Releases for the original Nintendo DS console are thinning out considerably these days, but as with any aging console this doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s not innovation to be found. Rising Star Games has been one of the biggest supporters of the device in terms of dual screen adaptations of existing videogame genres, which is exactly where To-Fu Collection fits in. It’s a videogame which plays by familiar rules, but breaks the mould simply by being that little bit different.
To-Fu Collection is so-called as it’s a Nintendo DS adaptation of two iOS releases. Both titles are included here in their entirely as separate options on the main menu, and stay that way throughout; separate scales of progression, separate in-game achievements lists, separate videogame experiences. In terms of product all that the two share is a single Game Card, but gameplay is another matter altogether.
In To-Fu Collection, the player takes control of a small cube of tofu, and tries to reach the exit of each level (there are also collectible Chi items on each level for an increased score, but this is an optional meta game as would be expected). In order to do this the player has one and only one manoeuvre available: pinging their tofu. By placing their stylus upon the tofu and then stretching lightly in the direction they wish to travel they can propel the tofu from one wall to another. The challenges surrounding this core mechanic soon ramp-up in difficulty, beginning with a simply point-to-point stage, followed by necessary realignment of pings, and then introducing all manner of additional objects and rulsets.
There is a great deal of challenge in the first title included in To-Fu Collection, To-Fu: The Trials of Chi, and yet the difficulty curve presents a welcoming structure to the videogame. The second title, simply known as To-Fu 2, isn’t quite as well designed. Essentially an expansion of the formula as opposed to a true sequel, To-Fu 2 offers no new techniques and only a handful of new items. Such is the disappointment of To-Fu 2 that in order to teach new players the basics but get those familiar a new challenge as soon as possible, it even transplants some of the original To-Fu: The Trials of Chi levels directly into this second edition. Undoubtedly a lazy design decision, it also ruins the difficulty curve, effectively making the repeated levels redundant; here in To-Fu Collection, you wouldn’t continue to play through the added difficulty of To-Fu 2 if you hadn’t already mastered To-Fu: The Trials of Chi.
Neither title is truly pushing the Nintendo DS hardware, clearly offering only a direct conversion of the iOS titles. The visual quality has not received any noticeable makeover and the sound quality is not exactly top tier production. Of course, in a slow pace cerebral videogame such as this, visual and aural quality isn’t necessarily the biggest concern, but when your tofu itself is of such a low standard that you can’t help be disappointed.
To-Fu Collection is a welcome addition to the Nintendo DS’ diminishing release schedule, but solely for that reason: it’s a product that both casual and core gamers will find palatable despite its flaws. It’s not pretty, but it remains enjoyable as a more relaxing gameplay experience. The gameplay is rewarding for those who preserve with the videogame and pinging mechanic offering a new take on an existing cerebral platform template, it’s just a shame that developers HotGen didn’t see fit to add an extra layer of polish to this handheld console edition of the videogame.