Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review - Tokyo Crash Mobs

Japanese culture is a very peculiar thing. It’s something that so many people across the world have an affinity for, yet very few people actually understand. There’s a reason the US missed out on most of the Godzilla films throughout the 90’s. There’s a reason you don’t see very many Japanese game shows on TV except in parody form. And there’s a good reason a lot of games considered to be “too Japanese” don’t make it to the states. Which makes it all the more surprising that Nintendo’s latest eShop game, Tokyo Crash Mobs, did make it to the shores. It’s easily one of the strangest games I’ve ever played and it’s a part of a genre that’s never been known for its weirdness; the puzzle game.

Tokyo Crash Mobs was developed in part by Mitchell Corporation, the company responsible for the Magnetica games released on the DS and WiiWare, and they share a lot of the same gameplay mechanics. The big difference is instead of rolling colorful marbles at other colorful marbles, you’re two young women throwing Japanese people in colorful suits at other Japanese people in colorful suits to make chains and score points. Make sense? 

The gameplay in Tokyo Crash Mobs is split into three different gameplay types; Throwing, Rolling and Challenge battle stages. The throwing stages are played as Grace and they’re really the major difference from past Magnetica games, other than the crazy coat of paint, of course. Instead of simply rolling balls at other balls, you actually physically throw people at other people to break chains and score combos. The whole idea of each of these stages is to be one of the first ten people inside of a store opening and Grace is willing to throw every “scenester” in her way to do it. It’s a very simple, albeit strange, premise but it’s a lot of fun. You use the stylus on the bottom screen to aim your shots on the top screen and try to match three of each color to get the scenesters to disappear and occasionally, use items that you unlock to change scenester colors or just plow through chains of them, but those items only show up once per stage. The problem is, since you’re using people instead of simple shaped marbles, it can be hard to properly line up your shots and you’ll find yourself throwing your scenester in the wrong part of the line quite frequently. I’ve ruined plenty of combos just because the controls weren’t quite as precise as they could have been. It gets even harder to aim your shots as the stages progress and the people in line start dancing, changing position and protect themselves with flower pots.

This pretty much sums up the whole game.
Even harder still are the rolling stages, played by Savannah, though not for control reasons. The rolling stages play much more like Magnetica of the past. Instead of throwing people, you’re rolling them along the ground as the line moves closer and closer to a button which sends Savannah into space. I have no idea why. Since you can’t aim the scenesters anywhere you want, it requires a bit more strategy to get them where you want them to go. If you hold the stylus in place long enough, the scenesters will jump, allowing you to hit the group behind them. You’ll find yourself having to do this a lot, especially on the later stages but it’s something you have to be cautious of because oftentimes, you’ll have two lines of people moving at once. These stages are naturally designed to be harder, and they are, but not for control reasons like the throwing stages. You’re going to lose a lot but it’s going to help you to learn to strategize better and work on building combos. Never did I feel like the game was being unfair, I just felt I could have aligned and planned my shots better. I think ultimately, that’s the mark of a good game; when you feel your lose was your fault, not the games.

The boss stages really drag the story mode down.
However, the one huge blemish on the games design does come in the form of the battle stages. The battle stages appear at the end of the Story Modes weekly campaigns and act as the boss stage of sorts. In these stages, you’re forced to take down a team of colorful ninjas as both girls throwing and rolling balls at them. The problem? You have to use the 3DS’s Gyro controls to do it. The ninjas circle around you and you have to physically move your 3DS to hit them and it is a mess. The gryo controls work well enough, I suppose, but it’s very annoying to suddenly have to shift your entire playstyle just because one random stage in the game demands it and because of the imperfect nature of motion controls as a whole, you’ll often throw a ball at a place you didn’t want it to go just because you slightly nudged to the left when you should have held still. It’s frustrating and the only time in the game I felt that it was poorly designed. Now, to the games credit, there are only three of these stages and you are given the option to use stylus controls, but they’re not as quick to use as the standard gyro/button set-up, almost as if they want you to use the gyro controls instead. They’re the worst part of the game but they’re few and far between.

As I just mentioned, the game does have a story mode, a very short one, but I honestly don’t know what the story is. It’s split up into three weeks, each with six days alternating between the girls and the final day being a boss level. Between each level, you’re given these really weird live action cutscenes. The story is nonsensical and honestly, I’m not sure it’s there at all. One minute they’re at school, drawing pictures of the mobs, the next they’re falling from a snowy mountain, then they’re fighting ninjas, then they’re in space. It’s a very Japanese game and it has a lot of personality. I just don’t know what that personality is. But if you can’t figure it out either, you can always play the games challenge mode, which is essentially just endless mode which you can play as either of the two playstyles (the boss stages are not include.)

The presentation of the game is where you’re either really going to love it or really hate it. The digitized actors you act as your avatar and the game pieces are very bright and vibrant, making lots of over-the-top movements and gestures. It’s almost as fun to watch as it is to play. It’s made even better by the goofy sound effects. Every time you score points or throw a scenester, they make stilly noises like “Yay” or “Woo!” The music, while decent, mostly just sounds like stock music and you’ll likely forget it once you turn the console off. There’s a lot of charm to the way the game looks and sounds but it’s not going to be for everyone.

Our two main heroes. They wear far more clothing than you'd expect.
Tokyo Crash Mobs is a bizarre game but it’s also a lot of fun. If you can look past the sometimes finicky controls and the horrible gyro sections, there’s a really good puzzle game hidden underneath it’s wacky exterior. But, if you’re not a fan of the weirder side of Japanese culture, it’s probably best you pass this one by and pick up an old copy of Magnetica instead. While the story mode is incredibly short for it’s 7 dollar asking price, the challenge mode is definitely the kind of thing you can just pick up and play while you wait for the dentist or the DMV. It’s a fun puzzler with a lot of personality and I hope we see more of it. Maybe a rolling scenester item in the next Smash Bros…? How ‘bout it, Nintendo?

Matt thought this game was...

No comments:

Post a Comment