"Tombi combines platforming, adventuring and RPG elements in a manner unlike any other game"
Gameplay- In my opinion, the real meat of any game: reviews nowadays focus so much on graphics that it's quite nice to take a retrospective look at a game, and whilst at first be put off by "sprites", realise that polygons don't make a game, but gameplay does.
Therefore, it's quite fortunate that Tombi's gameplay is really quite good. In fact, it's excellent; the simplistic controls make controlling Tombi easy, and the intuitive button layout simplifies things further. I've heard people complain about Tombi's "floaty" jumps, but I've never had a problem with this: in fact, I've found it increases the time you have to react during mid-jump, which is always useful.
Once you've got used to these controls, you can go and explore. You'll soon realise the importance of the quest-based system in Tombi, as this allows progression in the game. However, don't let that make you think the game always points you in the right direction, as the game is not linear. Often, you'll have over twenty tasks on the go, with only your intuition to work out which quests will help progress the story further.
Rather than testing your platforming skills, the quests generally yield adventure-like gameplay. However, your platforming skills are put to the test, most notably in the Lava Caves and the Masakari Jungle, as well as in the boss battles. Meanwhile, RPG elements include the use of ~ a million different items, and, yes, sometimes you can mess up quests. Not the main-quests, mind you, as that would be stupid, and would mean having to restart the game again (*grumblegrumble* Tombi 2…)
Finally, I'll mention the boss battles: in contrast to most other games, you aren't directed to boss battles, despite the fact that they are mandatory. The bosses are deceptively simple and similar to one another; all that you need to do is bundle each evil pig (I haven't even mentioned pigs yet, have I?) into their respective pig bag, and the battles over. So yeah, they're a wee bit disappointing; they could've quite easily have been made more difficult by increasing the number of time you had to bag 'em. Also, the pacing is a bit off for boss battles: the first real boss battle comes just under half way through, and then you'll fight a few more in succession, before having another break, then ending up fighting the remaining few in succession again.
Story- Now, stories don't really bother me too much (you could say I've been desensitised towards the weaving of an encapsulating yarn due to the number of platformers I've played) so I can easily say that the story in Tombi is average, at best. It's as clichéd as platformers go in that the protagonist has a motive to go adventuring-ahoy (Grandpa's golden bracelet: check) with comical bad guys in the way (evil pig's, with a relentless yearning for gold: check). Despite this, the writing's pretty good, with some witty exchanges (well, they're not really 'exchanges' pre se, as Tombi never speaks) but other than that, it's not that memorable.
Graphics/Sound- The colourful sprite-based graphics are actually quite good-looking, and although the game doesn't push the Playstation to its limits, the art direction is fantastic. The landscapes are imaginative, the characters are humorous, and everything comes together so that you seem to be interacting with a cartoon.
However, it could be argued the graphics are flawed, in one sense: bouncy, colourful (pink hair, something else I have yet to mention) graphics suit the game, but are a deceptive cover for this metaphorical book. I anticipate that it was children who primarily played this game upon its initial release, but they would have most likely struggled to complete the game without help from adults. But that's the metaphorical nature of the platforming beast (I like metaphors); still, never stopped Mario in his conquest for world domination.
The stereotypical tunes of a cutesy platformer are all present and correct, but they're not stereotypically terrible. Sure, they're nothing compared to Final Fantasy's music, or insert-your-favourite-game-music music, but they fit the tone of the game, and are fairly memorable. Not in the bad way, like some platformers' music, but in a way that means they'll conjure up good memories when you next hear them. However, a similar argument to the one of the graphics can be made for the music, so just re-read the previous paragraph if you wish.
Also, it should be noted that Tombi has some fantastic FMVs, as well as hand-drawn videos that appear mid-game, that really make the game seem that much more polished.
Length/Replay- On the box, it claims the game promises 40 hours of gameplay, but this generally doesn't hold true; unless you can't solve puzzles, or don't actually know how to use/locate a walkthrough, you'll go through it much quicker. Without walkthroughs, I'd expect an average gamer to get through the main adventure (as well as do a few side-quests as they go about) in about 10-12 hours, with 100% completion in about 16-18 hours. That's not bad at all for a game nowadays; some people will question these figures, claiming that they're times were about 60% of what I listed, going by the in game timer, but the timer is so hideously incorrect, I could actually mark the game down for it. But I won't, because that would be stupid, and I'm not Yahtzee (who I admire, in some ridiculously English manner).
Replay-wise, there are always the side-quests, as mentioned above, and I expect anyone with the intelligence enough to buy this will also have the intelligence to play through this more than once, purely because it's a fantastic game. I know I've completed too many times to count; I love it that much.
Final word- You may have already worked this out, but this is my favourite ever game, so I might seem a tad biased in my opinion towards it. However, I am fully aware, as the university graduates amongst you should know too, that favourite game ≠ best game (and for those of you who didn't graduate maths, ≠ means "does not equal"). Then again, "best game" is so subjective, that you may as well list your favourite game for it; I could write about this for another few paragraphs, but since I don't want to go all philosophical on you, and because I've already written in excess of 1165 words, I'll wrap up this review.
In a nutshell, buy this game: I don't care if you must part with £40 (well, in the UK at least): this game might just alter your outlook on all other games you play after it. Little touches such as keeping your inventory in Tombi's stomach (remember the chicks?) or the genius of the laughing/crying system sets this game apart. Why the formula for Tombi isn't being ripped off left, right and/or centre is beyond me. Buy it. Love it. Then ruddy well thank me for recommending it.
(And for those of you who want me to asign an arbitrary value to score this game, I'll give it 5√π + cos7^2 / 10 or, 9.5 / 10, if you want it neatly rounded.)