Tomb of the Mask is a game seemingly born from a love of retro goodness. It looks like a game I would have played on the Apple II, and feels like a manic version of Pac-Man. Despite that, it has all the trappings of a modern mobile game, from simple swipe mechanics to an endless litany of upgrades and characters to unlock.
For a particular subset of gamers — those who love vintage appeal and modern comfort — Tomb of the Mask is an old school dream come true.
The latest release from Happymagenta (Splish Splash Pong, Into the Dim), Tomb of the Mask is an endless arcade game that tasks players to swipe in the direction they want their hero to go, attempting to collect points and coins along the way. Like PAC-MAN, every dot you collect will increase your score. Unlike PAC-MAN, your character will keep moving until they hit a wall, with no ability to control their movement beyond essentially yelling “go that way until you can’t!”
To keep gameplay moving at a blistering speed, there’s a wall of death that quickly climbs up the bottom of the screen that you’ll need to outrun. This is essentially the “watch out for the lava!” of Tomb of the Mask — or, if you’re searching for a more apt comparison, the glitch from PAC-MAN 256.
Having said that, Tomb of the Mask’s threat moves a whole lot faster than PAC-MAN’s.
This wouldn’t be too difficult of a challenge were it not for the countless obstacles the game throws your way. Your ascent through the tomb requires quick thinking, as a wrong turn will send you hurtling into deadly spikes, arrows, or the critters that populate this world (and don’t take to kindly to your arrival).
Other than the spikes, most obstacles are timing-based affairs. You’ll need to swipe at just the right moment to bypass bats, or sneak past a puffer fish before it inflates. Keeping with the fast-paced nature of the game, though, you’ll be dealing with many of these obstacles in microseconds — and you can’t exactly wait it out if you want to avoid the hot wall of death creeping up behind you.
To help turn the tables in your favor a little, there are powerups you can collect that will give you temporary advantages, like freezing enemies in their place or having your avatar act as a magnet for coins and dots. These powerups can be upgraded with the coins you earn, and you can even unlock permanent perks by purchasing different masks.
Tomb of the Mask is a game of precision and quick thinking. It’s frantic, and yet remains wildly accessible. Anyone can make progress here — but when you start panicking because the hot lava is nipping at your heels, or get stopped-up trying to figure out just the right path to lead you to a bevvy of coins or a hidden away bonus room, even the best of players can get tripped up.
And that’s what makes it so damned fun.