Play Kirby long enough and you'll get used to the formula: What starts out as a wholesome platformer about an adorable mascot always ends with Kirby killing some sort of reality-bending eldritch abomination. Years later, here I am playing Toree 2 (opens in new tab), a charming platformer about an adorable duck trying to get his ice cream cone back, pulling from the '90s N64 aesthetic and awash in bright colors and catchy tunes. I'm just hopping and bopping up this little volcano tower towards the finish line and—what's this? A giant demonic face is rising out of the lava below and slowly approaching me? This feels...right.
Over nine levels and a single boss fight, Toree 2 nails almost everything you want in a platformer of the "cute" variety. Toree the duck is a cool little fellow with an adorable pink backpack, and he can't help but make little squeaky duck noises while sprinting and jumping. He also loves ice cream cones, but some devil-faced trickster has snatched his treat and made off through a portal.
The solution? Sprint as fast as possible through four pairs of differently themed levels, collecting stars, dodging robots and bees, and trying to get the highest ranking possible. When Toree 2 really pops off in later levels, like an outer space battle between ships infused with a synthwave pink and blue color scheme, it feels like a Sonic the Hedgehog game, without all the glitchy baggage. It's an influence that's clear throughout developer Siactro's previous game Toree 3D (opens in new tab), which features a military shipyard level that's a clear homage to Sonic Adventure 2's Metal Harbor.
As a platformer, Toree 2 feels buttery smooth. You'll spend most of each run using Toree's sprint ability, but that inertia plus countless treadmills and speed boost rings will make many turns a precarious balancing act as Toree slides and drifts on his webbed feet. It can get a little too much for the camera at times, losing sight of where you're supposed to go and inadvertently running toward an unseen target à la Crash Bandicoot, so I ramped up the camera sensitivity to 100%. Regardless, the smooth sense of control makes repeated attempts to earn an S ranking on each level more palatable.
Even though the general approach to completing each level doesn't change much, the variety of aesthetics really keeps things fresh. A particular favorite is the palm tree-filled Sparkle Park and Paradise Palms, with water slides and beach chairs to bounce on. The giant squid wearing sunglasses off in the distance is just the cherry on top.
Best of all, it's literally just $1 on Steam (opens in new tab) or itch.io (opens in new tab). If you need a little more encouragement, Toree 2 has two alternate characters to unlock (hint: they're based on Siactro's previous games MacBat and Tasty Ramen) and some good tunes to jam out to.