Game Review: Tomena Sanner
Release: February 8th, 2010
Genre: Single-Button Action
Available Platform: Wii (Downloadable WiiWare title)
MSRP: 500 Wii Points ($5 USD)
ESRB Rating: E
There’s no doubt that there have been some quirky games that have seen release over the years. PaRappa the Rapper, while lighting the fuse for the music game genre, also had its protagonist is some weird situations including a rap battle to use the bathroom. Incredible Crisis was an odd series of minigames based on pop culture that ranged from trivia knowledge to dance-offs to the steamiest Ferris Wheel ride ever. Mister Mosquito put players in the role of a mosquito whose sole purpose was to suck the blood of some pretty funny family members. Now, Tomena Sanner is here for the Wii and what looks like a basic side-scrolling action game involves some of the most off-the-wall situations that you’re likely to see in a video game. Seriously.
At its core, Tomena Sanner is a very simple game. Using only the A button on the Wiimote, players must guide the rather rushed Hitoshi Susumu through various obstacles before the timer runs out. The A button acts as a context button and must be pressed at the right time as Hitoshi approaches anything that gets in his way while running to the right. Depending on the timing, one of three results can occur; GREAT, GOOD, or MISS. Great timing is the best result and adds more time to the clock, as well as adding more points to the overall score. Good timing may cost a little time, but keeps Hitoshi moving. Misses stop Hitoshi in his tracks and cost players valuable time. The basics of the game are deceiving, however. There are coins and powerups to collect, special moves that can be pulled off, and secret areas that can be found. In addition, there are multiple ways to clear each stage. Players can choose to keep Hiroshi close to the ground and deal with obstacles as they come up, or Hitoshi can jump and collect airborne coins and powerups at the risk of landing on a random obstacle and losing time in the process.
Tomena Sanner will be best known for the completely random situations that Hitoshi has to face in each of the game’s nine stages. How does he get past a schoolgirl? With the right timing, he creates a line of them and does a dance! How about that weird guy in a giraffe suit? Why not grab a bat and swing for the fences as the guy pitches to you? What of that gun-toting cowgirl? Pull off a move straight out of The Matrix to avoid her gunfire. Why are there T-Rexes and Triceratops? What’s with the big robots? Why is Santa Claus on the moon? Each of the obstacles will elicit different reactions as Hitoshi faces them, depending on the timing of the A button, and each reaction is accompanied by some genuinely funny dialog that flashes by on the screen.
Simplicity is one the strengths of Tomena Sanner. The game requires one button to play, so quite literally anyone can play this game with little confusion. The game’s off-the-wall and unexpected humor is also a selling point, provided that you find that kind of humor funny. If you think seeing your on-screen character spontaneously start breakdancing in order to clear an obstacle is too weird, then this game might not be for you. Once the nine stages of the game are completed, an Endless mode opens up where players can play through all nine back-to-back for a lengthier– and somewhat more challenging– experience. In addition, a Turbo mode is available which speeds up all of the game’s stages and adds a level of frenetic play to an already quirky game. Split-screen multiplayer action is also available for up to 4 players, so that no taking turns or waiting is necessary. Lastly, there are online leaderboards for players to post high scores to and check their rankings both regionally and worldwide. Working to get high scores and find new ways through the stages improves what could be considered to be marginal replay value.
Limited replay value is an unfortunate consideration. Nothing can disguise the fact that there are only nine stages that make up the game’s content. It’s possible to breeze through Tomena Sanner in less than an hour’s time. Aside from trying to beat high scores or possibly showing the game off to family or friends for a few laughs, there aren’t a lot of reasons to go back to the game once you’ve seen what it has to offer. A few more stages would have helped give the game some longer legs. The other major gripe with the game is the rather finicky timing that is required. Finding the correct timing for each situation is a difficult task and it rarely seems consistent. Some of this issue stems from how fast the screen scrolls by; it’s possible to not see obstacles until it’s too late. There are powerups which can drop the scroll speed down a little bit, but this in turn affects how quickly you can finish the stage. With repeated play and memorization of the stages, it may be possible to perfect the timing, but players who are just starting out may find a bit of frustration with this.
Tomena Sanner is a fun, but flawed experience. On one hand, it’s inexpensive, easy to play, and has some truly unique moments and encounters that will make you look twice to see if you saw what you think you just saw. On the other hand, there are very few play mechanics and the game is short enough to be completely experienced within an hour or two. It’s great that quirky games like this are given the chance to find a new audience, and it will hopefully keep the door open for more games like it to hit domestic shores. Sure, you could use those last 500 Wii Points for something else, but the Tomena Sanner experience is really one of a kind and that might just be enough to warrant the $5 price of admission.