[Review] TumbleSeed - Nintendo Everything

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[Review] TumbleSeed

Posted on May 2, 2017 by (@jakovujo) in Reviews, Switch eShop

System: Switch (eShop)
Release date: May 2, 2017
Developer: aeiowu
Publisher aeiowu

The first thing that hit me upon playing TumbleSeed is how tactile it feels. Even as I was hopelessly fumbling and rolling my seed, making inconsequential progress up the game’s procedurally generated mountain, its textured soundtrack, satisfyingly percussive sound effects, and bright bubbly visuals kept me going – at least until I had a better grasp on the game. As it turns out, TumbleSeed is an excellent roguelike.

You control a nameless seed prophesied to defy gravity and reach the top of a mountain littered with traps and dangerous wildlife. However, you don’t control the seed, exactly. It’s really an interaction with the seed by guiding its rolly physics on a horizontal platform, shifting each end up and down with the left and right analogue sticks. The unconventional controls are the greatest hurdle to get over before being able to appreciate the roguelike part of TumbleSeed. Push the left or right stick up or down and the ends of the platform move accordingly, causing the seed to roll.

It sounds simple, but it took me a while to understand the intricacies of this scheme. Once I got the hang of it (thanks in no small part to me noticing the importance of the tilting board’s small inclinometer), an interesting navigation dynamic came into play. Rather than fumbling and swerving the seed back and forth in an attempt to get the swaying seed’s momentum under control, the game becomes more purposeful. Extremely subtle and precise angles are essential. For example, a very slight tilt guarantees a predictably slow roll. If I line myself up against the coming holes and obstacles of the level and set my seed’s tilt at just the right speed, I can perfectly plan my maneuver up the screen.

TumbleSeed is a roguelike, so there are a variety of weapons and abilities to find as well. The mountain is scattered with diamond shaped pockets of soil to plant your seed abilities. Every run starts with four basic abilities. One seed creates checkpoints in the event you tumble down the mountain. One offensive ability creates a rotating barrier of daggers around your seed. It is complimented by a defensive ability that allows you to regain and increase health. Finally, there is a last resort ability that sacrifices a soil pocket for more of the minerals required to use seed abilities. Everything is balanced around the all-important resource of minerals and these base abilities. Beyond the necessity to master its movement controls, TumbleSeed requires that you learn to manage this essential resource. Everything is dictated by it making for a really satisfying gameplay loop, one that kept me fixated for days.

The game’s design as a roguelike is perfectly lean. Every mechanic plays with others in the background, often in smart ways I didn’t immediately notice. There’s not an overwhelming number of upgrades. If I had to guess I’d say there’s only a little over two dozen and you become acquainted with just about every ability within a few hours. It doesn’t feel like there needs to be more either. Each upgrade has its own specific use, with certain types being particularly effective against aggressive enemy types higher up the mountain. Forward planning and preparedness for contingencies are something a good roguelike has to instill on its players. TumbleSeed achieves this in a more layered way than most when basic movement has to be considered alongside randomly doled out powerups.

I wouldn’t have been nearly as pulled in if it wasn’t for its comprehensive leaderboards. There are local, friends, and global online leaderboards that record everyone’s best runs up the mountain but the daily challenge leaderboard is a particularly smart inclusion. By selecting the daily challenge mode you get a single shot at the leaderboard for that day. If you die early on, too bad – that was your shot for the day. Try again tomorrow. A good run typically only takes around twenty minutes which makes TumbleSeed an excellent game for quick pickup, if only to come back refreshed to take a shot at the daily leaderboard.

The Verdict

thumbs up review

TumbleSeed is a great roguelike. It takes the best aspects of the genre and cuts out a lot of the fat while introducing its own interesting approach. While its unconventional control scheme takes a while to learn, it ultimately adds a second layer of consideration to an already tightly designed set of mechanics. With its comprehensive leaderboards, there’s really nothing I can ask of this game that it isn’t doing just right for me. In an unusually stellar year of game releases it says a lot that by my own volition, TumbleSeed is the only thing I played for a week. Don’t let it fly under your radar.

TumbleSeed review copy provided by aeiowu for the purposes of this review.

Leave a Reply

  • How is the HD rumble? I remember the article where the developers talked it up, and I’m always interesting in hearing how it’s utilized in different ways.

    • ben

      It is nice. I haven’t played enough but it feels good.

  • ibo

    i rarely think you will ever see a thumbs down on this site….
    this is way the whole thumbs up or down thing is so f%#%k*ng dumb

    • Brian

      Our rating system is a compromise between numbered scores and not having them at all. We were leaning towards ditching ratings entirely, but figured this was at least a way to satisfy those who at least want some sort of verdict. Rather than focusing on it being “Thumbs Up”, “Thumbs Down”, or “Thumbs Sideways”, I encourage you to look at the actual review.

