With the advent of the Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64 came 3-dimensional graphics and a whole new world of possibilities in gaming. Titles like “Spyro” “Banjo-Kazooie” and “Crash Bandicoot” soared into popularity with their immersive environments and 3-D modeled characters. Even Mario received an upgrade in all of the madness and made a new appearance with his new video game “Super Mario 64.”
However, despite the success of these “evolved” titles, there were still some games that stuck to the platformer formula made famous by the iconic plumber years ago.
Tomba! is a great example of a game that used 2-D and 3-D elements to create an original experience worth the time of any gamer in the late ’90s and maybe even today.
The game starts rather abruptly after a short hand-drawn cutscene where the main character, Tomba, a pink haired, primitive-looking boy, has his golden bracelet stolen by some evil pig henchmen. Tomba! takes no time to set the wacky tone it would have throughout that it maintains through the combination of dialogue, environment and story line. The rest of the game is spent controlling Tomba as he makes his way through the world in search of defeating the seven evil pigs that are responsible for the theft of his golden bracelet.
While the game may create its own personality in the zaniness that is “Tomba!,” it also creates problems for gamers as they struggle to determine which clues are fact and which are there to be funny. For example, during one part of the game a plant that is oddly shaped like a human’s backside must be used to shrink a pig foe to a smaller size with the fumes it expels. First encountering the plant, a player might laugh and move on, forgetting it as nothing more than a joke, but as the game progresses it turns out the player must return to the plant if he/she wishes to progress the story line. It’s not a huge problem to deal with, it just makes an already obscure experience unnecessarily cryptic.
This leads players to wonder “where is my mission list?” A mission list skips the confusing bits of dialogue and gets right down to brass tax … in most games. After a player realizes the mission list is not located in the normal start menu, but rather by pressing select, they can see just how unhelpful this menu is. When Tomba needs to gain experience to grab a special item or open a gate the mission list will often state general facts such as “collect AP points for something special” or “find the Jewel of Fire to unleash the hidden powers from within.” The game autoatically assumes the player will know how to obtain AP points or how to get the specific experience to pick up the Jewel of Fire. Although it does create added difficulty to the game, it’s an unnecssary difficulty players will have little patience to move forward from, and it will leave gamers asking themsleves what their drive is to complete the game.
Despite the often limited guidance Tomba! offers there are many facets the developers should be proud of. First off, the game controls beautifully as Tomba can run, jump, swing and swim his way to victory. There are some small points in the game where controls can get in the way, but for the most part Tomba! offers fluid movements to players that take little to no time to master. The comforatbility created by this ease gives way to many unique interactions in the game that feel rewarding when conquered. Weapons and other items control just as smoothly and help diversify the experience gamers will have as they make their way to the final boss fight.
The presentation of Tomba! matches the tone set by the first cutscene in that it is a colorful, goofy landscape filled with evil pigs carrying pitchforks, a forest covered in what looks like Dippin’ Dots and mushrooms that can cause a sudden burst of happiness or a profound sadness. The world is just big enough to have variety, but small enough to make the players feel comfortable, and most everything in the game is hand drawn, and even though character models can often overlap, it appears a great deal of time and effort went into creating the wonderous world of Tomba!. Although cutscenes add to the game’s story line and personality, their appearance is far too few and far between leaving the player begging for more. Even the game’s final cutscene is less than a minute, which is a shame considering how great the cutscenes look and how much they liven up the game. Emotion through scenery is conveyed well through the soundtrack. When Tomba is in a cave the player knows whether or not it is a scary cave by the dark and mysterious melodies the specific area is characterized by. While this does ring true for the soundtrack, there are multiple background noises that are frequently repeated, which not only annoys the gamers but detracts from the uniqueness developed through backgrounds and character design.
Despite confusing missions and overplayed background noises Tomba! is a nice, little game with a story line that doesn’t call for too much thinking. Hand-drawn environments and funny interactions give way to a relaxed feeling that gamers will come to appreciate as they realize how intense and involved many games of this generation have often become. Tomba! is an interesting blast from the past that old and young gamers alike should give a chance to. Although it hasn’t exactly aged like fine wine, Tomba! still puts a smile on the face and challenges gamers to overcome obstacles to reach an ultimate goal, so what more can you ask for? The game can take more than 20 hours to complete, and players will most likely turn to guides as some of the quests in Tomba! require more than just a strong intuition to complete. This PS1 classic can be purchased on the Playstation Network and gets 7 evil pigs out of 10.