Format reviewed: Arcade
If you ever need reminding that the arcade market of the early Nineties was a weird, transitional scene, Tinkle Pit should serve well. Despite the declining popularity of traditional maze games and the market’s preference for the 3D games which were finally beginning to come of age, Namco chose to release Tinkle Pit into arcades in 1993. That’s the same year it released Ridge Racer. But while it’s true that Tinkle Pit is something of an anachronism, it plays rather well.
You play as a young blonde chap, who happens to be accompanied by an anthropomorphic sleigh bell. He’s promptly plonked into a maze to fight all manner of enemies, including familiar Namco characters such drawn from games such as Toy Pop and Dig Dug. The main way to defeat enemies is with the bell. Pressing a button fixes its position, allowing your hero to run around the maze while leaving a trail of string behind. When the button is released, the bell will follow the trail back to your position, knocking out any enemies it encounters along the way. You can also collect yellow energy balls which are thrown forward and bounce around the maze, but these are single-use and can only defeat one enemy at a time. Stages are cleared by eliminating every enemy. Every few stages, a boss will appear which takes multiple hits to defeat.
Tinkle Pit manages to keep things interesting, with good scoring mechanics largely responsible for this. Greater scores are awarded for knocking out multiple enemies with the bell, encouraging you to leave longer trails. However, long trails allow enemies more time to leave the bell’s path. Additionally, each stage contains pick-ups which award more points. These come in small and large varieties, and you’re encouraged to pick up large items to allow small ones to grow. Pick up all eight large items and you’ll get a major bonus.
There’s a lot to like about Tinkle Pit and Namco fans will enjoy spotting all the returning characters – there’s even a power-up which turns you into Pac-Man. However, thanks to its Japan-only release and the general decline of maze games as a genre, it’s easy to see why Tinkle Pit didn’t receive any conversions.