News Relegation: Tombi!

"Of course, Tombi! I had the demo on PS1! "


Se Metal Gear SolidThe Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past can be considered without too many words two big milestones of the 90s, the little pink-haired boy seems to have the extraordinary ability to awaken a gigantic amount of memories in anyone, every time his name is spoken. And if it is true that of Tombi! two chapters have come out of it, for some reason it is the first that the most nostalgic players remember with the most affection.

Created by the now defunct WhoopeeCamp, the 1997 platform-action-RPG is often remembered by aficionados with a love almost comparable to that of the greatest Sony mascots, from Crash BandicootSpyro. Yet few have been lucky enough to play it in full; many (myself included) made their first acquaintance with the young Tombi with a demo disc playable on the first one PlayStation, devoured over and over again for the sheer amount of gorgeous titles inside, only later managing to get their hands on a full copy of the game.


The end of a star
WhoopeeCamp went bankrupt in 2000, having only released two games

This is also due to the failure of WhoopeeCamp, which had hoped to revolutionize the video game industry since its foundation in 1997: although the premises were not at all poor (both Tombi! And Tombi! 2 received excellent reviews), the company went bankrupt in 2000 and all its members went their separate ways. For this reason, it is not uncommon to find both chapters of the series for sale at exorbitant prices on the web, in the form of real gems for collectors in the sector. The lucky few who still own a copy of the two games keep it tight, aware that one day the two little jewels could be worth even more than now.





Despite the rarity of the game, almost everyone who has even had the opportunity to try Tombi! I am able to remember it with great affection and nostalgia. It's true: the soundtrack of the Village of the Beginnings, the dynamic and intuitive gameplay, the RPG elements and the eccentric characters, the level-design and the artistic sector were already evident from the first levels shown in the demo; but WhoopeeCamp's little masterpiece has even more arrows to its bow, as Tombi's adventure continues in search of the bad pigs. Fasten your seat belts and prepare your wallet, then: at the end of this Downswing, your only wish will be to spend a good hundred dollars on the purchase of this splendid title from the PS1 era.


"Tam, ta-ta-ta-tam-tam ..."





All audio tracks of tombi! they have their own unique identity

Tombi! he remembers first of all from his splendid soundtrack, and whoever says otherwise is simply lying. I myself will have completed the game four or five times in my life, but I have never been able to count how many times I have heard the track of the Village of All Beginnings (a disproportionate number, if you also count the reproductions of the demo). What is certain is that that syncopated rhythm, punctuated by cheerful and driving percussion, has remained imprinted in the memory of anyone who has managed to listen to it and experience it on their own skin at least once.


But not only the Village of the Beginnings: all the audio tracks of Tombi! have their own unique and inimitable identity, and, although the style and timbre of the instruments can be recognized in almost any level of the game, all the pieces of the pearl of WhoopeeCamp manage - in some way - to be profoundly different from each other. other. We pass from the disturbing aura of mystery around the Lava quarries to the sweet arches of Village of Bacchus, without forgetting the distressing Mount of the Phoenix or the placid notes of Rock of the Siren and the gigantic Villa Rossa. For those wishing to immerse their soul in evocative and nostalgic music, the YouTube user Channel Johnbonne has collected in a playlist most of the songs taken from the game (and published by YouAllSuck5000), allowing anyone to once again enjoy the beautiful music created by the developers.


Fat Pig Capitalist


Any word on these infamous would be superfluous.


A game that mixes platform, action and RPG

Obviously, it is not made of music alone Tombi!, and it is certainly for this reason that the WhoopeeCamp title still manages to hit today after about twenty years: the game mixes typical action / platform aspects with RPG elements, pushing the player to explore the environments (extremely labyrinthine on more than one occasion, with a series of secondary areas to explore) but also to interact with objects, enemies, characters and treasure chests, hidden around the various game levels. Each zone will have "quests" (simply referred to as "Events") to complete, a series of tasks that will allow you to move forward in the story or to obtain special objects, in some cases completely useless (more on that later). All 129 unlockable events in the game, however, are simply "direct" consequences of the one true quest that Tombi has been pursuing from the start: "Grandpa's bracelet".


At the start of the game (in a stunning animated sequence, incidentally), a wild pink-haired boy finds himself wandering across a plain in search of food, with nothing but one. truncheon, green shorts ruined and a flashy gold bracelet on the wrist, given to him by his grandfather. Suddenly, a poor helpless farmer is attacked by a group of bipedal pigs with pitchforks, red vests and white gloves, and Tombi immediately rushes to the rescue; during the fight, however, he is accidentally knocked out, and the pigs manage to escape by stealing his gold bracelet. Upon awakening, the boy will launch in search of the bracelet and the evil pigs, and will reach the Village of All Beginnings to begin his adventure.


An answer that we will probably never get


In search of the seven bad pigs

Over the course of the game, Tombi will learn more and more about bad pigs and meet more and more characters looking for help: he will discover, for example, that pigs collect gold "for some strange reason", and that the land he is wandering on was a peaceful and serene time. Will find that seven bad pigs, decidedly more powerful than the others, have cast their spells on seven different areas of the region, cursing - for example - the Forest of 100 Flowers with terrible and dangerous spores, the Mount of the Phoenix with perennial storms and the Lava quarries with impenetrable walls of fire. And he will find that, to defeat them, it is necessary to collect the seven sacks of the bad pig, find their hiding places and imprison the pigs inside the sacks to break the curses.



