Some games you can pick up and play, some you give a good week’s rental to, and some dig their sharp caveman incisors into your head and just won’t let go!
We’re back in 1998 now, on the sixth floor of our college-sponsored apartment building, and I’ve spent a few days already with Sony’s Tomba! Alone over summer break, there are no interruptions to distract me from the glorious 3D-set-in-2D platforming action. I spend hours at a time trekking all over the land seeking out bizarre villagers who need help completing more and more elaborate tasks, all the while seeking revenge on the Koma Pigs, who stole my grandfather’s bracelet.
So far I’ve chased monkeys through the trees, I’ve tossed pigs off of cliffs, I’ve raced around in a Flintstones-style rocket cart and I’ve made my way into the Mushroom Forest. Herein is a land full of creepy mushroom giants with mouths and giant flowers whose buds droop all around Tomba. You can scale them to reach dizzying heights, and each bobs gingerly as you grab hold. Further along the ground path is a trickle of twinkling pollen dust. Decoration, I assume, and I keep running.
Suddenly Tomba stops running, stares out of the screen at me and begins laughing hysterically. A few seconds later the giant mushroom mouths are doing the same and high-pitched giggling issues from the entire screen. In awe of the absurd situation I start laughing uncontrollably myself. It’s one of those rare startling moments when you realize just how much creativity was put into the game you’re playing. Another second later and Tomba is back under my control (though stopping occasionally to laugh again), and I’m on my way out of the forest. All that laughter vibrating my kidneys reminds me how long I’ve been playing.
I drag my numbed backside to the restroom and on the way back I glance through the tightly drawn curtains. It’s June and the weather is hot, the air is dry, and since we don’t pay for utilities, the AC is blasting.
“Gee, it’s really cloudy,” I think to myself as I survey the blustery metropolis beyond the balcony. “And windy!”
A great pause in which gears can be heard grinding from game-mode back to reality─
“Isn’t this, like, tornado season?” I think as I flip the TV over to one of the local stations.
Sure enough, all networks are broadcasting weather reports and tickers are racing across the screen advising of the situation. I instinctively ignore their advice, refusing to believe anything I see on TV, and call my Mom.
She recommends going to the bathroom and cowering in the tub until the tornado passes. I don’t bother to explain that this is the sixth floor of a shoddy apartment building and our bathtub is made of molded resin. If a tornado were nearby I’d basically be laying in a flying plastic taco. I ensure her everything’s okay and that I overreacted, Tomba! beckoning more than the foreboding storm. I get off the phone and move towards the TV to change it back to the game.
“How ‘bout that?” I think jovially aloud. The Channel 12 Triple Doppler Pulse Beacon Ion Super Weather Radar shows three separate tornados, triangulated pretty much around my immediate coordinates.
Flip! And I’m back in Tomba!’s vibrant, wacky world with over 100 more missions to complete, the thoughts of certain doom and Mother Nature’s wrath fluttering from my head as I recall the laughing fit Tomba and I just had. What other surprises lie ahead?
As it turned out, that day would see an astonishing 14 reported tornadoes in the greater Pittsburgh area, with sixteen people injured and a collective sense of security forever shaken. More historically, it would also mark the last time I ever thoroughly enjoyed an action/platformer of any kind.
For: Sony PlayStation
Released: 1998 (US)