Toki: Going Ape Spit (Genesis) Review

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The Short

Pros

– It’s got “Going Ape Spit” in the title. Like…wow.

– Music (in sound test) is great

– The monkeys not only have subs in the underwater stages, but have monkey faces on the subs!

– Your primary attack is to spit things to death. Spit spit spit

– Tons of difficulty and customization options

– Underwater level (level 3) is probably the best level

Cons

– Toki would lose a race against a snail

– Bad camera means you can’t see much above or below you

– Cheap beginner’s trap segments throughout

– No checkpoints; a death starts you all the way back at the start of a stage

– One hit deaths

I'm so mad I could spit!

I’m so mad I could spit!

The Long

Ever been so mad you could spit? No? What, are you saying that expression is outdated and probably tied to the old west’s culture of chewing tobacco? Why are you saying all this in a video game review?

Let me tell you: spitting is pretty great, in my experience. Spitting is an exciting thing you can do pretty much anywhere, and all it requires is a little bit of saliva. On top of that, you can up your spitting game by spitting off things that are really tall. Trees, the Empire State Building, the International Space Station; these are all things good to spit off of.

Why do I bring this up? Because Toki: Going Ape Spit is a game about a monkey that spits on everything. Everything. Mostly other monkeys, but, yeah. Some game designer was sitting down one day and thought “We need a new idea for a run-n-gun game. People have already made Gunstar Heroes and Contra, what else can we do? The well has run dry!” and then…

A Spitting Monkey. 

It printed gold. Well, it actually didn’t, but The Legend of Toki (as the game is known in Japan) was an arcade game that was ported to both the NES and the Genesis. The Genesis version is the one we’re reviewing today, because it’s the only version with the awesome subtitle Going Ape Spit. Which makes it earn the award for “Best monkey game ever made that almost has a swear in the title that could double as a pun.”

Don't order the hot wings next time. Toki.

Don’t order the hot wings next time. Toki.

The story makes as much sense as most retro games, that is, it makes no sense at all. Toki is a studly, studly muscle man hanging out with his super-hot wife, when an alien city appears out of nowhere and a giant blue hand steals his wife and transforms him into a piece of spit monkey! Holy cow! Actually, now that I think about it, this is like a combination of the openings of Congo’s Caper and Adventure Island 3! Nobody will get these references, great review!

Anyway, Toki is going batspit insane without his lady-friend, so he decides to go off on an adventure. And his primary weapon of choice? Saliva. Mucus. Phlegm. Loogies. And sometimes triple, multi, or charged shot variations of those.

Toki: Going Ape Spit is a “run-n-gun.” Well, I use that in the loosest sense of the word: it’s more like a walk-n-gun or a trudge-n-gun. Toki moves extremely slow, though he has an impressive vertical jump distance. As you move forward you spit the ever loving spit out of those spithead enemies you come across (usually other jungle critters) with your spit-slinging powers. Toki can fire in all eight directions, and with powerups being plentiful and lasting a long time, you’ll be toting some serious spit-power as you attempt to get your lady back.

Assuming you don’t touch anything ever. Because this is one of those “one hits kills you” games.

You'll meet some ugly folks along the way.

You’ll meet some ugly folks along the way.

It’s about halfway through the first level when you realize that you kind of hate Toki: Going Ape Spit. Novel (as in “weird”) concept aside, the game revels in it’s unfairness. Toki’s slow speed means reacting to faster enemies is almost impossible; you’ll have better luck dodging traffic trying to cross the California I-5 freeway in a wheelchair. Spitting is (thankfully) fast, and honestly your only saving grace, but it does you no good if you can’t see the enemies. And here’s where Toki’s biggest problem lies: the awful camera.

Because of the large sprite size, the camera doesn’t really give you much of a field of view. Which is fine most of the time, unless you want to go up, down, left, or right into the unknown. There is a series of steps on the very first stage where an enemy will fly literally out of nowhere and kill you if you don’t know to stop, look up, and see him coming. And don’t get me started about stage two, which is vertically oriented. They give you Nikes (shoes that increase your jump height) which might as well have had a “die faster” sign next to them, as leaping higher almost surely puts you off the top of the screen and right into an insta-gib enemy. It’s infuriating.

But then something happens. Something really weird. You start to get it. You understand now: every step must be cautious. Taki’s slow, deliberate movements. The enemies’ obnoxious yet calculated placement. The dangerous heights and unfair deaths. You have to take everything slow, examine every ledge and upward climb, and be fast to react on the trigger. You have to expect to die again and again until you memorize enemy placement and patterns, calculate exactly what weapon to use when in this elaborate dance of death.

You heard it here first folks: Toki: Going Ape Spit is the Dark Souls of Genesis monkey games.

Plus Toki can now defy the laws of physics.

Plus Toki can now defy the laws of physics.

The game’s difficulty curve makes no damn sense whatsoever. Anything on a platform is difficult, with stage two and its vertically-oriented stage being a horrible offender. But then you get to stage three, which is a water stage, and it’s so much easier, in fact it’s probably the funnest stage in the game. This is probably because you not only have decent movement speed, but also free range movement. The camera also is now forced to follow you (because of that movement change) which means you can actually see enemies as they come. Plus every course in stage three is absurdly short, making the whole area a cake walk. This is, unfortunately, the only water level in the whole game, out of the total of nine stages, each with their own bosses.

Which reminds me: the majority of the bosses are cake. The first boss requires you to employ the most difficult of strategies: learn how to shoot up. The second boss requires an even more complex strategy: press “spit” a lot. And so on and so forth; not particularly challenging.

He looks scary, but he's a piece of spit.

He looks scary, but he’s a piece of spit.

Graphically, this game is a mixed bag. It has that “super muddy” Genesis look, like everything is covered in spit. But some of the enemies and bosses have a good amount of detail. The monkey subs with monkey faces on the subs are by far the highlight, and the fact that the boss of the stage is an even bigger monkey sub with an even bigger monkey face only makes it that much better.

Music is good…in sound test. See, going through sound test in the menus, I found a ton of really decent music in there. The problem is that in-game you’ll be hearing one or two songs over and over and that’s about it. Stages one, two, and four all have the same song. Three (thankfully) being underwater changes it, but that’s it. Sound effects are minimal and hardly worth mentioning.

Pictured: The best enemy in any game since Mega Man 3 PC's jogging fish

Pictured: The best enemy in any game since Mega Man 3 PC’s jogging fish

Toki: Going Ape Spit is a game that’s hard to love, but even harder to hate. It gives an awful first impression, has some super dodgy level design, and altogether feels a bit like a bad arcade port (which is probably is). But on the flip side, once you spend the time to unravel its nuances, it isn’t quite so bad. While the one-hit deaths and lack of stage checkpoints is brutal, it compensates by having a ton of options for continues, extra lives, and difficulty settings. Is Toki a spitty game? Well, kind of, but it’s also one I actually spent the time mastering in order to eventually beat it. So, in the end, I guess it could be a lot worse.

But it could be a hell of a lot better, too. Two out of five stars. 

Monkey see, monkey poo. See, I can make puns too, Toki!

Monkey see, monkey poo. See, I can make puns too, Toki!

Author: Nathan Major

Spirit Shark: Hammerhead. Retro game collector, true ginger, and SNES fanatic. Goal in life is to become Karnov from the NES game Karnov.

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