It can be really difficult to swallow when something truly unique and conceptually grand comes across my path and I just irreconcilably dislike the game. Take, for example, the beloved and highly lauded Terraria. I’ve tried it on the PC, the iPhone and even the WiiU, and I just cannot, will not find myself enjoying the game. It has a ton of different stuff about it that, in theory, I like better than Minecraft, and the graphics should appeal to me because they’re totally SNES era style. But I can’t bring myself to play it for more than a couple minutes before I just get restlessly bored and decide to see how many coins I can balance on my elbow instead. This, therefore, is the sad intro to my review of Tumbleseed.
Tumbleseed is a pretty cute storyline. You, a seed, are trying to fulfill a prophecy and save your village from weird little creatures that have shown up and started wrecking the scenery. You’re going to save the village by getting to the top of the moutain, go through a forest, and then several other environments to find and take care of the source of this madness. You’re not alone in your quest: many villagers have spread themselves throughout the worlds to offer hints and advice, and they even help you discover your full potential as a seed. You can swap your seed persona at will to tap into other powers you have, such as short and long range weapons, changing the world around you and, most critically, planting flags. Let’s dive into Tumbleseed’s mechanics, shall we?
As a seed, you lack legs, arms and other appendages that might propel you in any direction. As a result, all movement is set and done by a tilting platform at the bottom of the screen. You control said platform with both of the joysticks, which allows you to control the roll, pitch and general speed of the seed as you ascend wherever you’re heading next. You really can’t do much to directly affect your seed’s actions other than give some form of control to the gravity of the situation. If you play piano, you may find mastering the controls a bit easier, because you can more easily separate the left and right hand movements and allow for finesse with getting particular angles right. If you’re like me and you’re kind of hamfisted, you’ll sometimes throw your seed to its death because, despite countless hours in twin stick shooters, you fail to tell your right hand to copy the left and create a 45 degree drop.
All the powers that you’ll get can only be used one at a time, so it’s important to pick and choose when you need to use them, as they cannot be activated arbitrarily. When you run over certain special panels, whatever power you have will activate. Most powers require you to have one or more crystals in your possession, which you can find scattered about the land and can also get if you’re using the Crystalseed form. Since the panels are spread out and not easily accessible and available, you gotta constantly make flash decisions when coming upon a patch. Do you want to throw your shield up to protect against the barrage of enemies? Do you think some spears might do the trick? Or do you just need to plant a flag because you’re certain you’re gonna die and you need to respawn here so you won’t lose all that progress? You can take as much time as you need toggling through the forms you have, but, once you’ve selected, you may only have a second to hit the panel and roll on your merry way.
Tumbleseed advertises itself as a roguelike, which is also pretty trendy nowadays, but I am impressed with what they’ve done to that effect in the game. Although the stages are currently static in nature, the layout and traps you encounter are completely randomized. The panels, holes and enemies change every time, not to mention the appearance of the gems. This definitely adds to the difficulty curve and is also why the game still has a pretty massive appeal. With a lot of puzzle games, memorization to the layout or when things activate is key in speed running and achieving perfect scores. Tumbleseed throws that idea out the window by never having the same setup twice, which does add a lot to the replay value.
The weekly and daily challenges are a really nice touch, as the roguelike gives an opportunity for diehards to make their name known again and again on the global leaderboards. Tumbleseed, to its credit, is also making sure the boards are working cross platform to appeal to everyone, everywhere. Which, when you consider they were doing a five hundred dollar a day challenge last May, is damn impressive. The game has also been under serious consideration by the developers to put in new content pretty regularly since the launch. The two player mode, which is currently a Switch exclusive, is a really fun and individual take on the pvp scene. You and your opponent have separate, intangible platforms, but you can still smash into each other and try and knock the other player into the holes. New or old players alike have pretty good odds when going into the arena, since the powerups, panels and hole placements are, again, randomized at the beginning of the match. I had a pretty good time when I played this against my family, and was pretty surprised how quickly they picked up the idea and completely demolished me.
The only negative technical aspect of Tumbleseed that I encountered was playing it in handheld mode on the Switch. When you’re holding the controller, you can steady yourself and you understand the limitations of where you’re moving because the screen is further away from you; that is, the controller and the screen have a distinct disconnect. Due to the rolling motion of Tumbleseed, and the fact that the Switch does have some motion controls on other games, I found myself constantly tilting the whole machine in an effort to help along my seed, and, surprise, it didn’t work. So I guess my technical negative point is “I’m an idiot.”
I can appreciate and admire what Tumbleseed means and what it has created and done. There’s a ton of love in this game, from the light and fun soundtrack to the adorable design of every single seed powerup that you can unlock. The roguelike is handled in a way that doesn’t feel like the game is flailing to get your attention, but still special enough to make each load a different experience. Two player mode is genuinely enjoyable and I hope the other consoles get the update soon. I guess I’m just disappointed that I didn’t get into this game as much as I wanted to. I had a great time watching others play and I will definitely keep doing two player mode, as well as keep it on my Switch to keep an eye on future updates. I think it’s a hallmark of a solid product that, while I didn’t find it as engaging as some, I can completely understand and see what makes it special, and I hope that others find what I missed.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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