Ratalaika Games, for so long the purveyors of cheap games with easy achievements, have been branching out in recent months, with varying degrees of success. There has been the rather good Jisei: The First Case HD, and the not so good Nicole. However, it appears that they have got their groove back with the release of Tamiku, a game that looks like a love letter to the sort of experience I used to play on my ZX Spectrum back in the day. But does returning to their roots make for a fun gaming experience, or is this purely another simple achievement grab?
The story of Tamiku isn’t going to give Final Fantasy any sleepless nights. Tamiku is an alien, who loves to pop balloons, and he has popped all the balloons on his planet. So, what else can he do but jump in his spaceship and go in search of another planet with a plentiful amount of balloons to burst? Well, nothing it seems, as that’s exactly what he does. What this translates to in a gaming sense is a series of single screen levels, each with various platforms to jump up and climb down, a lot of balloons, and some other creatures who, on balance, would like their balloons to remain unmolested.
Now, the balloons that Tamiku has to pop come in two flavours: blue ones are popped by simply walking into them, whilst the red ones require a different technique – you have to press the “X” button multiple times on the spot where the red balloons are to burst them. Now that may seem easy, but it isn’t when you have various baddies out for blood. What this all therefore translates to is a case of jumping about the screen, bursting balloons, and avoiding critters, and in later levels the projectiles of said critters. And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Thankfully to break things up a bit there are bonus levels, which come around after three levels or so. In this bonus screen, you again have to burst balloons, but this time Tamiku has a balloon backpack of his own, and is able to then float around the screen, bursting to his heart’s content. There’s no danger in these levels either – it really is a case of just getting on with bursting as many balloons as you can.
Graphically, Tamiku has a lovely retro look, so much so that it has reminded me of games like Manic Miner from way back in the day. Obviously, the sprites no longer change colour to match the backdrop they are against, but it’s fair to say that my Xbox One X didn’t ever break into a sweat running this game. The sound is all period correct too; bleepy and bloopy sounding just about right. In fact, presentation-wise I have no complaints at all and it’s a similar case in terms of the control scheme – simple as it is, it is well up to the job in hand.
And this then is the sum total of Tamiku – pop some balloons until you can pop no more. To complement the gameplay there are also some snazzy Xbox achievements to grab – points given for popping a balloon, for finishing each stage, and more still for finishing a bonus level. And as there are only eight levels to go at, it’s pretty safe to say that finding a conclusion in Tamiku won’t take you long. Without a word of a lie, I made myself a coffee, sat down for a session of balloon popping madness and found myself having taken home every single achievement possible in the time it took for the brew to cool down. With less than 20 minutes on the clock, and the full 1000G and 11 achievements later, I was done with the game.
You see, once you make your way through all the levels, the game restarts from the beginning, but with more red balloons. But by this time any desire to play has all but evaporated with the last ping of the final achievement unlocking. I have a real issue with the way that these games give achievements, if I’m honest; cheap, fun little games that give up all the sweet G in one playthrough rarely provide any reason to continue playing. Tamiku is a fine case in point.
All this means that for achievement hunters, a purchase of Tamiku on Xbox One is a no brainer. Minimal time investment plus maximum points score most certainly equals a win. For the rest of us, those looking for a game that’s fun to play, this is a much harder sell. While it lasts, it’s fun, there’s no two ways about it, but your time with Tamiku is ultimately over way too soon – and to me that’s a real shame.