Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tumblestone Review (XONE)

Tumblestone starts out as a promising match three puzzle game but stumbles long before you’ve even seen a fraction of the hundreds of levels it offers.  It’s just boring and not rewarding, but also ramps up in difficulty extremely quickly without really being satisfying enough to keep you invested if / when you get stuck.  That is a bad combo for a puzzle game.  See our full review of Tumblestone for more.

Game Details

  • Publisher: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
  • Developer: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Pros: Fresh spin on match 3 puzzles; tons of content
  • Cons: Maybe too much content … ; kinda boring; DLC!
  • MSRP: $20

Tumblestone is currently available as an Xbox Games With Gold for July 2016, but it will cost $20 after August 15, 2016.  There is also a $5 DLC that adds an arcade mode.  Can’t say we’re too pleased with a puzzle game that is probably asking too much at $20 also having modes that should have been included in the core game for an extra $5.  It just seems sort of greedy. 

You do get a ton of content with Tumblestone, at least, which does mitigate the price a little bit.  The game promises 40+ hours of gameplay just by playing through the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of story mode levels.  Add on multiplayer matches and Tumblestone has the potential to keep you busy for a long, long, long time.

Except that it just isn’t that much fun to actually play.  The gameplay in Tumblestone is a match three-style puzzle where you select three blocks of the same color and they disappear until you clear the entire grid.  You have to select blocks in the correct order, however, so that you uncover blocks you need but also making sure not to destroy blocks you might need later.  You have to really pay attention to the layout of each stage before you really dive in because you can select things in the wrong order and have to re-start.  As you play through the game it will start throwing more colors of blocks at you as well as modifiers where you won’t be able to select certain columns or won’t be able to select the same colors two turns in a row, among other new challenges.  The game ramps up in difficulty very, very quickly, which is kind of crazy considering you’ll still have a couple hundred levels to get through once it starts getting hard.

The problem, though, is that this style of matching gameplay isn’t very satisfying and wears thin pretty quickly.  Each puzzle really only has one correct solution so you’re just grinding and grinding away until you get it right.  The sheer number of puzzles in the game sounds like a great feature, but I just find it overwhelming to the point I stopped caring.  The game also gets very difficult very fast, as I mentioned above, so it is the dreaded combo of being both boring and frustrating.  I usually love puzzle games, but got tired of Tumblestone fairly early on.

Puzzle games like Tetris or Panel De Pon or Dr. Mario stand the test of time because every round is always different and you have a high score to chase.  You keep coming back because they are fast and fun and addictive and because you have a goal.  Tumblestone doesn’t have any of that.  Your only objective is simply to see the next level and that just gets boring after a while.  That lack of high scores to chase also means it isn’t especially addictive because it isn’t something you can play in quick bursts.  Tumblestone is like a job you have to grind through just to get to the next puzzle that is an even bigger pain in the butt. 

Tumblestone has a nice clean art style where the blocks are easy to see so you know exactly what you need to do.  It also has a colorblind mode, which is awesome.  I’m not much of a fan of the weird cartoony potato people in the story mode, though.  They just look really unappealing.  The music is pretty forgettable, too.  As in, I played it for hours and can’t remember what the music sounds like at all. 

Tumblestone is a more than functional puzzle game that maybe you’ll be able to dig deeper into than I did, but I found the lack of carrot-on-a-stick high score chasing to really drain my motivation to play it.  It doesn’t give you any reward or sense of satisfaction when you play it.  You just grind along to open up the next level, and that isn’t good enough for me.  There’s nothing technically wrong with it – it looks good and has well thought out puzzle mechanics – but I couldn’t help but feel totally bored with it.  It is perfectly fine as a free Game With Gold, but when you have to start paying $20+ for it, I just can’t recommend it.