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Tomba! Review


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On 10/03/2012 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

It's weird and unique, but is it fun?
RECOMMENDATION:

For nostalgic fans looking to experience the game again.

Due to its rarity, Tomba has become highly sought after for fans and collectors alike. The title, created by the now defunct Whoopee Camp, was the brain child of Ghosts'n Goblins creator/Mega Man producer Tokuro Fujiwara. While the multi-plane sidescroller has Fujiwara's signature, it doesn't quite capture the magic of his prior works, especially 15 years after its release.

Like many games from the PlayStation era, Tomba is far from easy if you're approaching it for the first time, years after its release. With little to no instruction, it can be extremely difficult to deduce what to do next or where to go. If you're not paying very close attention to your surroundings, it's easy to miss pathways to new areas or characters that need to be talked to.

It's easy to label Tomba a sidescroller and move on, but its construction is rather atypical. Traversing the landscape is accomplished through the traditional run and jump mechanics; however, attacking enemies is done in a unique fashion. All enemies can be jumped on, grabbed, and tossed, but with many you'll have to use a weapon to knock them down, or wait for them to enter a vulnerable position to be attacked. When tossed, they can act as a weapon against other enemies or a means of modifying the landscape to enable progression. This unique implementation is one of the items that really sets Tomba apart from the crowd.

What further differentiates the experience are the RPG elements that accompany it. The entire game is built upon a quest-based structure that nets players AP points. These will help expand the life bar to make it less treacherous to traverse the disparate lands. What's unfortunate is that the game does a poor job of distinguishing quests that will progress the story and those that are tangential. Even worse, the objectives in the quests can be vague and will offer little direction on where to go or how to move forward, often bringing your experience to a screeching halt.

While there are some 130 quests in the game, for most you'll always be doing the same thing, which is in essence: finding the proper location, talking to the right person, and/or collecting the expected item(s). Given that traversal isn't particularly challenging or often interesting, this gameplay quickly loses its luster.

The diverse and unique environments serve as the true reward of Tomba. In one portion of the game, I encountered a mushroom stage that featured items to eat that had Alice in Wonderland-like effects on the world. Furthermore, they'd cause my character to randomly laugh or cry without a moment's notice or disable the use of my weapon. The area was unlike any I've seen in a game and was incredibly memorable.

The ability to jump in and out of the background often created some interesting opportunities for exploration as well. Though with little else going on in the game, the instances that encouraged unique exploration were welcomed.

It's easy to see why Tomba has become a game that collectors actively seek out. While it's not particularly engaging, there's no question that it's a unique piece of gaming history that demonstrated what could be done with a tried and true genre. As the years have gone by, we've seen some incredible things done with the platformer, so approaching it for the first time 15 years later makes it hard to appreciate. However, if you've played Tomba in the past and are eager to give it another whirl, you can't go wrong with the PSOne re-release that you can enjoy on the PlayStation 3 at home or on your Vita/PSP to go.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

10/04/2012 at 10:44 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Everyone's always jazzed about this game, so I was feeling compelled to try it sometime. Sounds like you had to be there to truly enjoy it. I'll move it down my to-play list a little.

Julian Titus Reviews Editor

10/05/2012 at 10:44 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I was never a fan of Tomba!, even when it was new. I know Diehard Gamefan was all over it, but a rental left me cold, and I never went back to it.

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