I certainly hope everyone reading this happened to enjoy the game-play style of Duke Dashington (our review), seeing as how Happymagenta’s Tomb of the Mask (free, universal) certainly contains a few similarities in how it’s played. The game challenges you to eternally climb upwards through a tomb slowly filling up with water, all while avoiding a mixture of randomized pathways — moving enemies — and dangerous traps. Accompanying all of these are some extremely minimalist-graphics, which — although I’m not entirely sure — have likely been designed so as to invoke memories of the ZX Spectrum (an 8-bit computer that achieved massive-fame over in the United Kingdom).

You control Tomb of the Mask by swiping in any of the four cardinal-directions, doing this will — much like Duke Dashington before it — send your hero flying off on that path, only stopping after first colliding with a surface. Unlike Duke Dashington — however — is your character’s ability to always ignore gravity no matter the circumstance, even including hanging upside-down from the very ceiling itself. The other major departure here is that these randomized levels will — so long as you stay alive — proceed eternally upward, only ending after you eventually perish via slamming into something lethal.

tomb_mask-1This might seem rather simple at first, but Tomb of the Mask’s levels can often become downright diabolical — yet still fast-paced — challenges because of the aforementioned movement rules. While people must always stay on the lam in order to evade the constantly rising doom-water, they must just as quickly identify a safe path through environments that are often laden with spikes. Far too often I’ve found myself flying headfirst into eager-spikes because I became overly-focused on grabbing even more valuable-coins, and not-nearly-focused-enough on analyzing all of my surroundings.

Speaking of those coins, mere survival in Tomb of the Mask — as you attempt to steer about your endlessly-jumping yellow-hued protagonist — isn’t exclusively your only priority. There will also be a plethora of Pac-Man esque dots — Coins — and various power-ups strewn about, and ideally you’ll want to snag as many of these as possible as you fight to keep your head above water. These power-ups can even aid you by performing actions such as increasing your score-multiplier (which is also affected by your level), freeze all moving objects, or even turn all nearby dots into valuable-coins.

How long a power-up lasts — as well as sometimes just how powerful its effects are — will be determined by the over-all level of that specific power-up, which can be permanently increased via spending your coins any time you’re between water-evasion attempts. These coins may additionally be spent to purchase new masks for your nameless protagonist, each which — beyond changing how your character looks — additionally imparts various game-altering perks when worn. These masks — by the way — are unlocked for purchasing as your account slowly levels up, with experience-points always being gained in relation to how high you scored during your previous jaunt.

tomb_mask-3Another way you can use these coins is to take spins on Tomb of the Mask’s big prize wheel, which will reward out either coins — with most prize-denominations being smaller than what you paid — along with temporary-shields. These shields — which are one of the only power-ups that can’t be found lying about — are activated by double-tapping the screen, after which you’ll be protected from various hazards for the next thirty seconds. The player may additionally purchase these single-use shields from the gold-store, but purchasing a ton of these won’t necessarily be all-that-practical without first availing yourself of Tomb of the Mask’s IAP-based options.

Your can furthermore gain access to free-spins on this prize wheel merely via the passage-of-time, meaning it’s technically-possible to earn those shields without the use of any gold (either earned in-game, or IAP-acquired). Although many games — such as those inspired by Crossy Road (our review) — have featured similar-mechanics, there’s a major difference which separates Tomb of the Mask from nearly everyone else. Whereas all those other games would require you actually use your free-spin before you can begin earning the next, you can return to Tomb of the Mask to find many stored-up free-spins.

The final thing you can spend coins on are continues whenever you mess-up, of which you’re allowed to buy up-to-three during any journey through the water-filled temple (with each revival costing more than the previous one). As is quite standard for the mobile-marketplace, the first of these revivals may alternatively be had for absolutely-free if you instead opt to watch a short-advertisement (assuming network-access exists). You may also additionally earn 300 coins just by watching one of these ads any time you end up back at Tomb of the Mask’s main-menu, which admittedly will be rather often considering the game’s frantically fast-paced nature.

tomb-of-the-mask-ios-1That said — outside of a desire to chain-guzzle the thirty-second shields — it’s actually fairly easy to legitimately earn gold within Tomb of the Mask sans IAPs, especially if you make sure to hit up bonus-stages whenever you see them. Although your run through the tomb will normally only lead you roughly straight-upwards, you can commonly find star-marked passages — generally placed in dangerous locations — leading off to the side. Smashing through one of these will lead you to an utterly coin-laden bonus-stage, and decent-players should have no trouble hitting-up multiple bonus-stages within a single run (all without even needing to continue).

Anyways, getting back on track, Tomb of the Mask is — between tight-controls, randomized-layouts that generally emphasize snap-based Risk-Vs-Reward decision making, and a largely-unaggressive monetization-scheme — quite the free mobile-offering. There is a very addictive-quality to this app — wherein you’re always left feeling as if you could push further, or even afford a new upgrade, if you just plumbed that temple one more time — and the fast-paced nature lets you do this many times within a break-period. Although Tomb of the Mask might possibly be a little too-good at keeping you coming back for more, seeing as how I felt compelled to play this app multiple times during the course of this review (so make sure you actually return to work after your break-period).

About the only facet of Tomb of the Mask I definitely didn’t enjoy was that sometimes the game’s sound effects — which change based upon your currently chosen mask — would simply refuse to perform, and then stay that way until after I fully-rebooted the app.

Verdict

Tomb of the Mask is an excellently-crafted game of fast-paced endless Risk-Vs-Reward decisions, wherein you must constantly juggle personal-survival against your desire to grab more coins. Accompanying the addictive game-play and tight-controls are some truly old-school inspired graphics, deliberately paying homage to the ZX Spectrum’s infamously limited graphical-abilities. Thankfully this free game — which can often be rather hard to drag yourself away from — features an extremely-mild monetization-scheme, meaning you won’t need to worry about any looming IAP-based dread here.

Tight-controls
Addicting fast-paced action
Unaggressive IAPs
Perhaps a little too hard to set down
Weird bug where the audio stops working
5.0
Exceptional