Tomb of the Mask
Genre(s): Arcade, Action, Adventure, Puzzle
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on iOS and Android)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 20/10/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Tomb of the Mask is a fast-paced puzzle game that was initially launched on mobile platforms in 2016. The neon colours showcased in the art style stood out to me and reminded me of The Eternal Castle: [Remastered]. Still, the gameplay here shares few similarities with any game I have seen on the Switch. Was this mobile game worth porting to the Switch? Find out in this Rapid Review.
Alone in the Tomb
Tomb of the Mask is a game that focuses on gameplay. There is no story content, characters, or lore to discover. Largely, this does not detract from the gameplay experience. However, the lack of context left me questioning my purpose and why I was completing puzzles. Regardless, I did not find the lack of story content to be very detrimental to the game.
Tomb of the Mask features an innovative and interesting gameplay loop. I navigated near five hundred levels on my quest. I collected stars, dots, and travelled to the end of each level. The game is simple. Understanding the mechanics did not take me long. The only ability I needed to learn was navigation, and it was done with the left stick. Everything else revolved around timing movement and collecting various items.
When a game features simple mechanics, the most important element in the gameplay is the level design. The levels featured in Tomb of the Mask left me very confused. Initially, I noticed how the developers introduced new ideas slowly. I liked this approach, as each concept was expanded upon in multiple levels before they deviated to a new idea. However, as I completed more levels, new concepts appeared less frequently, and eventually, they stopped appearing altogether. Thus, the initial levels are substantially more enjoyable than the later levels. The later levels felt tedious and did not add much to the experience.
Though the final levels felt exceptionally redundant, I struggled to find purpose throughout the game. I collected stars and dots for seemingly no reason. There was no additional content that could be accessed by having a certain number of stars, dots were not a form of currency, and worst of all, there was no consistency with the difficulty of collecting the collectables. I appreciate meaningless collectables (like the Onigiri from Super Cable Boy) when they enhance the experience of the game or provide a challenge. Unfortunately, the collectables in Tomb of the Mask never satiated my urge for additional content. This issue mainly stemmed from the inconsistent challenge. Some stars were placed in tricky locations while others were in plain sight. Therefore, I never felt proud of myself for collecting all the stars in a level.
Moreover, collecting everything in a level often forced me to repeat actions multiple times. Sometimes, I would have to undergo the same array of obstacles to collect a star in multiple levels. Thus, the challenge of collecting these items was not focused on my ability to collect them. Instead, I felt it tested my patience, as I clearly possessed the capability, but I needed to reenact my first successful attempt.
Patience is a Virtue
This same problem occurred throughout the game. Most of the time I spent playing Tomb of the Mask felt wasted. I did not feel like I improved as a player. Instead, I simply learned to be patient, and look for places to stop and analyze the upcoming traps. This gameplay loop contradicted what I wanted to do throughout the game. I wanted to rush through levels and leverage the fast movement of my character. However, the incentivized slow and methodical gameplay experience was not innately bad, it just felt less rewarding to me.
The enemy designs were the reason the game felt so slow. Each attack pattern was based on a timer, so my movement was inhibited. The enemies largely worked fine, but to have the highest success rate, I slowly travelled across safe spaces planning my next move. This made the enemies seem like nuisances instead of ferocious foes. They rarely posed much of a threat. Most deaths I incurred were careless mistakes that came from rushing through levels. The static nature of enemies detracted from the experience I had with Tomb of the Mask.
This tedium was amplified by a frustrating challenge system. The challenges were not rewarding. They were the incentive for collecting stars, dots, and completing levels. However, they failed to be rewarding because they often required backtracking. I would receive challenges to complete levels that I had already completed, collect a random amount of stars or dots, or play in the endless mode a certain number of times. Instead of being rewarding, it felt like the developers added additional meaningless content.
On a positive note, I enjoyed the endless mode. It forced me to think on my feet by keeping me on a timer, it continued to reward my adventure by having a specific scoring system, and it felt unique throughout my different attempts. That being said, I typically enjoy having specific levels to motivate me to keep coming back to the game and so I can feel as though I completed something tangible. If you will feel satisfied without the need for levels to track your progress, you may have a better time with this game than I did, as the arcade mode is a lot of fun.
Trapped in the Tomb
Finally, I had an issue in the four-hundred seventy-sixth level. I got soft locked, and it barricaded my progression. Having played so many levels, I was looking forward to seeing the credits at the end to validate my achievement. This impasse served as more than the inconvenience of losing twenty-five levels at the end of the game. It invalidated my entire adventure. It severely damaged my experience with the game. I tried multiple times to complete the stage, but I got locked inside the level, unable to progress.
Even though I did not enjoy many of the levels, I had a good time moving my character around, and think the game has potential. If the levels were more challenging, unique, and featured additional enemies and traps, Tomb of the Mask would be an incredible purchase. Even as it stands, there is an abundance of content for a relatively low price. Still, the quality of the experience is the most important, and I was let down by the tedium associated with exploration and the lack of satisfaction and meaningful bonuses.
Sounds and Sights
The ambience of the game was also a mixed bag. I enjoyed the visual style of the game. The colours were vibrant, the enemy designs were enthusiastic, and I liked the masks that I could wear. However, sometimes, some traps were challenging to see. This was not the largest issue, but sometimes it did frustrate me. The music on the other hand was quite frustrating. I enjoyed the music at first, but then the melody never changed. This also amplified the feeling that the levels were not important. Overall, the music and sound serve their purpose but do not exceed expectations.
The Tomb of the Mask was a very interesting game. I enjoyed the character movement and enjoyed traversing the endless mode. However, the challenge mode was severely lacking. I failed to get attached to the character and to remain motivated throughout the journey. The lack of continuous new ideas also held this game back. The title has potential, and if the developers were to issue a sequel, I think it could do well. I would just recommend including far more assets throughout the game.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can purchase Tomb of the Mask from the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.