an an excellent advertisement for the generally under-appreciated Atari Lynx. Which is more than you can say for the actual advertisements themselves.
Week twelve, which means I’ve been playing retro games for three months now. Well, three months if you totally discount the numerous previous decades of retro games playing, but hey, who’s counting?
Oh yeah, I am. Fifty two week challenge and all that. For those just joining us, I’m playing a different retro game each week for a year, as voted by the Internet. On week 52 I get to play my all time favourite, Bubble Bobble. Until then, I’m at your mercy.
A change this week, though! I’m throwing the voting for the following week up the top, just to see if I get more engagement that way. Next week, according to the existing voting, I’ll be playing Backyard Wrestling: Don’t Try This At Home. Yes, it’s dreadful. That was the point of last week’s voting. Clearly, somebody out there really hates me.
This week’s voting shall be back to system standards, and this time, I think it’s time to go for the Nintendo Gamecube, another under-appreciated gem. But which game should I play?
[socialpoll id=”2370025″]
Yeah, I included some known IPs in this one, and another Godzilla game. What can I say, I like the big green lizard dude.
For those who would like to catch up on my previous adventures in retro gaming land*, here’s all the titles already written about:
Retro Gaming Challenge Week One: Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Toukon Road 2: The Next Generation (N64)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Two: Donkey Konga (Gamecube)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Three: The Firemen (SNES)
Retro Games Challenge Week Four: Space Invaders (2600)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Five: Three Dirty Dwarves (Saturn)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Six: Trog (NES)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Seven: Robocop vs The Terminator (Megadrive)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Eight: James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (Xbox)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Nine: Godzilla Generations (Dreamcast)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Ten: Devil Dice (PSOne)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Eleven: Asterix (Sega Master System)

Toki: Ape-tastic!

Man, but it’s going to be hard to avoid the simian puns in this one. I do love me a good pun, or preferably a terrible one.
I also love the Atari Lynx, although it occurred to me this week that I’ve not spent a great deal of time playing it for about a decade or so. My stack of Lynx games has sat dusty and unappreciated for far too long, so while I spent the majority of the week playing Toki, as was my due, I also mucked around with other Lynx titles, including the always fun Rampart, the oddly huge Double Dragon, Xenophobe and APB.
Here’s the thing. Way back in the early 1990s, I bought my first console with my own money; the Sega Master system, which I wrote about last week.
The second console I bought was my first portable. I had two choices at the time; Nintendo’s Gameboy and Atari’s Lynx. I looked at the specifications, I looked at the games, and, to be honest, I also looked at a special that the Dick Smith store in Tamworth was running for a Lynx bundle… and so that’s what I ended up buying.

"I've got this idea for a game featuring a spitting ape in a gridiron helmet, sir.." "Are you drunk?" "Possibly"
“I’ve got this idea for a game featuring a spitting ape in a gridiron helmet, sir..”
“Are you drunk?”
“Possibly…”

Hindsight is a funny creature, because you could argue I backed the wrong horse; Nintendo’s Gameboy was dominant over the Lynx, the Game Gear, the Neo Geo Pocket, the Wonderswan and every other pretender to its throne. Yes, I did eventually buy a Gameboy as well, because Gameboy Tetris was and is sublime.
However, my week playing mostly Toki made me stop and think. Retro gaming is often about nostalgia – I’m certainly not immune to a bit of that myself – but it should also be about quality game experiences that last through the decades. The Lynx may not have had the depth of titles that the Gameboy had, but in being more technology-forward, I’d strongly argue that the best of the Lynx stands up very well against the best of the Gameboy. Maybe even better if you’re playing on original hardware, thanks to that greasy screen door effect on the standard Gameboy screen.
Toki’s a really great example of what I’m talking about; a conversion of a relatively lesser-known arcade platform game that the standard Gameboy just wouldn’t have been able to handle, but that the Lynx still presents very well. There’s a NES port and a Megadrive version, and I’ve never dipped my toes into those waters, but Toki for the Lynx I have played a lot of.
Level bosses are big, but not as tough as the levels themselves. May also be the victim of some visual stereotyping/cliches.
Level bosses are big, but not as tough as the levels themselves. May also be the victim of some visual stereotyping/cliches.

The key thing with Toki is that it’s tough. Very tough. You play as the eponymous Toki, turned into an ape by the evil Vookimedlo so that he cannot rescue the kidnapped princess Miho.
No, I don’t write the plots. Don’t blame me.
Anyway, Toki’s main weapon is spit. It’s a brave choice not often seen in video games, and you’ll need to hock a lot of loogies to make your way through every level of Toki. Quite how many I can’t quite say, because despite owning Toki for the Lynx ever since I’ve owned a Lynx, I’ve never quite finished it.
This week was no different (although if I’d had more time to play I might have got a little further with the game’s two continues), but that doesn’t faze me. Toki hits those crucial arcade gaming targets in that it looks great (within the context of the technology of the time) and while I’m playing it, I’m having fun.
Games designers in the 90s had access to a wide colour palette, and LOTS of drugs. Allegedly.
Game designers in the 90s had access to a wide colour palette, and LOTS of drugs.
Allegedly.

I think that’s a key thing for the Lynx as a whole. When I mention it to gamers of a certain age, with very few restrictions – usually those folk who only ever owned one or two games and were unlucky enough to have one of the stinkers (Hello, Basketbrawl! Aloha Batman Returns!) – they’re all warmly nostalgic for it. Sure, the Lynx was widely derided for being massive and devouring batteries at an alarming rate, but while the power lasted, or if you tethered yourself to a wall, it had games that put many full console titles of the day to shame, let alone its monochrome competition.
Although, despite having a future Spider-Man in its advertising, Atari never seemed to know how to market the poor thing.
 


 

I’m all a-quiver. Where can I get it?

Toki is one of those odd titles, because there were only a handful of conversions from the arcade original, and it’s not one of those retro games that appears anywhere in compilations or virtual console services either.
You can hunt for a copy on eBay (affiliate link) here. It currently appears to sit in the $30-$50 asking range; it’s definitely one of the best titles if you already own a Lynx.

Toki's joy at finishing a level is quite contagious, even with the limited number of pixels that make up his little furry face.
Toki’s joy at finishing a level is quite contagious, even with the limited number of pixels that make up his little furry face.

And if you don’t own a Lynx, what are you waiting for?
*The most pixelly place on earth.

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.