Inside a cartoon
A splendid game also on the aesthetic / artistic side

Soundtrack and plot are two consistent parts of Tombi!, but WhoopeeCamp has also done a splendid job on the aesthetic and artistic front. From the very first moments, the player will be immersed in a world full of vivid and bright colors, which can already be seen on the body of the protagonist himself: the bizarre pink hair of Tombi is a strongly characteristic sign of the character, a color that will stand out on a large part of the scenarios present in the game and which remains imprinted in the memory because of its being unusual. Not only that: the splendid backgrounds and environments designed in cartoon style will accompany the whole adventure of Tombi, which will be characterized by a phenomenal level-design to say the least (although too complex in some cases).




Memorable, for example, is the area of ​​the Haunted house: with more than twenty rooms scattered around the four facades of the house, there is no memory that can help to remember perfectly where every single object or casket is, and it will be inevitable to explore them all every single time we need something in particular. Equally memorable, then, the areas of Mushroom Forest and Lava quarries, in which the player's platforming skills and reflexes will be put to the test, or even (positively this time) the simple Village of All Beginnings, a riot of vivid colors where we will return over and over again to complete the events left pending at the start of the game.

Each area of Tombi! it is studied with extreme skill and with great attention to detail, so much so that it always causes a sense of amazement to the player who gives them his first glance. It is impossible to forget, for example, the aforementioned Mushroom Forest, with the large rows of giant mushrooms in the background, or the Masakari jungle, with its dense vegetation that will bury Tombi up to the head, limiting the player's visibility.


Between bites and backtracking ...

Tombi! it is as beautiful to look at as it is fascinating and fun to play; the wacky protagonist can, yes, use his weapons to knock out the Koma pigs or all the hostile creatures of the game world, but his best offensive will always be the bite: jumping on the enemies' heads, Tombi will bite them and knock them on the ground, then throwing them off the map with an animalistic and superhuman strength. A gameplay formula that seems to take a lot from the first platformers that appeared in the world of video games (in which jumping on the enemy's head was the only effective tactic), but which also draws something from the games of the time: extremely relevant is, in fact, the phenomenon of Backtracking (already found on the same gaming platform in Bugs Bunny: Lost In Time and the aforementioned Metal Gear Solid), a very strong component of the gameplay formula that will require you to constantly return to the places already explored, to find new objects or solve problems that were impossible to face in the beginning.




Formula that also applies to boss fights: the seven evil pigs can be found by returning to the areas already visited, and captured by jumping on their head to throw them directly into the pig's bags, who will wander around the level waiting to be filled. And it is the seven bosses (plus one final boss) that are one of the most fascinating factors of the game: each of them will represent an element of nature, from water to fire passing through the earth (the mouse pig from the Village of Bacchus) and simple fertility (the pig from the Forest of 100 Flowers). In this way, Tombi's adventure turns into a real odyssey against the elements themselves, and an attempt to defeat those who try to dominate them for evil purposes.

… With a pinch of poetry

There seems to be, therefore, a kind of poem behind the whole adventure of the pink-haired boy, a poem of praise to nature and its boundless beauty. It is an echo that is heard a little everywhere in the course of the game, from the wonderful figure of the Fenice  tears of flowers, necessary to revive a magical fountain that will give life to a very high "Tower of Flowers"; beyond the simple struggle between good and evil that is the background of the game, there is therefore a much more noble purpose that hides behind the apparent selfishness of Tombi (whose only interest is to find his grandfather's bracelet) , and which is revealed in the figure of Old Sages, four elderly people with boundless knowledge who have known the world since its formation. They want nothing more than to see the world in its original state again, but they need the help of a hero who can eradicate the scourge of evil pigs directly at the root; when Tombi arrives, their wishes can finally be granted.


The Old Centenary, voiced by Aku Aku in the early Crash Bandicoot (Ciro Carraro)


"And where do I put this?"

There is, however, something wrong, something that many probably ignored when they played the WhoopeeCamp title for the first time. Somehow, the whole Tombi experience! it appears to be "incomplete", as if something had been suddenly cut off.

An incomplete adventure, suddenly cut off ...

Although the quests known in the game are 130, in fact, the fourteen pages of the Events have considerable empty spaces within them; it seems as if some quests had been thought of and never included, to be simply cut off at the last moment of development. This hypothesis seems to be confirmed by a series of objects (such as the Jewel of the Chief or the various sacred fish) that actually have no use and are obtained only upon completing a certain quest, by some key objects that continue to remain in the inventory even after being used (such as the Magic Mirror or the Herbicide), and, in the same way, by some lines of dialogue (such as those of the Witch Mizuno, in the Village of the Beginnings) that suggest the absence of something consistent.

A theory also confirmed by the analysis of the game files contained in the CD: examining the elements of the disc, in fact, allows you to find images of different objects and weapons never included in the game (but present on the disc), together with a cut-scene of the so-called "Iron Village"(Absent in any version of Tombi!) which is restored to its original state after breaking the curse of a bad pig. Furthermore, by carefully observing the game environments, it is possible to notice even some prominent elements apparently useless, such as a sort of slot-machine at the Hut of the Great Gnome, which probably had some use in the developers' minds.



… Yet one of the most evocative ever made

All factors that, without any doubt, would have contributed to widening and making the gaming experience offered by Tombi!, and today, after about 20 years, it is a shame to know that such a unique and particular game has arrived on the market substantially incomplete. Even so, however, the adventure of the pink-haired boy remains one of the most significant childhood experiences of the writer, and perhaps one of the most evocative adventures we will ever have the good fortune to remember.


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