Every once in awhile, a video game comes along that confuses you just as much as it challenges you. TumbleSeed is one of them. I can’t actually decide which adjective most describes this cross between Marble Madness and a roguelike. Either way, this is something you’ll want to play if you like to compete with yourself or your friends for extreme accuracy.
According to the game’s website, “TumbleSeed is a deceptively deep roguelike about balancing a seed up a dangerous and ever-changing mountain.” Your job is to use the two analog sticks to control a horizontal bar that guides a round seed left, right, and, most importantly, up. I still have no idea why I’m doing this, but that is the game. Along the way, though, you must maneuver past enemies, holes, and other hazards by raising and lowering the bar with impeccable precision, something I quickly realized I lacked, which frustrated me many times.
While you do have a tutorial that teaches you the basic controls and weapons, there is not much of a gradual increase to the difficulty. Yes, it does get harder as you progress, it’s also not very easy from the very beginning. Right at the first world, I found myself struggling. Although, as I will describe later, some playthroughs were much easier.
You can upgrade your seed, however, by collecting crystals from either planting your seed or defeating enemies. You can trade in your crystals for more hearts or more weapons. Your base weapon is the ThornSeed, which involves spear-like arms sprouting from your seed. Along the way, you can collect other seed forms that will shoot enemies, fill holes, make you a spring, and more.
As you progress up the mountain, you will encounter five fairly unique worlds. Each time you start the game, you will notice that even though each world’s overall aesthetic is the same, the enemies and items are different. This is because they are all procedurally generated, making each playthrough different. I found this both good and frustrating, as some playthroughs were much more difficult than others. For example, my best run so far was when I had a clear cut right up the middle for almost an entire world. Meanwhile, I’ve had other times when I couldn’t make it past the first world at all due to a large number of holes and enemies being right at the start of the game.
Speaking of enemies, some of them are easy to avoid or destroy, while others are downright unfair. There have been several times when I was making great progress and an enemy would pop out of nowhere. The next thing I know, I’m shot down, exploding, or falling. Of course, you can plant checkpoints and get more hearts along the way, but if I did more of that, I wouldn’t have much to fight all the random enemies showing up everywhere.
The look and feel of TumbleSeed follows the popular “indie” design, which means you’ll find lower resolution images with low poly counts, but it will still pop off the screen. Similarly, the music and sound effects are solid and felt exactly as I would have expected for a simple game about a traveling seed. I wasn’t blown away by the graphics or sounds, but didn’t hate them, either. They fit the game’s theme very well.
Where TumbleSeed truly shines is the competition for top scores. As long as you are connected to the internet, you can upload your progress to the worldwide leaderboard. You can also narrow this to just your friend list, if you want. The leaderboard will most likely make you think, “How in the world did they get that far,” or, “I’ve got to beat them.” Maybe you’ll even find yourself thinking both. I usually find myself thinking the former more than the latter, just because the game usually gets the best of me. Unfortunately, at the time of this review, there is no way of watching replays of the top scores in-game to see how they did achieve them. If you don’t have an internet connection, you can always compete with yourself or others on your own Switch.
Another thing I appreciate is that this game does not try to be something it is not. The premise is simple — transporting a seed to the top of a mountain. While it could have a huge backstory that explains why you control this bar and cut-scenes along the way that tell the history of the seed’s journey, it doesn’t do that. Instead, there are NPC dialogue screens that give you some simple side-quests or basic explanations. Other than that, you are left to fulfill one goal — get to the top of the mountain. Even though a story and some explanations would help me feel less confused, I do like that the developers have kept the game simple.
Starting on May 2, 2017, TumbleSeed will be available for a number of platforms, but I played the Nintendo Switch version. With some experience under my belt, it’s also the one that I would suggest you get, since I enjoyed it best in handheld form. Playing on a TV or in tabletop format is all right, but handheld was where I truly felt connected to the game and even felt like I had better control.
While it’s not for everyone, those looking for a challenge on Nintendo Switch will certainly find it in TumbleSeed. Although, you may find yourself getting frustrated quite a bit and moving to an easier game. While the price might be somewhat high for what it is, if a competition-based adventure game that requires extreme precision through a roguelike environment sounds exciting, you should definitely download this one.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10
- Simple controls
- Online leaderboards
- Basic formula
- Procedurally generated worlds add to replay value
- High difficulty level from the start
- Some enemies pop out of nowhere
- Lack of replay videos
- Title: TumbleSeed
- Publisher: aeiowu
- ESRB: E for Everyone
- MSRP: $14.99
- Released: May 2, 2017
- Obtained: Review code from aeiowu