Tumblestone is the latest game from The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild; the tiny studio that also created puzzle platformer The Bridge, which released on PC back in 2013, and was one of PS4 Attitude’s indie picks of the summer last year. Tumblestone is described by its developer as ‘the first original action-puzzle game of the past 15 years’, so let’s see whether it’s worthy of such high praise.
Right from the off, Tumblestone makes its mark as a bright and colourful 2D puzzle game, with annoyingly catchy music and incredibly addictive gameplay. Most of the time you spend playing the game will likely be within the game’s mammoth 40+ hour Story mode, which tells a charming and amusing tale, even if it is all fairly standard stuff (Sausage King notwithstanding).
The gameplay can be loosely described as a mix of Bejeweled and Space Invaders, although comparing Tumblestone to other games is doing it a real disservice. Your character appears at the bottom of the screen, and above them are dozens of variously coloured blocks. The aim of the game is to clear the board by shooting blocks of the same colour in sets of three.
It may sound simple, but in fact it is very easy to make a mistake, usually by accidentally obstructing the colour you need, forcing you to start over. Not only that, but each of the campaign’s 12 worlds add new twists to the gameplay (such as an immovable block that only disappears every other shot). There is also no hint system or ‘undo’ button, so the learning curve can be steep.
Although it’s true that Tumblestone’s level of challenge can get frustrating, it is equally one of the game’s greatest strengths. Not only is it extremely rewarding once you finally complete a particularly fiendish puzzle, but I also lost count how many times I thought to myself, ‘I’ll just have one more go’, and then I’m still there half an hour later; it can get addictive, to say the least.
As well as the Story, there are also three Arcade modes, each of which offer slight variations on the standard gameplay. For example, as the name implies, Infinipuzzle presents you with one puzzle after another until you fail, while Heartbeat sees blocks constantly fall towards you. Personally, I found that these modes were a nice diversion whenever I got stuck in the Story.
Likewise, Tumblestone also features local and online Multiplayer. Up to four people can play at once, so – if the games I played were anything to go by – it can get extremely frantic; there’s nothing quite like snatching victory from almost certain defeat in a match of Tug-of-War. You can also use various modifiers in certain Arcade and Multiplayer modes, to add another element of strategy.
However, as fun as the game is, there is one major reservation I have with Tumblestone: its price. At £24.99, it’s more than I would usually consider paying for this kind of game, despite the admittedly generous amount of content (see linked video in second paragraph). Avid puzzle fans should still get their money’s worth, but £10 or even £15 would have been a much easier sell.
All things considered, Tumblestone is exactly the kind of game I really enjoy reviewing. Despite knowing next to nothing about the game before I started playing, it only took a few levels for me to realise this was potentially something very special. That said, the steep learning curve and unexpectedly high price mean that it certainly won’t be a game for everyone.
A second opinion, by Sam Forrest
Tumblestone seems very reminiscent of the Bust-a-Move games of old, only with you removing coloured objects, rather than adding them into the environment. After a few minutes of play, you start to fall for the deceptively simple difficulty of the game. The satisfaction of completing each level, along with regular reminders of your progress, fuels you to continue. You want to stay with your controller until the next level, next pseudo-boss, or even to the next 10% completion.
The story is mostly arbitrary, but is colourful, humorous, and perfect for all ages. Each level is largely similar in look, but with difficulty increasing every time; be it through the addition of more colours, more blocks, or simply adding a time element, requiring you to think logically and quickly. It’s a terrific game if you have ten minutes to kill and don’t want to get deep into a story, or if you want a challenge but not to the rage-inducing levels of something like Super Meat Boy. Likewise, you could easily spend hours on the game, watching the minutes fall just as the tumblestones do.
However, for me, the value for money is not quite there. Yes, it has multiplayer, and yes, it has a story mode, but £25 for a match-3 puzzle game is a little steep. The game would be more at home on a tablet as a fantastic and more challenging alternative to Candy Crush, but as far as PS4 is concerned, I think there are better games in both the same and other genres that are more entertaining, engaging and – if I may say so – more puzzling.