Tokyo Crash Mobs is like a game you’ve played before, whether it was called Zuma, Puzzloop, or Magnetica. You control a ball-shooter, which shoots balls of various colors into a curving, sometimes-coiled line of other colored balls, tying to get three or more balls of the same color in a row. When this happens, the balls are cleared, and the line is compressed to fill the gap where the balls used to be. If this compression results in another group of three or more like-colored balls, then those are cleared out as well, the player is rewarded for making a combo, and the line is further compressed. This kind of game has been around for well over a decade, so to innovate, someone would have to change the presentation or the game mechanics.
Tokyo Crash Mobs does the latter to a decent, appreciable extent. As for the presentation, the car has gone straight off the cliff.
No Explanation Needed
You play as two characters in Tokyo Crash Mobs: Grace and Savannah. Each person serves as your ball-shooter, however they are not throwing balls; they are throwing people. Grace often finds herself in lines for the hot new restaurant or other public happening, but there are many people in front of her, called “scenesters”. As with any reasonable person, she doesn’t like to wait in line. Thankfully, all the people in front of her are wearing color-coded shirts. She hoists people over her head, and throws them at other people in line, in an effort to match three like-dressed folks in a row, with the goal to eliminate the whole line so she can be first through the door.
She is throwing people at people, in order to eliminate them. Where do they go when they are eliminated? Who cares? As the game itself says, “Why are you doing this? Who knows!”
One big feature when playing as Grace is that you can throw people OVER other people, to have them land at the precise spot in line you want. Later levels include people that will try to cut in line who have to be dealt with before they cause problems, and bombs that are passed back to you like a crowdsurfer, that have to be detonated before they reach you. You lose if you can’t clear enough of the line before time runs out.
Savannah’s levels play exactly like classic Zuma or Puzzloop. You are presented with one or two lines of people, that have to be cleared. If they get to a danger point at the end of the line, you lose and must restart the level. Savannah cannot throw people overhead; she rolls people into the first they collide with. However, there is a game mechanic in which you can get people in part of the line to jump, so you can roll a person under them, and to the desired scenester behind. I can’t explain WHY Savannah is doing all this, though. Maybe it’s a dream, or maybe part of her gradual descent into madness. You see, there are short videos with live actors that play before each story level. Savannah’s videos involve anger, or just falling. I wish I could tell you. When Savannah loses a level, a scenester presses a button that drops her into a hole that opens under her, sending her into space.
In both modes above, you aim and shoot with the stylus, but there is also a third set of levels, where you play as both Grace and Savannah. They act as one person, but they are controlled with the A and B buttons to fire, and the gyroscope of the 3DS to aim left or right. You go head to head with a ninja that can make colored duplicates of himself. You’ll have to throw ninjas at the colored duplicates to make sets of 3. You win when all duplicates are eliminated, but you lose if the ninjas attack you enough times for you to lose all your heart points. As you control both, you can throw or roll, and depending on what the ninjas are doing, you’ll need to make the right choice. I enjoyed this mode the most, as I felt it was faster-paced, and the use of 3D actually felt worthwhile.
Innovating on the gameplay
In addition to the new throwing and “rolling-under” mechanics, there are a variety of items you can collect in Tokyo Crash Mobs. Some can change the color of scenesters, and some remove all scenesters of a specific type. In Grace’s later levels, physical obstacles are placed in your path, limiting the lines along which you can throw people.
I also found Tokyo Crash Mobs‘ challenge modes to be the most fun. In Grace’s challenge, the line you have to clear in front of you continually grows. This is more fun than in her regular levels, where you have a finite number of people to clear, because it opens more organic combo opportunities.
I also want to reiterate that the levels where you battle colored ninjas are just fantastic. It’s not just clearing ninjas, but actively parrying or dodging attacks. You can’t see the entire playfield all at once, and any ninja can attack at any time. You have to physically hurtle yourself to the side in an effort to utilize the gyro of the 3DS to turn in time. It’s a shame that there are only a smattering of this level during the story mode of the game.
Too weird for its own good
There are two problems with Tokyo Crash Mobs. One is the presentation; it doesn’t make any sense. There are a bunch of nonsensical scenes with Grace having to fight her way through hordes of people. And then maybe there is a spiritual stoplight in her? And then Savannah is training to be a ninja? It’s not even what I would call wacky; none of it follows anything or goes anywhere.
The second problem is the sluggishness of gameplay. Maybe it is the use of pre-rendered characters, or maybe it is the stylus control, but throwing or rolling people into other people never happens quite as fast as I want it to. The delay between throwing a scenester and readying a new one is especially noticeable.
Even with the innovations that Tokyo Crash Mobs brings to the table, it’s hard to put 100% of my weight into a recommendation. It might be worth checking out for the curiosity factor, but overall, it’s just not quite there.