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Tomba 2 Impressions: It just isn’t the same

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Tomba 2
Price: $5.99
System(s): PS3, PSP, PS Vita
Release Date: Feburary 18th, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Monkey Paw Games (Whoopee Camp)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone”

My entire memory of playing Tomba 2 consists of a few minutes with the demo on a Playstation in a California car dealership. A short segment ill fit to be shown off in a small span of time to a ten year old whose entire experience with the Playstation was limited to few hours with the demo stations of Barnes & Noble (California in the year 2000, what can I say?). For some reason Tomba 2 was a straightforward action adventure game. Boy was I wrong.

Deciding to fill in the gap of my childhood knowledge, I took in the recently released PSOne Classic version. The original release held a certain mystique to it, which this version preserves…by being entirely in Japanese. Due to the finicky nature of the original game and emulation, Monkey Paw Games decided with some trouble that the original Japanese version of the game would be the best to bring over. This becomes a bit troublesome, as the game is rather text heavy.

A novel combination of platforming and adventure game mechanics Tomba 2 is a game that primarily takes place along a 2D planes with some detours into 3D. You’ll chat up locals, complete various quests, and smack enemies with a growing arsenal of weapons and then jumping on them and nibbling at their heads.

The platforming sections feel solid and there are a good variety of areas to visit and take in, with some amusingly designed structures and puzzles along the way. On occasion there will also be “free roam” sections that unlock the camera and allow you to move freely in 3D space. These are void of combat and platforming, instead focusing on interactions. This felt fine to me, as combat sometimes became a nuisance, with cleaned out enemies sometimes coming back during backtracking.

This halfway to approach to 3D space is indicative of the era Tomba 2 was created in , and unfortunately goes a way to make it feel constrained and dated by the limitations of time. While something like Namco’s Klonoa smoothly transitioned between foreground and background levels, Tomba 2 aims for a more expansive scope and falls flat at times in its execution.

Tomba 2 is also nearly unplayable without knowledge of the Japanese language. While I was able to intuitively understand the controls, menus, and objectives of the game simply by experience, it quickly devolved into aimless wandering after completing a few of the early quests. Monkey Paw have graciously provided a walkthrough for the entire game, along with images, but it’s difficult to find the appeal in playing something where the entire game has been figured out for you.

It’s unfortunate that language barriers and emulations issues have prevented players from getting into what would otherwise be a solid action hybrid game, especially considering how expensive it can be to obtain a physical copy of Tomba 2. Sadly, unless you have an intimate knowledge of the game, understanding of Japanese, or the will to make repeated quests to the walkthrough, this is one to skip.

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