Tumble Pop
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Arcade
  • Developer:
    • Data East
  • Publisher:
    • Data East
  • Released:
    • JP November 1991
    • US 1991
Score: 70%

This review was published on 08/06/2017.

Tumble Pop is a coin operated arcade game originally developed and published by Data East in 1991. This game is heavily inspired by old arcade classics from the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as Bubble Bobble, Pang, and Snow Bros. A version of Tumble Pop was also released for the Game Boy a year or so later, but it's so immensely different from the arcade original that it's basically an entirely different game. In 1992, Data East created another arcade game by the name of Diet Go Go, which many consider to be the second game in the Tumble Pop series, as it's essentially a spiritual successor. Then, in 1994, Data East released the fourth and final game in their Joe and Mac series, titled Joe and Mac Returns. Strangely, that game also acts as a spiritual successor to Diet Go Go, technically also making it part of the Tumble Pop series. In any case, the original arcade version of Tumble Pop is an okay game, but it's not particularly remarkable.

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In the not-so-distant future, Earth is overrun with illegal aliens. No, not that kind; aliens from outer space! These aliens also happen to be accompanied by many mutants, monsters, ghosts, and other oddball creatures of sometimes mythical origin. All hope rested on the shoulders of two men who are proficient in the art of busting ghosts. No, this game isn't tied to the Ghostbusters license, but it does rip it off a bit. In this game, the ghost busting heroes are armed with devices akin to vacuum cleaners that can beat ghosts, aliens, and anything else, really. Now it's up to these two good dudes to clean up their act by cleaning up the world. Basically, they're paranormal exterminators. So yeah, that's the premise to Tumble Pop. It's all pretty silly, but it does set up the core mechanic of the game. Don't go, because I'll elaborate on what that is in the next paragraph.

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As with Bubble Bobble, this is a platform game where action is viewed from the side, but the screen never scrolls. That essentially means that every stage consists of exactly one screen. The goal is the same as in Bubble Bobble, which is to kill all the enemies. Once that's done, you'll progress onto the next stage, where you do the same thing. This process continues until the credits roll. While that's obviously your primary directive, another thing you may want to shoot for is a high score. It's certainly not a requirement, but this is an arcade game, after all. Similar to Bubble Bobble, points are primarily garnered by picking up various items that felled foes leave behind. However, instead of the tasty treats from Bubble Bobble, the items you'll be collecting in this game come in the form of gold coins, diamonds, rubies, and bags of money. Like the ghost from Bubble Bobble, a scary demon will show up to chase you around if you take too long to finish a stage, so you can't spend too much time farming points.

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You control a guy with a vacuum cleaner strapped onto his back, and a second player can jump in at almost any time for simultaneous cooperative action. Players are able to walk, duck, and jump their way around the environment. It's also possible to drop through platforms by pressing the jump button whilst ducking. The main thing to talk about, however, is your method of attack. When you hold the attack button, your vacuum will begin sucking in any enemies that are directly in front of it, and releasing the attack button will shoot them back out. At that point, they'll tumble around the scenery, hence the title. If a tumbling enemy collides with another enemy, both will be eradicated. Multiple enemies can be sucked in and shot out at a time, resulting in a larger ball of tumbling baddies. The bigger the baddie ball, the more enemies it'll be able to plow through before dissipating. However, enemies will break out of your vacuum if you hold onto them for too long, killing you instantly. Vacuuming things is a reasonably enjoyable mechanic, and it doesn't hurt the game's pacing any.

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Occasionally, eliminated enemies will leave behind power-ups instead of money. These power-ups include skates that increase speed, batteries that extend the vacuum's sucking range, temporary invincibility, a mysterious box that instantly kills all enemies on the screen, and a gun that briefly enables the vacuum to instantly kill enemies with a destructive beam. Besides the beam gun and invincibility, most power-ups are kept until you die. Dying will probably happen a lot, though, because everything kills you in a single hit. Due to that, you'll likely have to constantly resupply on power-ups, making them an ever important commodity. Additionally, beaten baddies sometimes drop alphabetical letters. If you collect all these letters, you'll eventually spell out the game's title, which sends you to a bonus stage where you can earn more points and extra lives. Other than that, this is all pretty straightforward stuff.

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Every world in the game is set in a location in the real world. For example, you'll visit Russia, France, Brazil, Egypt, Japan, and more on this world tour. The countries all have unique backgrounds, foregrounds, and music to reflect their themes. Well, the background music is technically the same, but the instrumentation and arrangement of tunes change from one place to another. There are also different enemies, some of which are taken from other Data East games, like Karnov, Chelnov, and Joe and Mac. The game kicks off with a map screen that lets you pick where you'd like to start from, but you have no control over where you go after that. As a result of that, the world order varies slightly depending on where you start from. Areas tackled later on will always contain more stages, meaning the game will always progressively get more difficult regardless of the order you do things. Lastly, every country concludes with a standard boss battle. This is all fine, but things get repetitive long before the game ends.

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There's really not much else to say about Tumble Pop. The core mechanics are good enough to sustain the experience for a little while, but the problem is that the game lasts longer than that little while. When the novelty of sucking and blowing things wears off, you'll be left wondering why you're still even playing this thing. For that, there is no good answer.

Word Count: 1,099

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