Review: Tokyo Crash Mobs is the most extraordinary mediocre game ever
Sometimes, something is so off-putting and bizarre that you just have to see it for yourself to fully understand it. Tokyo Crash Mobs, the new 3DS eShop title from Nintendo and Mitchell falls squarely into this category, but I will do my best to describe it to you anyway. Tokyo Crash Mobs is a puzzle game with a premise similar to that of the popular marble shooter, Zuma. Basically, you are presented with winding lines made up of pieces of various colors that you clear by firing more pieces into the line to make sets of three, which immediately vanish. There’s various power-ups and complications, and high level play encourages you to form long combo chains. There’s two styles of play that are almost exactly the same, but with enough differences that alternating between them keeps the game feeling fresh for longer. However, in Tokyo Crash Mobs, this rather simple premise is wrapped around some of the most insane stuff I’ve ever seen in any video game.
Throughout the game, you play as Grace and Savannah, two almost totally silent women, whose in-game avatars are Mortal Kombat-style sprites made from real photographs. It’s not ever really explicitly stated, but it seems like they’re friends, and their main struggle together is that they’re frustrated with how little control they have over their own lives, and can’t help but throwing and rolling different colored “scenesters” at each other to get rid of them all. That’s right, these two women lift other people OVER THEIR HEADS and toss them at each other to get their lives back. Now, admittedly, I may be overanalyzing this, but there’s no way we’ll ever know, because this story, which is told through live action FMVs, is so abstract and psychedelic that’s there’s no obvious connection between clips almost all of the time. At first, I enjoyed it’s quirky Japanese charm, but then, I started becoming affected by the crowds of identical looking people and the constant big red button imagery, and it began creeping me out and putting in moods I wouldn’t expect from a $7 puzzle game from Nintendo. That said, it was certainly a unique experience, and I maybe got a little more out of the story side of this game than I would have ever expected.
On the other hand, the gameplay itself is a little underwhelming. The premise is simple, the controls are easy to understand, and there’s a bunch of twists on the format so that you feel like you’re actually progressing through a game that’s slowly getting more challenging, but there’s just slightly too many flaws for me to have fully enjoyed myself. For example, in the last third of the game, when the levels begin to get truly complex, you aren’t able to see all of the play area at once, and even though you can’t control your movement, sometimes things happen off-screen that make it impossible to win. The game also fails to give you thorough instructions half the time, and I frequently found myself losing around because I didn’t know exactly what was going on. In the last few levels, which are outrageously harder than anything to come before, it almost felt like it was up to chance whether I’d be able to win because of the random configuration of colored scenesters it would give me to work with each time. However, if you stick it out and finish the game, there’s a whole other set of harder missions to unlock, as well as some challenge modes for the hardcore scenester-throwers out there, which kind of help to make up for the title’s moderately high price tag.
The graphics and sound are also not particularly amazing. The visual style is certainly unique, but it doesn’t seem to taking full advantage of the 3DS hardware, and the 3D effect hurts your eyes, especially in the Ninja levels (yes, there’s ninjas too), which make you use gyro controls to play. Luckily, there’s literally no benefit to the 3D, except for some particularly good-looking confetti on the high score screen. The music is pretty catchy, and sounds unlike most video game music. It’s a little repetitive, but never enough to take away from the bizarre aesthetic it’s helping achieve.
All in all, Tokyo Crash Mobs is a fine game with very little about it to get excited about beyond it’s absolutely crazy presentation and story. If you’re into imported gaming oddities, you wouldn’t be dumb to pick it up for the pure novelty of it, but if you want a truly wonderful and innovative puzzler, look elsewhere, especially if you’re gonna pay seven dollars.
Alex Faciane is a freelance writer and does a few things on YouTube. Find him online @FacianeA