While traveling down a river in a tube, players attempt to avoid obstacles and score points by passing through gates. Combinations of gates increase a score multiplier. Players rotate their tubes and paddle to increase speed. They gather letters for points (and potentially a free t-shirt), and gather pop cans - which can be thrown at obstacles. Power-ups allow players to carry multiple cans.
The game can be played either solo or co-op. Although there is a competitive aspect to the co-op mode in the form of getting more points and pop cans than the opponent. If players dawdle too long, an alligator begins chasing the player, forcing them to either speed up. Lives are represented by patches (as in patches that can be used to repair a tube).
The game has three different classes, each with five rivers, for a total of 15. The rivers in each class are as follows:
- Colorado, Amazon, Okeefenokee, American, and Argentum.
- Yukon, Styx, Left Bank, Cuprum, and Nile.
- Jurassic, Black Forest, Rio Grande, Canals Of Mars, and Nightmare.
The game's playable characters are Bif and Jet. Whenever there is only one player in the game, there is a computer-controlled opponent called Flotsam.
The original arcade version of Toobin' exclusively controlled via buttons; using five of them for each player. Four of the buttons represent hands and direction, such as putting the left hand forward, or the right hand back. This allows for tank-like propulsion and rotation. The fifth button is used for throwing soda cans at obstacles.