Hidden Gem: Tomba!

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Growing up I never got sucked into the “N64” era of video games. Many of my friends see classics like Banjo-Kazooie and GoldenEye as the be all-end all as far as nostalgia is concerned. Yes, if you were raised in the suburban 90’s, the Nintendo-64 seems to have swallowed you and everyone else into having the same childhood game-wise.

However, there are those few of us poor children who skipped this wild craze. Those who scoffed in the face of Yamauchi, who forged our own paths. We decided alien-shaped controllers were a no, and whether out of spite, or more likely old hand-me-downs, we chose the Sony Playstation as our system of choice.

Most of my childhood was dedicated to Sony, which is where I discovered this gem.

tomba Yes, this little number created by ex-game company Whoopee Camp was what I spent many, many hours of my life dedicated to as a child. I could probably say that I owe a very large fraction of my life, in fact, to this game.

   – So what the hell is it?

For a majority of you, the one thing you may remember ever hearing about this game was a commercial that ran in 1999 for it’s sequel actually, involving a man with pink hair attempting to catch a rather larger woman from a burning building.

I’m not here to make any comment on how unrelated the advertisement for the sequel was to the franchise, I believe it speaks for itself. But as far as the first game goes:

               Tomba! is hands down the most unique video game ever made.

Now calm down. That’s a very fair argument to make. I’m not saying it’s the best game ever made, and I’m not saying it’s got the best graphics, or is the most fun, or the best programmed, or any of that. All I’m saying is that it is the most unique game ever made. Period. There’s no argument, Whoopie Camp should not have gone out of business by a long shot, and here’s why:

For starters, Tomba! is both a sidescroller, and an RPG. I have never seen this pulled off well since Tomba!, in fact the only game I can even think of being remotely similar would be MapleStory. That being said, Tomba!’s not an RPG in the usual sense. Yes, there are “quests” you must accomplish to further you along the story, but there are no elements of grinding, paying for content, or even the “necessary” optional quests. No, this beautiful work of art does not use cheap tricks to increase the games length. In fact, it wasn’t until I replayed it years later that I actually accomplished everything that could be done in the game.

Unique genre aside, there are many other reasons Tomba! (Yes, the exclamation mark is part of the title) should hold “Most Unique Game Ever”. For starters, there’s an exclamation mark as part of it’s title. Here’s more uniqueness:

  1. Main character’s got pink hair.
  2. Main character’s name is Tomba (?!what?!).
  3. Your main goal in the game is to get your dead grandfather’s bracelet back… THAT WAS STOLEN BY EVIL PIGS!
  4. You fight evil pigs.
  5. Your best friend is a talking monkey. With an umbrella. Who loses his underwear.
  6. You make candy for a witch.
  7. You care for a baby dog, which grows into a FLYING DOG à la Dumbo.
  8. To defeat the seven evil pigs, you THROW THEM INTO BAGS!
  9. Each evil pig represents a different element. Water, Fire, etc. One of the elements is “Haunted”.
  10. Your entire inventory is kept inside of your stomach.
  11. There is a full village of Dwarves.
  12. You learn to speak Dwarvish by jumping on Dwarves..
  13. Throughout the game you meet progressively older wise-men, beginning with the 100 Year Old Wise-Man, the 1000 Year Old Wise-Man, and all the way to the 1,000,000 Year Old Wise-Man.
  14. All of these men have magic teleporting bells. That they’ve lost.
  15. You bomb a city.
  16. There are butterflies with leaves for wings.
  17. You play hide-and-seek the entire game.
  18. Did I mention you bite enemies on the ass to kill them?
  19. There’s mermaids.
  20. There’s a drug-forest that makes you laugh and cry constantly.
  21. Talking trees.
  22. *spoiler* There’s actually eight evil pigs! *spoiler*
  23. Your first mission is to use a tornado..
  24. There are cannibal natives! And borderline racism!
  25. Marshmallows on spikes.
  26. Pigs on sleds. Pigs on spikes. Pigs on marshmallows on spikes.
  27. A CITY OF RATS
  28. Collecting baby pigs with fart gas.
  29. Floating one-eyed Lovecraftian squid monsters.
  30. Bringing a phoenix back to life twice.

Tomba! comes from the innocent age of video-gaming. Where things could be fun, and colorful, and about pigs. True I’m sure PETA doesn’t support this game much, but I like to think that even they would prefer the uniqueness of biting pigs on the ass next to the brutality we see in the average video games of today (I’m not saying I hate modern gaming, because I bought GTA V recently and have been going to town on some deer okay). I think the most unique video game I’ve seen come out recently was Rayman? And even that was just the sequel to the re-launch of an older Playstation franchise.

But the concept of modern games and films losing their “soul” is not a new argument, and certainly not one I care to get into on the internet at this time. In fact, I pray that no more unique games come out. Because if someone ever wanted to dare fight Tomba! for his current title-holding record for World’s Most Unique Game, then they’d have to get through me first.

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Published by

Sean McGehee

CEO of the Department of Imagination.

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