1998 Whoopee Camp
Anyone who watched television in the late 90s probably remembers the iconic series of commercials for the game Tomba!, wherein people wearing ridiculous cotton candy-looking wigs posed and talked about the character. Although these commercials were memorable, very few people ultimately bought the game from fledgling developer Whoopee Camp. I personally bought the game when it came out, and found it proved that sometimes the commercial failures are some of the best games out there.
Tomba! is, at its core, a platformer game, but perhaps it's better classified as being a platforming RPG. Our pink-haired, caveman-esque hero ventures across the lands to defeat seven evil pigs and help people and animals out wherever he goes. The occasional friendly character usually provides a quest of some sort; some straightforward and other more elusive. Completion of these quests yields AP, which unlocks different areas and items throughout the game.
Part of the allure of Tomba! is the intertwining of RPG elements with a platforming format. Quests and exploration are rewarded with all variety of items from equipment, to weapons, to new skills. The sense of progression this imparts upon the player makes for a highly addictive experience. Like the tried-and-true MMO format from games like World of Warcraft, just as you're beginning to get bored or tired, the game feeds you one more cool item to keep you chugging along.
Visually, Tomba is vibrant and dreamy. Like many PlayStation-era games, it uses numerous 2D sprites overlaid on 3D backgrounds. Many of the landscapes altered by the evil pigs look like they're straight out of Candyland. As you go forward you'll spot lots of strange unknown objects and inaccessible areas, but fret not, because with further progress you'll figure out ways to access all of them. Backtracking to old areas is enlivened by the fact that they're often entirely different than the first time you came through.
Don't expect the game to go easy on you just because it's pink and fluffy, however. The general gameplay format involves large, multi-planed open areas that are left to be explored freely by the player. Lots of experimentation with different interactive objects, jumps, and enemies will be the only way you'll ever discover the solution to many of the quests. It's a far cry from the "go right until you hit the end of the level" format that many other platformers take.
The VerdictTomba! is a fast-paced, bright, amazingly fun platformer with RPG elements that give it the extra push from good into great. It comes with high recommendation from me, but don't be surprised if you have a hard time finding it - the game's cult status means copies can go for a pretty penny nowadays.