I’m sure that many of you would think it odd if I were to tell you that Tomba! is easily one of the most creative games that I’ve ever played. In fact, when I told people that I was reviewing Tomba! for this ish, I got responses such as “I thought that was on SNES?” and “wtf is that.” For those unfamiliar with mildly successful PlayStation games, Tomba! is a tasteful blend of side-scrolling, puzzle-solving action and good old RPG.
So what makes this pig-infested, African tribal/middle-earth fantasy side-scrolling/RPG adventure so unique? Shit, I guess I just answered my own question. As for storyline, there isn’t much until you’ve already committed to the game. Immediately after hitting the “Start New Game” option on the title screen, you are thrown into a scene that looks like it could be taking place anywhere in the game. A brief tutorial is provided on how the game works, and you’re off.
You quickly learn of a one-hundred year old wise man who can provide you with information. Okay—so only after using all of my years of video game experience could I figure out that I needed to go see this century old guru of all things tribal/fantasy. And finally, some story. Apparently, seven villainous pigs came from a land unknown to wreak havoc upon the peaceful world in which you reside. Before any type of resistance could have been made, the pigs had spread their barnyard filth all over the globe, replacing normal trees with big fluffball type…balls. And what has involved our pink-haired barbarian of a hero? Well, the greedy pigs stole his grandfather’s bracelet while hoarding all of the gold from innocent citizens. And so, Tomba embarks on his quest to retrieve the bracelet, armed only with his trusty sorta-mace-like-ball-thing-with-spikes.
The actual gameplay in Tomba! is not unlike most side-scrollers. You can jump from platform to platform, swing on branches, climb walls, et cetera, et cetera. To defeat the evil pigs, Tomba can either knock them out with his maceish thing, or he can simply jump on their backs, bite them, and then send them flying with an incredible mid-air throw. What’s truly great about this game is the brilliant level design to accompany Tomba’s wide array of moves. Each side-scrolling level has a foreground, a background, and sometimes areas in between. But therein lies the problem. I suppose the designers over at Whoopee Camp spent too much time worrying over their encompassing levels, and not the size of the screen. Tomba! certainly does have some huge levels, both vertically and horizontally, which makes a relatively normal-sized screen just not enough to play with.
Graphically, Tomba! is about as advanced as the PlayStation was in 1998. Looking back, I’m sure many of us would consider the graphics to look a bit sloppy. But you must have faith in Tomba!. After your encounter with the old guy, the game cuts to a really impressive sequence, complete with voice acting. Notice I did not say good voice acting. It’s not bad, though. Anyway, the animated sequence is really something to be gawked at. As far as sound, Tomba! sports a strange soundtrack of tribal type songs. The sound effects are a bit repetitive, especially when you have to jump a lot and Tomba cannot stop with the “Haeh!'”s.
Tomba! is certainly a title that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of people. The gameplay is good enough to keep the interest of older people, and the game itself contains enough bright colors and flashing images to keep young children and easily amused older players involved as well. So, for anyone who’s got their PlayStation 1 sitting around collecting dust, go ahead and pick up Tomba!. I’m sure that you can get it for a good price, and the unique story won’t disappoint.