There is a famous scene in Conan the Barbarian where he is asked “What is best in life?” Conan answers, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” If the same question was asked to Tomarc the Barbarian, the answer would be something like, “To painfully jump diagonally, to stop moving for no reason and to hear a weird noise and turn into a woman.” (so its not just me then? – Ed) That best sums up the 1983 Xonox game, “Tomarc the Barbarian.” The game which has potential and an evocative name all sounds promising, but quickly devolves into a tedious abortive jump-fest.
To painfully jump diagonally…
Tomarc is pretty much all about jumping diagonally. The problem is the control scheme is pretty poor and so you will be jumping again and again to try to enter the next room. Couple that with rats you need to dodge (why does a barbarian need to dodge rats?) and you have a recipe for disaster. Your abortive jumps will inevitably lead you to land on some rats.
…to stop moving for no reason…
The controls are difficult, but what’s worse is that sometimes you just stop moving. Its not for long, but its just often enough that you will get annoyed or overtaken by a rat. The only explanation for this is the inexcusable sin of not properly testing the game before it got out the door. I cannot imagine why the game industry crashed the year that Tomarc came out.
…and to hear a weird noise and turn into a woman.
Now Tomarc has a promising feature that goes nowhere and is downright confusing sometimes. You hear this noise and then you need to change character, becoming this woman, Senta, who is trapped in a cage and needs to use a bow to shoot a vampire bat. As soon as that is done you go right back to playing Tomarc. Now I like the idea of character switching in an Atari 2600 game, but this does nothing for me. Instead it only frustrates me more, because I thought I might have gotten the rhythm of the game down when you made me move to some random bland mini-game.
If you can master the jumping, avoid the rats and the body swapping while putting up with the game freezes, you will eventually find a sword that you will need to free the woman in the cage. Is it a rewarding experience? Not at all. This game will leave you feeling as puzzled as poor Conan when he was trying to figure out the “Riddle of Steel.”
Luckily I knew the answer to the riddle and had the will to turn off this mess of a game. I give it 1 out 5 stars.