10th Aug2018

Digital Shorts: ‘Toby, The Secret Mine’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Matthew Smail

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Toby, The Secret Mine – an indie game that has joined the line-up of Nindies on the Nintendo Switch


Considering that Toby, The Secret Mine was released on Steam in 2015 and then steadily onto Android, Wii U, Xbox One and PS4 over the following two years, it’s arrival onto the Nintendo Switch this week is quite a surprise. Toby is a game that emulates Limbo so closely that it could almost have been made by the same team, but for one subtle difference. Attention to detail.

Both games feature beautifully animated graphics that take the form of black silhouettes against a lighter background. In Limbo’s case, white and grey are used to maintain the melancholy mood. In Toby, the backgrounds are more attractive and much more colourful, presenting a pleasing contrast. The issue with Toby is not how good it looks though, it’s the fact that it uses every trick in Limbo’s book, but it does so just a little bit clumsily.

Essentially consisting of a series of physics puzzles and platforming sections, Toby is an unspoken tale about a boy – Toby, I assume – and some kind of kidnapper who resembles a larger version of Toby and his friends. These friends are scattered throughout the landscape hidden in cages, traps and other sticky situations, and the main joy in Toby is in rescuing them. The issue that I’m building up to is that whilst Toby looks good, it repeatedly fails to introduce new concepts to the player, meaning that trial and error become the frustrating norm.

In the silhouetted landscape, there are secrets to discover that require players to walk into walls with no indication that something might be hidden behind. There are secrets down holes that you have learned are there to kill you. There are countless murderous traps and features within the landscape with no tell, and as a result one of Limbo’s great joys – that of the desperate chasing ending in a near miss – is often lost in favour of one cheap death after another.

I certainly don’t hate Toby, but since its original release, we’ve also had Inside, which, like Limbo, is simply better. Having been out for two years now, I should also mention that there is no new content in the PS4 version of Toby, and I just feel like it’s a fairly cynical re-release of a title that was underwhelming even when it launched. I’ll give it a little shout out for having a couple of endings though, one of which was not what I expected.

*** 3/5


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