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Tomba! 2 Review

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On 09/30/2014 at 12:00 PM by Jamie Alston

A nostalgic memory lost in translation.

A good time if you have zero interest in knowing what’s going on.

The only reality worse than the inflated asking pricing for an old video game is the one where said game is digitally available for a fraction of the price, but devoid of the context that made it fun to play.  Such is the peculiar situation I found myself in upon downloading Tomba 2: The Evil Swine Return (The Wild Adventures in Japan) from the PlayStation Store. Originally released in 1999 by the now-defunct Whoopee Camp, it was re-released earlier this year by Monkey Paw Games.  Once the game booted up, it was both recognizable and unfamiliar at the same time. The game looks and plays the same as I remembered, but there was just one problem--it’s all in Japanese.

The story continues the adventures of Tomba-- a pink-haired feral boy who recently reclaimed his grandfather’s golden bracelet from a band of evil pigs.  One day he discovers a letter informing him that his girlfriend Tabby has mysteriously disappeared.  And so, doing what any whipped caring boyfriend would do, Tomba jumps into the sea and swims to the nearest village to begin his search.

Before I get to what irks me, let’s first focus on what this game has going for it. From a gameplay perspective, it’s decent enough.  Similar to the previous game, Tomba’s singular purpose quickly splinters into a series of smaller “events” by way of talking to the townsfolk and resolving their various problems.  Other events are triggered when you find items that are somehow related to something (or someone) else later in the adventure.  With over 130 events to be completed, there’s plenty here to keep you busy for quite some time.

Despite the change from 2D sprites to polygons, Tomba controls very well, albeit not as nimble this time around. As you get further into the adventure, he’ll gain a bevy of abilities which will make him an even more capable hero than he already was.  Some of my favorites were the mallet, the ice boomerang, and the flying squirrel suit for momentarily sustained flight.  And I when I wasn’t using his gadgets, I still enjoyed using his regular jump/bite attack on enemies.  It’s just fun to do over and over again.

Compared to the first game, the visual presentation isn’t as pleasant to the eye in this one. The previous game featured a cleaner look and feel with its 2D graphics engine.  In Tomba 2, the characters and environments are modeled using polygons and look a bit rough around the edges. But the variety and a grandness of the adventure more than make up for what it lacks in terms of eye candy.  But, all things considered, the gameplay in Tomba 2 is solid and provides hours of adventuring that I fondly remember from when I first played it many years ago.

Sadly, these positive aspects are quickly overshadowed by the quirks of playing an import game like this one.  According to Monkey Paw Games, they had some unspecified issues with emulating the US version on the PS3 hardware, so they decided to release the Japanese game instead, and I somewhat understand the idea behind it.  The problem is that the game heavily relies on text and voice-overs for plot development and clues on what to do next and where to go.

The language barrier affects everything from the selections on the title screen to the in-game sub-menus. Have fun trying to figure out which items to select for specific events in your inventory.  Oh sure, at first you can probably get by when using items you recently collected.  However, as the game progresses, you’ll come across more items that may not a have an immediate use for quite some time. And when the moment finally arrives for you to utilize said item, it’s a real crapshoot trying to figure out what and where it is in the long list of stuff you’ve acquired.

To be fair, I will give Monkey Paw Games props for making a complete game guide available on the website, ensuring that you won’t be hopelessly uninformed of how to progress to the end of the game.  Be that as it may, however, part of what originally made this game so memorable was experiencing the character interactions first-hand and letting the game speak for itself.  So, while helpful, the use of a guide for a game like this makes for a rather dull experience. It pretty much reduces you to merely going through the motions of completing quests without the personal connection that could be felt with the US version.

As critical as my words may seem, Tomba 2 is a very good game with solid gameplay elements.  It’s just unfortunate (and kinda dumb) that we got stuck with the import version sucked dry of the context necessary to truly feel vested in what’s going on around you.  Granted, this probably won’t bother someone who’s never played this game before.  But if you’re like me and had fond memories of getting immersed in Tomba’s world, then you’ll be in for a half-baked trip down memory lane at best.  It’s the game you remember...except it isn’t.

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.

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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.




09/30/2014 at 02:51 PM

Yes I bought this on PSN day one when they were still showing the NA version as the icon and there was no mention of it being Japanese. I'm not about to even attempt to play it with the translation file so I basically pissed away 6 bucks.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

09/30/2014 at 11:06 PM

I feel your pain man.  Yeah, it was especially bad before Sony changed the icon to reflect the Japanese version.  I really think this game was better off just not being released at all if they couldn't work out the emulation issues in the US version.

Cary Woodham

09/30/2014 at 08:50 PM

If they couldn't get this in English, i don't think they should've released it at all.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

09/30/2014 at 11:06 PM

Heh...that's just what I said above before I read your comment.  Great minds, man.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

10/01/2014 at 08:53 AM

you're a more courageous man than I, Jamie!  

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/01/2014 at 11:03 AM

Yeah, I get that a lot.  LOL!


10/27/2014 at 11:39 AM

At first, I thought that the review was a retro one. Maybe putting PS3 digital in the title or something would have been clearer. That being said, I liked reading it.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/29/2014 at 02:31 PM

I get what you're saying. And that's why it's tagged as a "PSOne Classics" game because that's how Sony classifies it on their PS Store.  Since I reviewed the version that was released on the PlayStation store earlier this year, it technically doesn't fall under something that would written as a "Review Rewind".

Sorry for any confusion though. And thanks for reading dude!

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