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Tomb Toad – Tactile maze-spinning puzzler

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Developer: Mission Control Games
Price: $4/£4
Size: 97 MB
Version: 1.05
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Tomb Toad

The beauty of Tomb Toad is how well suited it feels to mobile. Could you translate its maze-spinning action to a console controller or a keyboard? Sure. But it wouldn’t be half as good.

This is a deeply tactile game that quite literally revolves around touch input. Your little toad protagonist starts in one corner of a square maze. Enemies, keys, and doors are scattered around to be avoided, collected, and unlocked respectively.

Levels have a surprising amount of thematic variety

In order to move, you must physically touch and drag the mazes around, at which point everything not bolted down will respond to the direction of gravity – essentially towards the bottom of the phone. Given the top-down perspective, that might sound somewhat counter-intuitive, but it rarely feels that way.

On the odd occasion, we found that our brain and phone alike were in need of realignment, as we’d started physically tilting our phone subconsciously, which made the movement start to feel a little weird. But that’s more a reflection of how absorbing Tomb Toad’s physics-based puzzling can be.

These enemies cause trouble by staying still

In general, there’s the sense that you’re playing one of those little ball mazes that used to come free in breakfast cereal packets. Thankfully, though, Tomb Toad has way more variety and scope.

After the first simple run of levels, you’ll start to encounter fresh spins on the formula. Aside from the aforementioned lock and key system, there are elements borrowed from RPGs. There are pressure pads to be triggered, bosses to be fought, warp pipes to be negotiated, and characters to converse with.

Boss fights introduce clever twists

One enemy type can warp through walls, essentially remaining static on-screen while the maze moves around. It’s all deeply clever stuff, and much more involved than it would initially seem to be.

It can also be extremely difficult. Be prepared to fail multiple times on your way to finding the level exit, and don’t feel obliged to collect all three of the optional coins that are spread across each stage.

The maps screen is a thing of beauty

Aiding all this is a lovely retro art style that borrows heavily from the 8-bit era, but with a pleasingly solid use of 3D that our young Game Boy-owning selves could only have dreamed of.

Tomb Toad isn’t for the faint of heart, despite its simple mechanics. But it’s so tactile and so attractively presented that it never feels like a chore to take another go at one of its infernal mazes.