I wish I could be a fly on the wall during one of those video game pitch meetings in Japan. I have to wonder exactly how they came across the idea of Tokyo Crash Mobs. I imagine a few guys sitting around a giant table, staring at a blank white board, then suddenly, one of the guys — who just got finished with a David Lynch and Nobuhiko Obayashi marathon — stands up and says: “Ok, let’s take the puzzle concepts from games like Zuma, and make it weird. Like… really weird.”
Normally I can go for these odd, esoteric Japanese games. Quirkiness and unpredictability have always found a special place in my heart, and I can appreciate a game for just wanting to make something incredibly goofy. What I can’t forgive, however, is when quirkiness takes precedence over gameplay and controls, and ultimately, that’s where Tokyo Crash Mobs falters.
Despite its only-in-Japan exterior, its gameplay is actually rather conventional, and anyone who’s played a game of Zuma will instantly recognize the concepts — except, instead of chucking marbles, you’ll be throwing actual people in different colored suits. Lines of scenesters wind their way across each of the maps, often doubling back on themselves, and it’s up to Grace and Savannah to throw additional people into the line to match up three of the same color, causing them to disappear. Additional people will disappear if their suits match after the gap closes, causing chains of combos.
While the puzzle mechanics are sound, the controls are ultimately what hampers a uniquely fun experience. Tokyo Crash Mobs is controlled entirely with the stylus (save for the levels which require moving the 3DS side to side — these levels control just fine, actually), and for a game whose later levels require pitch perfect precision, the stylus allows for anything but. Lines constantly shift, obstacles constantly appear, and the stylus and touchscreen are ill equipped for dealing with the amount of sheer craziness on the screen at any given moment. It would have been nice to at least have the option of using the control stick, but as it stands, any potential Tokyo Crash Mobs might have had is ruined by its strict adherence to a touchscreen-only control scheme.
Tokyo Crash Mobs is probably the strangest game Nintendo has published outside of its own Wario Ware series. It’s so delightfully weird, and its mechanics are a fun, interesting refinement on the Zuma-esque puzzler. It’s too bad, then, that whatever fun that could have been had from this game is mitigated by its asinine touch screen controls. Maybe in that meeting I imagined, they could have figured out a better control scheme before they decided to dress actual people up like ninjas.