Tombi! 2 / Tomba! 2: The Evil Swine Return

In my positive review of the original Tombi! I kept referring to its mechanics as “unique”. That’s not strictly true… because it got a sequel. Tombi! 2, or Tomba! 2: The Evil Swine Return in US (I will refer to the game by its PAL name for the remainder of this review), directly follows the original’s events and is largely similar in gameplay.

Although I am basing this review on my recent, second full playthrough of Tombi 2, this is the first time I have played both Tombi games to completion right next to each other. And a lot of my thoughts will compare the two, and are based on the notion that you have already played the original – if you haven’t, best to go there first, then move to 2 if you enjoy it.

Enough waffle, how’s Tombi! 2?

Tombi! 2 sees you enter a new world taken over by the evil pigs of the first game, this time to rescue your friend, Tabby, a resident of the world that has been turned to stone. As with the first game, you progress by locating the pig bags that capture the evil pigs, finding their lairs, and throwing them in. And along the journey, you will discover brand-new locations and puzzles.

The controls for the game are pretty much the same, although it feels a tad sluggish compared to Tombi! – I don’t know why, everything’s just a bit slower and floatier. It’s not a big thing, and I didn’t notice it the first time I played Tombi! 2 (which was months after I’d last touched the original) – I also got used to it quickly. There are different weapons to discover in this one, though – the Ice Boomerang can deal with fiery enemies, while the Fire Hammer kills icy ones. These can be upgraded in later areas, along with the GrappleJack – the excellent hybrid grapple-blackjack tool which is oddly called the Doka Pin in the sequel.

This is definitely a positive to Tombi! 2 – while mechanically similar to the original game, the incredible sense of discovery every time you reach a new place is just as fresh in the sequel. In another similarity, most of the locations have evil pig curses on them, and breaking these curses completely changes whole areas, unlocking new sections to explore, new interactions, and making the world continuously feel fresh.

A change to Tombi! 2 from the original game is that almost everything is rendered in full 3D (although the game remains 2D mechanically for the most part). The settlements, which were pre-rendered and isometric in Tombi!, are fully 3D in Tombi! 2 and feel more dynamic and enjoyable to explore. It makes locations feel a little bit more real, too, as you get a good sense of depth from everything – this didn’t exist in Tombi!, where for example the mansion in the background of the starting area just looked like background decoration, not somewhere you’d eventually visit. A downside to Tombi! 2’s graphics is that it’s aged a little worse visually, but it’s not a big deal.

There are more unfortunate similarities between the games, too, and in some cases Tombi! 2 is actually worse than the original. For example, there are now five evil pigs plus a finale, instead of Tombi!’s seven + finale. To compensate, evil pigs now have to be thrown into their bags three times rather than once. Despite the evil pig lairs being bigger and prettier than in the original game, they are almost entirely inconsequential – you can stand on the spot you spawn, wait for the evil pig to teleport to you three times and throw it straight in. The final evil pig is an even more extreme version of this, having to be thrown into the bag five times in a bigger level still but STILL just teleporting to you for your convenience – and like in the first game, if your timing is decent, you will never see an attack. (The final evil pig is made even worse by how, if you’ve gone for 100% completion, you’ll have unlocked an item that grants you immortality.)

Another – Tombi! 2 managed to take inspiration from Tombi!’s awful motocross section, and give us TWO horrible difficulty spikes. The lesser is a section, not massively difficult but tedious, where you have to jump around a small barn throwing seven dirty birds into washing machines. Then you have to do that again, but with the birds moving around quicker and more unpredictably. Then you have to do it again. And again. Ten times. And by the tenth, they’re so hyperactive that it’s just pot luck if you’re going to get them into the machines – you have to predict where they’ll be by the time you land on them, and often by then they’re halfway across the room.

But that’s nothing compared to one absolutely awful section, in which you have to travel by minecart to deliver a bag of cement before it hardens. Mechanically, it’s simple – tilt left, tilt right and brake to stop yourself derailing but also maximise your speed. But the time limit you’re given is absurd, and forces you to fully memorise the entire course, perfect your control of the cart, and learn exactly how and when to tilt and brake. It’s at least somewhat intuitive, unlike Tombi!’s motocross, but it’s still completely horrible. You have to do it twice, the second time with a faster cart and a harsher time limit, to 100% the game as well – although the second time actually felt easier to be, as by then I had already learnt the course and developed the muscle memory for the cart.

One last major complaint I have with Tombi! 2, though – the music. What happened?! The original Tombi! had one of the catchiest soundtracks I have ever heard; its sequel is an almost-criminal downgrade. Compare the music played during the first level of both Tombi! and Tombi! 2 for an example. Compounding this is the fact that Tombi! 2 interrupts the background plays a really horrible bit of music every single time you enter a conversation with anyone. Every single time. And interaction with people is a big part of the game.

When I kept the two Tombi! games separate, I enjoyed both equally. Playing them together, it feels clear to me that Tombi! 2 is a slightly inferior experience. Some things are better about it – it’s slightly longer, there are more neat secrets, the pointless lives system from the original are gone – but there are quite a lot of things that make it ever so slightly worse overall. It feels a bit more sluggish. The bosses are a bit worse. It sounds bad.

In spite of this, Tombi! 2 still has a big place in my heart. The games are generally wonderful experiences, completely unique, they haven’t aged mechanically (so many PS1 and N64-era games suffer from camera and control issues when played now – these games are still as fluid to play as ever), and they’re packed with content – their stitched-together open worlds, with their main quest lines, array of interesting and rewarding side quests, and quirky puzzles, are beautiful.

I just wish there was more Tombi! for me to discover.

Allison James

Independent game developer, font creator and occasional casual writer.

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