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.
This 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.
Another 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.
That 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.
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.