Tokyo Crash Mobs
3DS Download | Nintendo / Mitchell | 1 Player | Out Now | $6.99 / £5.39
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21st January 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
The game's main form of embellishment revolves around the use of hilariously cheesy, live-action placements against a mix of realistic and even unrelated backdrops. As the name suggests, Tokyo functions as the main setting, and as such, players will be treated to nighttime scenes of overlooking skyscrapers along a highway and identify recurring characters that perform silly actions in streets, in front of buildings, and so on. Exaggerated effects are employed time and time again, in addition to a fairly inconspicuous green screen that is used to impress that a person is, for example, falling from deadly heights or aimlessly floating in space with wild hand gestures. Two intersecting storylines of two women play out under very puzzling terms and for different purposes. One, named Grace, seems to be drawn by an advertisement for a local store, which I can only presume claims that the first ten customers lined up outside when it opens will be given a coveted reward of some kind; the other, Savannah, develops a fear of buttons triggered by the antics of city dwellers, for which she must eventually receive therapy.
It's crazy, nonsensical, and is likely the most bizarre story you could find in a game of this style. Watching cutscenes unfold in the manner that they do is bound to make you laugh at the idiocy of it all. Then again, themes of archaeological findings are incredibly played out in the match-three genre anyway, so it's hard not to see how this would be the case. Interestingly enough, the game, by its own admission, suggests this entire orchestration is for the purpose of hypnotizing players into its seemingly ordinary gameplay, as indicated by the repeated use of the phrase "Delusion now". But we'll see whether or not this is done with deceitful ends in mind.
Grace and Savannah present their own gameplay styles in line with the nature of their storylines, but they both follow a basic match-three principle. To get to the front of the long, winding line-up, Grace takes matters into her own hands by literally throwing unwilling Tokyo residents (referred to as scenesters) at other persons dressed in like-coloured robes and suits. Savannah, on the other hand, must protect her fear-instilling button from a flow of scenesters bent on tormenting her, accomplished by rolling rather than throwing. A convenient control scheme is put in place for both, allowing use of the stylus for aiming where you plan to insert a figure, and this is done with fair accuracy overall. Both Grace and Savannah are helped on an alternating basis in the game's Story Mode, which follows a progression of a weekly calendar up to three weeks. As you advance further and further, it's learned on a gradual basis that instead of swindling players with its twist of style, gameplay is adapted to assume a more and more involving stance. Consider the following examples.
Elements that test your effectiveness with Grace's style include latecomers that try to cut in line ahead of you, whistlers that warp the arrangement of the line like a parade, large party balls that get tossed backward from the very front of the line, as well as targeting obstructions such as tables outside the store or flower pots carried over the heads of persons in the queue. Because the camera confines your viewpoint so as not to be given a full scope of your situation and thus have more freedom over your control, more tension is built as the line grows, either because of decisions you made or because of failing to act when an interruption is about to be carried out. There are fewer disruptions when playing as Savannah, but that doesn't make things a whole lot easier. You'll have to contend with a wave of persons leaping at set intervals to avoid rolls, leaders at the very front giving marching orders for the pack to move significantly faster, as well as some stages where there are two lines that must be monitored. The tricky part with these stages has to do with targeting scenesters in an earlier part of the path. This is done by holding the cursor in a position for a few seconds, which will prompt anyone blocking your view to jump. I anticipate most will find this methodology to be fidgety and a tad inconsistent, though.
With these elements interfering with your progress more often than not, it's important that you train yourself not to go for immediate gratification and think more in terms of stacking combos (or cliques, as they are termed). Safety nets come in the form of items such as a ball of yarn that splits into four directions, a flying saucer that will abduct scenesters of a particular colour, an umbrella that will trigger a storm and simplify the colour palette to make matches easier, and barricades that will temporarily halt the flow of scenesters. Making use of these will involve, first, hitting a clone that appears outside the main front, and then resting the cursor on your character. I do think this functionality could've been better serviced by a button (L or R seem to be the most obvious choices), but it's not that big of a hassle.
More pressing than the prospect of earning bonuses at the end of a round or session is the surprising difficulty that surfaces pretty early on. There are indeed moments when the game takes on a pleasurable context, but at the same token, there are also moments when Tokyo Crash Mobs becomes abrasive. At times, the game can be demanding, and for some this might even be brutally so. But in recognizing what this ends up accomplishing at the end of the day -- the successful creation of tangible tension and expanding it through these aforementioned elements -- I happen to believe this was in the course of wisdom, as it ultimately guards against boredom creeping in. Further evidencing this is that Story Mode patterns, at least from what I observed, remain the same each time you play, so with your strategic flair not resting on luck, there is indeed adequate room for reliable, player influence that may even prompt a bit of trial-and-error in solving these puzzles (as that's what they really are).
On Sundays, Grace and Savannah will team up to engage in a team-directed boss battle that blends both rolling and throwing styles together for a simple gameplay variation. Involving a third-person, side-to-side navigation that uses the system's gyroscope for control, coloured balls are rolled and tossed at ninjas while avoiding short- and long-range attacks. It's not terribly interesting, but it is somewhat appreciated just for the sake of mixing up gameplay.
To clarify more details on the scope of the game's presentation: Much of the music present is in connection with what you might hear at a parlor (thanks to the use of a piano), and there's also one song that indicates suspense by way of a theme suitable for a spy. In keeping with the overall themes of exaggeration, scenesters adopt pretty spunky behaviours, dancing and swaying as they advance. Ignoring the use of scenic movies for atmosphere, the look of the game lacks contrast, which isn't to the fault of the 3D implementation but it isn't helped by it either. It's all normal, I'd say, if just a smidge above a rough trait due to its use of juxtaposing effects.
In terms of content, Story Mode can always be replayed for better times, while Challenge Mode offers endless gameplay for Savannah and a hectic challenge for Grace of eliminating 999 scenesters. Movie Maze is a strange option, allowing you to follow the story using unlocked cutscenes. I can't see anyone really caring for this. As for what would've made this game's case more desirable, the absence of multiplayer is a tad disappointing. I would've also enjoyed being able to compare my stats with others on my Friends List, but you don't have that ability either. For $7, the game has about as much life and longevity to it as its price suggests.
Shamelessly dramatic, Tokyo Crash Mobs features good gameplay to accompany the off-the-wall fun of its creative concept. In the wake of draining match-three formulas, this creation proves that much more lively and engaging than the norm, even though it doesn't completely conquer what it aims to wrestle with. Mind you, there's still a longing for more, as is the case with other games of its lore, but here it's for different reasons. Viewed separately from the gameplay, I don't think you can really put a price on the game's strange yet successful attempts at humor. But whether you're dying for something different in match-three gameplay or need to lighten up with a few laughs, the never-dull formula presented here in Tokyo Crash Mobs more than fits.
23/30 - Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Creative concept that adds to an existing formula, new elements added gradually, controls tied to some elements could've been better
Presentation 7/10 - Grace's viewpoint especially creates tension, juxtaposition and exaggeration used to success, little contrast, mostly effective music
Enjoyment 4/5 - Surprisingly challenging, supported well with good mechanics, strategic layer can be trusted in Story Mode especially, not at all dull
Extra Content 4/5 - Endless play and a fun variation for Grace, Movie Maze not much of an option, no multiplayer or direct score comparison methods
Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System