At first glance, HotGen’s To-Fu: The Trials of Chi [99¢ / HD] looks like a riff on the Xbox Live Arcade game Super Meat Boy, but where SMB was a gruelingly difficult platformer, To-Fu takes a more slow-paced approach. That’s not say To-Fu isn’t difficult, it certainly is in the later levels, but you can generally take your time with it.
You’ll touch and pull To-Fu in any direction and release to send him flying through the air. He’ll end up sticking to most surfaces and those he doesn’t, he’ll bounce off, slide down or move up them. It’s helpful then that you can get a view of the whole level and all of its obstacles by touching and scrolling too, which becomes an absolute necessity by the end. If you’ve ever touched a video game at any point in your life, you’re going to know which obstacles to expect because they’re all here — every single one of them.
Going back to the Super Meat Boy comparison is easy to do because To-Fu really does look like it took a lot of hints from it, but the problem is that Super Meat Boy took its inspiration from every platformer before it. If To-Fu wasn’t a piece of Tofu the inspiration probably wouldn’t be as transparent, but both games are certainly deeply seeded in the history of the genre. Spinning wheels of metal, rotating platforms, portals, disintegrating obstacles, lasers, spikes — all designed specifically to make you die.
And die you will — a lot. It’s not a big deal, overcoming adversity is what makes a game like this rewarding, but the lack of instantaneous restarts is a tad annoying and having to wait out a death animation can be taxing when you’re in the mood to just pick up and play quickly.
Thankfully, the level design keeps up with the ridiculous amount of obstacles and across the course of the 100 levels you’ll see a lot of innovation in screen setup. Each level has three separate objectives. Most importantly, you need to get To-Fu to the end, marked by a pink fortune cookie. Along the way, you have two supplementary, but not complimentary directives. Scattered throughout the level are blue orbs, which you’ll be trying to pick up by any means possible. Contrary to that is a goal to solve the level in a limited number of jumps. Rarely do these two coincide so if you’re the type to obsessively finish a game, you’ll have to play through them multiple times.
It’s that trifecta of objectives that makes To-Fu a game that’s likely going to appeal to a broad range of people. You can get through each level with a limited amount of challenge and enjoy the game as much as someone keen on getting everything. It’s too bad there isn’t Game Center support as it would give people more of an excuse to reach the 100 percent mark.
Visually, the game gets the job done. To-Fu looks great stretching out and sliding down walls, but the backgrounds start to get a bit repetitive as you move along. The music sticks in the back as do the majority of the sound effects, neither drawing much attention good or bad.
The touch screen controls really do work remarkably well and To-Fu: The Trials of Chi does a great job of working with the touch screen, not against it. The depth of challenges here works well, but it would be nice to have some type of meta-game or leaderboards so you could track your progress against others.