Ride a pig, go to jail.
In terms of platform games on the PlayStation, Sony is in a bad position. They have their flagship Crash Bandicoot series, but other than that they have been literally squashed by Nintendo's Mario and Sega's Sonic. This will be no more though, as Whoopee Camp has come up with a character that is even more zany than Mario or Sonic in their excellent game, Tomba!
Tomba follows the adventures of a monkey-boy with pink hair as he travels through forests and mountains solving puzzles and completing quests. That is also the most innovative feature of Tomba: the ability to do multiple quests at any time you wish. It isn't a linear platformer, like Crash, where you have to complete each level as it is set in front of you. Instead, you can venture around the world choosing to do whatever you wish at any time you wish.
This freedom has been attempted in other genres, such as RPG's (see Daggerfall), but it is the first time it has been used in a platform game. Another interesting feature is the ability to jump in and out of the screen, giving the game a psuedo-3D feel. Instead of being stuck running in a line, back and forth, you can move behind things as well. Creative for what is essentially a 2D platformer.
The graphics in Tomba are great, the sensational art is coupled with well modeled 3D objects that create a lush world filled with interesting life forms. Forests, leaves, water, buildings, everything, is drawn with incredible detail. Even the hand-animated cut-scenes are cute and funny. Tomba has some of the best 2D art out today. By using lots of rotational effects, Tomba also has some interesting views that change the 2D backgrounds - it's not only the 3D objects that move in Tomba.
The sound and music in the game are funnier than a pig in a pink dress. Tomba's expressions and vocal noises are whimsical while the music is entertaining. Composed and recorded well, the sound and music may set a new high water mark for platformers.
The only thing holding Tomba back is the traditional un-innovative gameplay. Yes, the same run and jump familiarity of platform games is back, totally lacking anything new. It's not that the system is bad, as it has obviously been successful for so many games, it's just that so many games have come out using the the same platform gameplay that it is becoming boring.
The aforementioned 'quest system' is fun, but it doesn't change what you do in between different quests - run around and jump on enemies. Tomba can use different weapons and items, giving the game a somewhat RPG feel - which is a good advance for the genre, but not as in-depth as Castlevania.
However, some people may find the tried and true gameplay a little too tired. Is Tomba one of the best side-scrolling platformers for the PlayStation? You betcha. Although gameplay isn't entirely innovative, it has some great new features that all platform fans should check out. Still though, the best part about the game is the opening movie where you are introduced to Tomba - who knew anyone could ride a pig that well?