Tomba! is a rare case of a ‘cult favorite’ game that I sincerely feel like had no good reason to not be popular.
It was produced and directed by Tokuro Fujiwara, already known for producing and directing games like Mega Man, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and even creating the survival horror genre with his NES game Sweet Home which was later adapted into the goddamn Resident Evil franchise. Tomba! is built wholly from the same good game design concepts, with RPG elements that innovated the platformer genre without taking up too much space. It’s funny and cute, while still having a sizeable spooky side. As far as 2D platformers go, it’s the total package.
Despite all this, Tomba! never sold enough to qualify for a Greatest Hits reprint, and copies now regularly go for over $100 on eBay. I just really don’t know why, even trying my best to approach this from an objective perspective. Games with less production value have successfully been spun off into entire TV franchises, while Tomba! languished with a single sequel and some very obscure merchandise.
Even with my history in the video game industry, the whims of the market are completely opaque to me. I don’t really feel like it’s my place to speculate on if the game was marketed well enough or what-have-you. Still, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the official promotional material was like.
Today we’re using the Wayback Machine to look at a whole 4 sites: Tomba! on the US PlayStation website, the independently hosted Tombi! site, the official Whoopee Camp site, and the very first official Tomba! site. I can’t give precise timestamps, but most of these are around the year 2000.
When’s the last time you’ve played a mascot platformer that wasn’t a Mario or a Sonic? It was probably a Crash or a Spyro if it was anything at all. The genre is dead, and I miss it very much.
Gex, at least to me personally, is the iconic failed mascot platformer. He’s everything bad about the genre: he talks way too much and thinks he’s clever, his world is made of cookie-cutter tropey levels that don’t fit together, he has way too many gameplay gimmicks, and in the grand scheme of things he’s been completely forgotten. These are all the reasons that I find Gex oddly enjoyable, as a game trilogy that just doesn’t really work and isn’t very fun.
Unlike most platformer mascots, Gex was not aiming to be the face of a single console: he was the catchphrase-spitting gecko mascot of Crystal Dynamics, a video game company founded by women in 1992. Crystal Dynamics had a broad ‘a little bit of anything’ approach to making games: they had many platformer games, an action-adventure franchise, a point-and-click, a fighting game, a racing game … you get the idea. I guess they also worked on some series named Tomb Raider.
But Gex was Crystal Dynamics’ thing. He was funny, he was memorable, and he was the face of the company, especially once the substantially more popular sequel Gex 2: Enter the Gecko was released in 1998. In that way, Gex was a fixture of the late 90s, a reminder of what things were like.
And what’s more ‘late 90s’ than a terrible website for a terrible video game?
Today I’m going to the Wayback Machine to see the Gex pages on the Crystal Dynamics website from 1998 to 1999. It’s tail time, as one might say.
Tomba! is a 1997 side-scrolling platformer released for the Sony Playstation by Whoopee Camp. Designed by Tokuro Fujiwara, creator of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, Tomba is an interesting platformer-RPG blend involving solving quests in an open 2D world.
In Tomba!, the world has been magically corrupted by seven magic Evil Pigs and turned into a surreal land. The events of the game are sparked into motion when one of the Evil Pig’s minions steals a bracelet that belonged to Tomba’s grandfather, prompting him to go on an adventure to recover it. Along the way he meets the inhabitants of his world and helps them solve the problems that the Evil Pigs have caused with their dark magic.
The game itself is eccentrically humorous, and doesn’t let go of its grip on that, to the point where it might be hard to see what’s scary about a game with sidequests like helping a monkey find his pants. But this is October, and you know what that means: being designed by the same person who made Ghosts ‘n Goblins, this game is filled with unexpected creepy frights.
Join us after the jump and we’ll see ourselves just what kind of madness these Evil Pigs have caused.
Welcome to Halloween! Or as most people like to call it, October! This Halloween, we want to talk about some of the stuff that scared us the worst when we were kids. It’s time to take a retrospective look back into the past with Retrospectacles’ Spooky Edition, Retrospooktacles, where we will be not just looking through our old memories, but the things that made them terrifying!
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos is a Playstation game that was released on September 29, 1997 by the now-defunct Argonaut Games. It was originally intended to be produced for Nintendo as a video game starring Yoshi, but Nintendo declined and decided to produce their own 3D platformer with Mario himself. If it wasn’t for Nintendo declining this offer, Croc could’ve been the first true console 3D platformer ever released.
Croc, to most people, might be a minor footnote in the history of 3D platformers. But to those who have played it as kids, we may just remember something very distinctive about it: it was creepy as heck.
After the jump, we’ll explore why this Yoshi expy had reason to fear for his life.