Back once again with Ratalaika
When it comes to delivering short burst, throwback experiences for retro lovers, one publisher had been standing head and shoulders above the rest in recent times and that publisher is Ratalaika Games. Their back catalogue boasts one of the largest range of retro-inspired titles from just about every genre imaginable, so it is no surprise that they are back once again with another offering, this time one that blends vibes of Bubble Bobble and Pac-Man with a sprinkling of Donkey Kong thrown in for good measure, the game in question is Tamiku.
Retro Arcade fun, this way…
Upon starting Tamiku I was instantly transported back to my youth of standing in a large room full of gaming cabinets overloading my senses with bright colours, dazzling screens so thick they could probably stop a bullet, alluring slots that somehow managed to eat all my holiday money on the first night and more catchy music themes on loop than a round of rock’n’roll bingo.
I am of course talking about the good old days of arcades where I had to use all my yeasty abilities to hone in on my favourite game through a horde of my fellow gamers surrounded by clouds of cigarette smoke and fart vapours eventually emerging at my destination like a hobbit version of stars in their eyes. Luckily that latter part was absent from this experience as I was sat comfortably on my sofa with a cup of Earl Grey to hand and my faithful feline companion Ripley on my lap, but the point is I was digging the straight-up arcade vibes that were flowing through Tamiku. I could have just said that but I thought id flesh out the narrative a bit for the plot of this review.
Tamiku is an arcade experience from top to bottom, your goal is to progress through eight worlds in the hunt to obtain the highest score. To do this, the levels are made up of a selection of shelf-like grids full of balloons, you must pop all the balloons in each level in order to progress. There are two types of balloons, blue ones, which will burst as soon as you come into contact with them and red balloons, which you must blow up in order to pop which will require a second or two of button bashing. Obviously, things are not going to be quite that simple as each level features a selection of familiar-looking enemies, from Pac-Man style ghosts to a selection of robots and ghoulish creations that traverse the levels in various patterns which you will have to keep an eye out for as one hit from any enemy will result in death.
Don’t panic too much though!
In the true tradition of platform gaming, you have three lives, represented by three hearts on the top right of the screen. If you die you can carry on your current level after a brief pause, but lose all three lives and you must start that stage from the beginning and worst yet, you will lose your whole score meaning if you want to be the champion of the scoreboard, you must get through all the levels without losing all three lives. This push for the highest score is what hooked a generation of gamers to cough up coins and rule the arcade cabinets and there are many among us that still love this style of simplistic gameplay. The problem here is there are no online leaderboards which to me feels like something of an oversight for this day and age. Tamiku keeps a local scoreboard so you can celebrate your own glory but unless you live in a household of several like-minded gamers who want to compete in some pass the controller challenges the whole concept of competing against your wider list of gaming friends and strangers around the world becomes completely redundant, even more so given the current climate. Hopefully, this is something that can be patched in as although the experience is short, Tamiku is actually a really fun game.
From the retro style graphics to the catchy tunes that play throughout the eight themed worlds, this is a throwback at its finest. The gameplay even speeds up once you have popped half the balloons in a level to add a bit more urgency. Couple this with the constant need to keep an eye on the enemies movement patterns and ranged attacks as well as environmental hazards, the winter level, for example, will have snowballs rolling down to spoil your fun, not unlike barrels thrown from the famous Donkey Kong back in the day but you do have the advantage of being able to exit on one side of the screen and enter on the opposite side to help avoid hazards and enemies. All this blends to make an almost greatest hits of famous cabinet games all rolled into one.
With retro gameplay being the order of the day I am pleased to report that the Tamiku performed really well. The general movement which revolves around moving left to right and jumping was responsive. The graphical style was really enjoyable, bright and colourful pixel art really popped on both the big screen and handheld with the play screen being squared into an almost CRT perspective with a colourful pattern on either side to give it that extra arcade feel. Loading was near enough instant which is always a highlight especially for titles targeted at being pick up and play.
It’s safe to say that Ratalaika publishes some very hit and miss titles but I can happily say Tamiku is a hit for this reviewer, though more likely to appeal to Achievement and Trophy hunters on other platforms, Tamiku will provide switch players with a fun and nostalgic experience that is suitable for gamers of all ages. The main caveat which does let things down is the short length of the experience which takes as little as twenty minutes to get through on a good run, plus the fact it currently only features local leader boards. Whether you choose to jump in now or wait for a sale, the friendly asking price of £4.99/$4.99 (currently there’s an additional 20% off) it’s not going to break the bank either way.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation
Release Date: 18/09/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Arcade, Puzzle
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop