It isn’t often that a game leaves me struggling to comprehend how to accurately express what it entails in words. In fact, Tokyo Crash Mobs becomes the lone occupant of such category.
As a straightforward puzzle game it’s easy to explain, but then there’s this surreal narrative tied to the experience that just baffles my thought process.
Perhaps it’s best that we start with the basics. Tokyo Crash Mobs is the latest from Mitchell Corporation, creators of arcade puzzle classic Puzz Loop, the design of which may be more recognisable from PopCap Games’ more mainstream clone, Zuma.
Marbles progressively roll along a spiral descent towards a central goal, with the player granted a cannon with which they can propel additional marbles into the fray. If you matched three or more of the same colour, they would then be removed from the oncoming spherical nightmare.
Tokyo Crash Mobs follows a similar guise, switching marbles for hapless pedestrians that you mindlessly hurl at lengthy queues. You take control of Grace and Savanah as they strive to “make it” in Tokyo, their journey presented through the use of mind-boggling live-action video sequences.
These see either character dancing, swirling around as they stair at circular patterns, or drifting into space, resulting in the player mindlessly blinking at the screen. It is Japan’s obsession for the distinct and bizarre, yet ultimately falls flat on a western audience who are left with no clue as to what’s going on through the absence of either dialogue or text.
The game’s main Story Mode serves to introduce you to their individual mechanics, Grace throwing pedestrians overarm whilst Savannah instead opting to roll them toward the gathered queues. Each offers their own challenges, Savannah having to wait for those within the queue to jump before she can roll pedestrians speedily underneath, for instance, whereas Grace must time her throws.
Queues are comprised of pedestrians known as ‘scenesters,’ each having managed to colour coordinate themselves, somehow. You throw (or roll) additional scenesters into the mix, looking to match three or more wearing the same colour to form ‘cliques’ that, once formed, will then see the group scurry away from the queue.
Along the way, further elements are introduced that will either help or hinder your progress. ‘Line cutters’ are essentially conga lines of scenesters that threaten to join the queue and make your life increasingly difficult. Whereas items can be collected such as umbrellas, which allows you to temporarily alter the scenesters’ colour, or a Bomb Ball that, once hit, will blast large groups away at once. UFOs are also intermittently granted to the player, enabling you to immediately remove scenesters of a specific colour.
Things become more stressful as the level of challenge heightens, the player soon needing to deal with multiple queues, dancers that change the queue, and runners who speed up its movement unless you stop them. The time limits themselves are often unforgiving, making the entire experience a rather frantic one. Similarly, it can often be too much of a struggle to keep up with everything that’s going on.
Team Battles act as boss levels of sorts, seeing you square off against a line of ninjas, changing the perspective and requiring you to pivot your view through the use of the handheld’s gyroscopic control.
If you’re wishing to attempt to piece together the ludicrous scenes that you’ve witnessed, then you can head into the Movie Maze mode. Within here, as can be most likely predicted from able to watch any live-action movies that you’ve previously collected to try to make sense of it all… I still can’t.
Beyond Story Mode, you can enter the far less brutal Challenge Mode. This offers far lengthier levels, removing the time limit which in turn partly reduces the stress levels induced. There’s still the chance to fail, however, so you’ll have to maintain a pace to succeed.
Your 3D Slider will be permanently off too, with the implementation far too jarring against a game that requires the player to act so quickly to respond to everything happening on screen. Whereas the visuals themselves look particularly dated compared to other Nintendo eShop releases.
Mindless, frantic and yet an entirely intriguing prospect, Tokyo Crash Mobs is an enjoyable puzzle experience if not an incredibly frustrating one.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo