Publisher: Ratalaika Games S.L.
Genre: Arcade, Platformer
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Also available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 18/09/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Who didn’t love balloons when they were younger? They can provide endless amounts of fun until the air inside, gradually withers away. I remember spending so much time trying to keep them from hitting the floor as part of a game. But there was one thing that was weirdly satisfying about balloons…popping them. Just like with bubble wrap, it was only a matter of time until the dying urge to burst the balloon became too much. It’s no wonder then that Tamiku, developed by Josyan and published by Ratalaika Games, is a game that takes this idea and runs with it.
Tamiku: The Popping Menace
Tamiku is a game heavily inspired by the classic arcade games from the 80s. You play as Tamiku, a persistent alien who loves popping balloons so much, that there are no longer any balloons left. Having completely dried up his home planet’s reserve of balloons, he decides to leave and find other worlds in search of more to satisfy his obsession. It’s such an absurd premise when you think about it, but it totally works here. The game proudly wears its inspirations, making it a perfect experience for those wanting to reminisce gaming’s past.
Won’t Someone Think About the Balloons?!
Taking place across a variety of levels, you need to pop every single balloon to progress. Blue balloons require you to only walk into them, but red ones are more durable, needing to be inflated by rapidly pressing a button for them to pop. But you need to be careful, as enemies prowl the levels waiting to take you out. Manoeuvring around to pop balloons while avoiding the dangers is a pretty simple goal, but it’s why it’s quite an addictive one.
Tamiku can jump and drop between platforms in the levels through specific points, appearing as thinner sections in the floors. Only letting you move up and down at limited parts was a smart choice. This adds more dynamics to the gameplay, as judging whether you can make it there safely while enemies are close or attacks are flying at you, becomes a common decision. You almost always need to be on the move, as enemies are spread out across the level, often right close by.
Tamiku isn’t a particularly challenging game and that’s a bit of an issue here. For the most part, enemies follow set paths around the level. These can be pacing left to right on their platform, or even sending an attack in a straight line upwards. It doesn’t take long to learn these, but some enemies will actively follow you around, making some sections tenser than others. Having to stay in place while you inflate the red balloons can be a gamble with enemies or attacks nearby. At some point, the game goes into panic mode, where enemies move faster. This raises the challenge, but not by much. You also have three lives, but your progress for the current level remains if you lose one. When you lose all three, you only have to start that level again and lose your score, making the penalty for defeat minimal.
The last few stages do ramp up the difficulty a bit, but overall, as long as you don’t go rushing around like a balloon obsessed alien, you should be fine, oh wait…
Many Worlds and Creatures
There’s a decent amount of diversity in the design of Tamiku’s levels and the creatures that inhabit them. There’s a snowy stage with large snowballs that tumble down to crush you, grassy plains, as well as some buildings and factories. Obstacles often block a platform’s path, which you also need to take into consideration when moving around. Each of these levels has its own enemies, usually two or three, and all look distinct enough to help the game not become too repetitive. Unfortunately, the clear inspiration leads to some questionable choices. One enemy is almost identical to the Pac-Man ghosts, it stands out immediately.
A Retro Platformer
I really appreciate the graphics on display here, which are just full of charm and really bring the presentation together. Despite the pixelated nature, there’s still good detail there, especially in the design of enemies. With vibrant colours and distinctive designs, the visuals are a strong aspect overall.
Audio is a standout feature as well. The light, upbeat tunes really suit the experience and are gushing with that retro style. Not only that but the sounds of when you pop each balloon is perfect. This, combined with the slight rumble, makes popping balloons all the more satisfying and therapeutic.
A problem with Tamiku is that there’s not much reason to return once you’ve finished. This is in part due to the game’s relatively easy difficulty, but also the short length. It takes an hour at the very most to beat and get the platinum trophy. Some fun could be found in trying to get as high a score as possible, by not losing all your lives and completing it as quickly as you can. However, I felt no urge to do so myself.
I didn’t think I needed to play a game all about popping balloons, but I’m glad I did. It’s a bizarre but fun experience, with satisfying gameplay and an adorable presentation. It’s a bit of a limited, one-and-done adventure but one that’s worth it for those looking for some quick, retro fill. Tamiku is a short but sweet homage, not just a cheap imitation, where it could fit right in with other retro classics.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can purchase Tamiku from the PlayStation Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.