As the focal point of nostalgia marches relentlessly on, it was inevitable we would move from pixelated 2D graphics reminiscent of the SNES or Mega Drive to the look and feel of the early 3D consoles. The upsurge in that style has tended to make itself felt in the 2.5D shooter genre, with platformers like Yooka-Laylee drawing on the legacy of the N64 platformers.
Toree 2 (and its forerunner Toree 3D, identical in virtually every respect) manages to pull off something fairly unique and hark back specifically to the Sega Saturn, evident in its limited use of blocky geometric 3D platforms rather than filled-out 3D environments, and what appears to be clear inspiration taken from the cancelled Sonic X-Treme (originally planned as the titular hedgehog’s flagship game for the Saturn).
As a surprisingly speedy duck your objectives are simple — get to the end of the level as quickly as you can, avoid enemies rather than killing them, and pick up all the star collectibles you can along the way. Levels are short — they’ll probably take you a couple of minutes each — and not huge in number (there’s fewer than a dozen) but since the game costs only one dollar it’s hard to begrudge its brevity.
While the levels are few, the need to 100% the collectibles and finish in time for a high rank does add replayability, as do unlockable characters which essentially function as a cheat mode for endgame exploration. This is the kind of overpowered reward for completion games once offered as standard, but seems to have declined as a trend, possibly since in the land of online multiplayer, game balance is king.
Avoiding combat is an unorthodox move for this kind of game, but it helps keep focus on the speed rather than constantly stepping on the brakes for action sequences, something the 3D sonic games always struggle with. Music and presentation are delightful, a candy-cane exterior hiding a touch of menace towards the game’s final boss, as well as softening the edges of some surprisingly tricky platforming. That isn’t helped by the game’s main drawback, a manually-controlled camera with no automatic tracking which can throw off your view dramatically as the level shifts and twists around you at speed.
The overall impression is of a Sonic Team game had they at any point kept their eye on the ball over the last couple of decades, and it’s a testament to their shocking negligence that they’ve managed to be outclassed by a retro-style Switch platformer that, lest we forget, clocks in at a single dollar.
If, like me, you’re trying to kill the gap between Christmas and New Year without having to see friends or exercise, you could do very much worse than picking up Toree and Toree 2 for less than half the price of a coffee.