Tumblepop is a 1991 platform arcade video game developed by Data East first published in Japan by Namco, then in North America by Leprechaun Inc. and later in Europe by Mitchell Corporation. Starring two ghosthunters, players are tasked with travelling across different countries, capturing enemies and throwing them as bouncing ball, jumping on and off platforms to navigate level obstacles while dodging and defeating monsters in order to save the world.
Designed by Makoto Kikuchi, Tumblepop was developed by most of the same team that worked on several projects at Data East. Although first launched in arcades, the game was later ported across multiple platforms, each one featuring several changes or additions compared with the original version. The title was met with mostly positive reception from critics and players alike, gaining a cult following since its initial release. However, other versions were met with a more mixed response from reviewers.
Tumblepop is a platform game reminiscent of Bubble Bobble, Pang and Snow Bros., where players assume the role of ghosthunters through ten levels consisting of ten stages set in different parts of the world (Moscow, Egypt, Paris, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Antarctica, Australia, Japan, Space and Moon), each with a boss at the every tenth stage that must be fought before progressing any further, in an effort to defeat monsters, ghosts, aliens and other oddball characters as the main objective. Each player can suck enemies into a vacuum-cleaner-like devices, however enemies will escape from the player’s vacuum-cleaner and kill their character if they are kept for too long. Once an enemy has been captured into the vacuum-cleaner, players can spit them back as rolling balls, which will rebound off of walls until eventually shattering against a wall.
Any enemies the tumbling ball rolls into are eliminated and reveal hidden bonus items that are crucial for reaching high-scores such as collectable letters of the alphabet found in randomly appearing bubbles to gradually spell the word “TUMBLEPOP”, the progress of which is permanently displayed at the bottom of the screen. The word goes back to default after completion. When completed, players are transported to a bonus level which gives them the opportunity to obtain higher scores and an extra life, although this level is strictly timed. If the player takes too much time to complete a level, a vampire-like beast will come and try to kill the players, which is invincible and this also counts during boss encounters.
When players bowl an enemy over, it may drop other items like gems, money or power-ups. Players can also stun enemies with the beam emitted from the vacuum-cleaner. The game hosts cameos of characters from other Data East games such as Karnov, Atomic Runner Chelnov and Joe & Mac. If a single player is downed, their character is immediately respawned at the location they start at on every stage. Getting hit by enemy fire will result in losing a life, as well as a penalty of decreasing the characters’ firepower and speed to his original state and once all lives are lost, the game is over unless the players insert more credits into the arcade machine to continue playing.