Roguelikes are infamous for their difficulty and their learning curves, but also popular for their righteous sense of fulfillment and reward from overcoming the odds. When you have “the run,” it’s a feeling other genres of games can’t convey.
TumbleSeed fits within that definition splendidly. However, as its namesake implies, it brings to the table one major gameplay point that makes it feel wholly unique compared to the rest of the genre – rolling.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by the Developer
Interface: Joycons, Pro Controller
Available on Steam, itch.io, PS4, Nintendo Switch
TumbleSeed is a game all about rolling, balancing and praying as you make your way up a procedurally generated mountain. I say praying because this game is difficult. The rolling mechanic takes a while to learn, as you fumble and panic, getting smashed by enemies on the stage or fall into a pit, taking you back to the bottom of the mountain. You roll by moving the left and right joysticks up and down, balancing your seed character on a platform that goes all the way across the middle of the screen. It starts out being rather difficult, but it does get easier and easier with every attempt. Once you learn the dead zones and the hitbox for the seed, ascension starts to feel easier. Even so, after ten hours of my own personal attempts, I still haven’t reached the top.
The difficulty shouldn’t dissuade you however. The game is well balanced between the length of the game itself and your own personal growth. Being only five levels long, a single playthrough can take anywhere from ten to thirty minutes depending on skill and strategy. At the end of each run the game shows you how far you made it up the mountain, which is awesome feedback for motivating the player. I kept finding myself thinking, “just one more try.”
Though I still haven’t made it very far, I’m far from putting it away. Every run feels different from the last and I’m constantly formulating new strategies. This is thanks to the many power-ups and special auras you can acquire for your seed, including abilities like invisibility and flight, or weapons like missiles or flails. You’ll use these abilities to help you get across the batches of holes or dispatch of the enemy creatures trying to stop your ascension.
To use abilities, however, you need crystals to fund it and a plot of soil to plant on. Crystals are TumbleSeed’s form of currency, and you have a few ways to gather these. One is to just pick them up on your way up the mountain, as a few of them will spawn naturally. You could also kill enemies or plant them using the Crystal Seed ability, which is free to use and gives you two crystals for every three crystal plants grown. The different abilities cost different amount of crystals, with more powerful abilities costing more. You have limited planting spots to use the abilities, so make sure you’re making good decisions on your trek!
If you’re a Switch owner, this is a great title to look into especially while the library is quite small. The visuals and style are bright and vivid, similar to many classic Nintendo titles. This is one of the reasons that Nintendo and the TumbleSeed team worked so well together – the Nindie department at Nintendo agreed that it would be a great fit for the Switch, leading to a speedy and healthy development of this great port. Being on the Switch, it takes advantage of one cool feature – HD Rumble.
With the Joycon controllers, you can feel the seed rolling and tumbling in your controller, and it’s pretty cool feedback for the player to have. In my opinion, it doesn’t seem to make the game easier at first, but an experienced player could easily take advantage of the precise feedback the game provides through vibrations.
In addition to this one of the key developers, Greg Wohlwend, is an experienced indie game developer for the mobile market. He had a hand in creating games such as Threes, Ridiculous Fishing, and Hundreds. While the Nintendo Switch isn’t quite “mobile,” instead being a portable/home console hybrid, it’s still very much developed with the on-the-go style in mind. As I previously mentioned, the game is relatively short and each run can last anywhere from one to thirty minutes. It’s the perfect kind of game to be taking on the go with you while you’re on the city bus or on a lunch break at work.
A Note From The Editor: I have sunk a fair few hours into TumbleSeed myself, but on the PC, as opposed to the Switch. I highly recommend using a gamepad, as opposed to the keyboard and mouse. When using a Keyboard, W and A control the left side of the slider, and the Up and Down arrows control the right side. The Joysticks on a gamepad just feel far more intuitive with this unique form of player movement. – Jacob
For players who need a bit of motivation in their games, TumbleSeed also has a series of quests given to the player to unlock teleportation nodes in the villages between each section of the mountain. The goals of the quest are in place to teach you many of the game’s mechanics in fun, engaging way. As you focus on the quests, you’ll naturally be learning and be improving in the regular gameplay pointing you closer to overall success in the game. Once you unlock the teleporters, you can use them to fast forward to the later sections of the game. Use those shortened runs to learn how to avoid the more difficult creatures and obstacles introduced in those later areas of the mountain.
TumbleSeed has so much to offer in a relatively small package. Between the several strategies formed from different abilities, to the skill of precise joystick-movement, there is so much to learn and master here. Despite being able to learn the majority of the mechanics within five minutes, it will take you hours of gameplay before you reach the summit that constantly feels like it’s just ahead. The reward in small successes alone is worth it, and I greatly anticipate the first time I triumphantly accomplish the hike I first set out to do. TumbleSeed is worth your time and investment, and for Nintendo Switch owners, there aren’t many more titles at this time that are more suited for the platform.