      By the way, there is absolutely no pressure to read our reviews. You certainly don’t have to if you’re not interested.

      • ibo
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    • ben

      The number system is dumb. It only causes people to play “Which game is better.”
      A game is either worth playing or it is not. I totally agree with the thumb system.

      Scores are bad because, for example. I think the Witcher 3 is worth playing… but it is not the sort of game I like because you barely do anything in that game.. you watch a story for 75% of the game. Most of your conversation choices have no affect on the story. In other words most of the game is a deceiving the player into believing their playing the game when in fact they are just watching a story.
      I would give it a thumbs up but I hate the way it plays and would score it a 7-8. Some people love the witcher series and would think I was a bad person for pointing out that games like Horizon and the Witcher are not really games but just interactive stories.

    • DeltaPeng

      I agree that I’d prefer a more elaborate / precise / higher numbered system.

      A scale of 1-10 imo is already limited, reducing the number of options doesn’t help.

      A scale of 1-100, or 1-10 for multiple categories (like sound, music, story, gameplay) would be better, as whether a game is worth playing depends on the styles of games one likes to play, and some people primarily care about story / graphics / gameplay and personally rank that above all other things, so a game with great graphics and crap gameplay might get a good score, but that wouldn’t reflect how a gameplay gamer would score/receive it.

      A scale for how a game ranks on it’s own, and a scale of how it ranks within it’s genre could be handy.

  • DeltaPeng

    Hmm. Just bought the game, and while it’s fun, it can also be fairly frustrating. The music is nice and better than I thought, graphically things look pretty good, and the idea (with crystal management, power ups, etc) is a good one, but I feel there’s a lot of potential that is lost because they made it too difficult aka difficulty ramps up too quickly. I realize that, since this is randomly generated and it is a roguelike, you don’t want to make each section too long, else there’s too much backtracking when you lose. On the other hand, the controls are quite sensitive and the difficulty ramps up such that most people will probably never get past the jungle (2nd area), it looks like there might be…4 areas? So you just blocked off half the content from a majority of the players (Bad design decision).

    Now, I like games like 1001 Spikes, so I don’t mind a game being difficult, as long as it’s fair. The enemies and some of the design decisions require too much precision controlling to be fair imo, which leads to frustration and feeling like some losses are more the game’s fault (for requiring mastery on lv2) then is fair.

    Mostly the difficulty is due to the number of holes, and that enemies target you fairly precisely and move too fast. If you could dodge / avoid them consistently, it wouldn’t be a problem, but with all the holes and the sensitivity of the controls, you really don’t have the ability to move quickly and navigate your way around obstacles. Particularly, the giant spider, giant worm, flying thing that follows you and shoots bullets at you, and explosive tube bomb hole (that really needs to be on a timer, exploding instantly is kind of cheap). A lot of times these hazards would come out together as well, so I’d have to somehow deal with 2 very large threats in addition to trying to navigate around a myriad of holes. Sure, you can get to a point where you master the controls, and there are some powerups that help a fair deal, but the powerups are random, and mastery of the controls should come with time and not be required so early on.

    I feel like there’s potential in this game, but unless your dogged determined and a fairly avid gamer yourself, you’re not likely to get much value or see much content from this game. I could see a lot of people rage quitting before reaching the end, let alone beating that second jungle level.

    From a game design standpoint, I feel this could be easily remedied by making the current mode the ‘hard mode’, and making a normal and potentially an easy mode. One that involves less holes, and slower enemies, or even just starting the player off with 5-10 crystals (instead of 1) and 6-8 hearts (instead of 3). Then at least they’d have a fighting chance of progressing to the higher levels, seeing more content, and getting more value from the game. I know they have online leaderboards, they could easily split that up via difficulty mode to preserve the current records), or just disallow saving to the leaderboard unless you’re on a certain mode.

    That all said, this game is for gamers with high determination and who can handle frustration of failing a lot, yet trying again. Most other gamers may find some enjoyment, but ultimately would not be able to see most of the game’s content or progress very far imo, due to the unfair or super increase in difficulty, early on. Which is a shame, as the concept is solid, and some of the powerups are well thought of / interesting, and the music is fantastic.
    7/10 if patched for multiple difficulty levels, then I’d garner it’d be closer to 8-8.5

Related Game Info

Publisher: aeiowu
Developer: aeiowu
Release date: May 2, 2017
OWN IT: 0 [I own this game]
BEAT IT: 0 [I beat this game]
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