Thanks to The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild for the review code
System: Wii U (eShop)
Release date: 07/12/2016
The main game/story
In this brand new puzzle adventure, you take control of a variety of characters, from an Egyptian Queen, a mermaid, to many more crazy characters as they all work together to investigate the mysterious appearance of Tumblestones throughout the land, which have rose in number after the disappearance of the Tumblecrown.
The visuals in the game use an art style that seems to resemble the glory days of Flash Animation, with the character designs and map layout reminding me of the fun times I had as a kid playing games all day long on Cartoon Network’s website. While this comparison would probably make you think I’m about to bash the visuals, it actually isn’t worthy of that at all, since the art style ends up fitting with the game rather well! The simple cutscenes do their job of explaining what’s going on with a touch of humor, and the colored blocks have unique animations in order to give them some unique charm.
Of course if you don’t care to see the blocks move during gameplay, there’s an option to turn that off. Speaking of options, there’s even an option to change the blocks to a colorblind friendly mode, which is a good feature that not many games nowadays tend to include for some reason.
Music and Sound
When I spent my time playing through the high score modes and a single world of the main story, the music ended up being hit or miss. In the single player mode, the same theme tends to play during each stage in a particular world, only changing depending on the type of stage or if its in another world. Considering the locations of each of these worlds, (such as the first world being placed in Egypt and having music to match that) the themes do fit well with the respective worlds, but after clearing a couple levels in a row you are bound to get a sick of some of these themes.
Thankfully, in the multiplayer modes the music often changes up a bit by being randomized to an extent, and it was in this mode that I got to hear some of the game’s best tracks, like a soothing theme that played one time when I tried to clear Infinipuzzle. While not a stellar soundtrack that’ll make you want to buy a CD of it, there are a few amazing songs in this soundtrack that take a while to listen to.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven if you thought Tumblestone was a Bust-a-Move clone with blocks replacing the spherical bubbles. However, once you actually pick up the game and start to play it for yourself, you’ll find an addictive concept with a heavy focus on solving puzzles to clear the board, not unlike games such as Nazo Puyo. What gives Tumblestone an identity of its own, however is the fact that you must clear blocks in groups of three, all of the same color. To do this, you must carefully pick them one by one to clear them in a way that they will reveal the other colors, which means that choosing the correct order is crucial to getting every block removed.
In the main single player story, this type of gameplay is used for the majority of the levels, with the occasional AI battle thrown in every once in a while. Considering the long length of the main story, that’s a lot of puzzle solving to do, and while it does certainly provide a lengthy campaign, it also means that you are bound to get stuck on a tough level eventually, and the level skip coins you’ll find during the journey won’t last forever.
So what else is there to do when you need to take a break from the single player? Well, there are three high-score chasers available for you to choose from the main menu, Marathon, Heartbeat and Infinipuzzle. Marathon is your traditional “endless” mode, the only difference from the main campaign being that a mistake simply sends the board closer to you instead of ending the game. Heartbeat is essentially the same as Marathon, but with the board constantly moving closer and closer to the bottom, making the mistakes even more dangerous, while finally Infinipuzzle is an endless assortment of puzzles like those found in the main campaign, but one mistake will end everything. All three of these modes have online leaderboards, meaning you can compare your best scores with all kinds of players, either those from your friend list or the best of the best! Out of the three, I found Marathon to be my personal favorite, as it went at a decent pace but still managed to be the most attention grabbing of the three high score modes.
The last major mode in the game to talk about is the multiplayer, which can be played both locally and online. As I’ll mention in the conclusion, I was only able to test the local multiplayer at the time of writing, but even then me and a friend had a blast taking each other on, with a few modes included to shake things up, from the traditional Battle Mode to the frantic nature of the Puzzle Race mode, at least one of these modes should be able to provide the multiplayer experience that’ll work well for you, depending on the kind of puzzle titles you prefer to play in multiplayer normally.
While this last description isn’t really describing a game mode, it does describe a part of the game that you’ll no doubt be interested in checking out, and that’s the Quest feature of the game, which is essentially an achievement system that gives you extra experience bonuses for clearing the challenges. Some are straight forward, such as clearing a certain story mode level or winning a certain multiplayer match, while others are really tough, such as clearing particular levels while making as few movements as possible. Sadly, not all of these quests are available from the start, meaning that some of the multiplayer quests may need to be repeated in order to claim the XP bonuses they grant. Still, it does give a great incentive to try everything out, so props to the developers for incorporating it in a good way.
In conclusion, Tumblestone was a game that surprised me greatly. While I was expecting yet another mediocre attempt to make a competitive puzzle game, I ended up finding an addictive title that encouraged me to keep going back to my Wii U to play more of it and try to improve my scores. Even if you don’t get a friend to play with you, the solo campaign is jam-packed with things to do and makes up for the rather steep $25 price tag, but Multiplayer is where the game truly shines, with multiple game modes along with local and online support.
At the time this review is going live, the game is only a few days away from the official launch, which unfortunately meant I was unable to get an online buddy to join me. However, I did get a friend over to test the local multiplayer out, and it was blast to play, with some fierce tiebreaker matches erupting in this cabin! There’s even a setting in the options which temporarily unlocks everything in the multiplayer mode for you to enjoy with some friends if you don’t want to go through the entire story to unlock them the traditional way. It doesn’t count towards your progress or XP ranking, however so don’t turn it on expecting an instant unlock key to present itself. Like with Grand Kingdom, I’ll update the score or the conclusion if the online mode ends up adding even more fun to the game, although considering how addictive the local multiplayer was, I wouldn’t be surprised to have it be just as fun.
So at this moment in time, I give Tumblestone a 9 out of 10, and strongly recommend that any puzzle fan who’s been hoping for a breath of fresh air to check this title out, due to the inclusion of plenty of challenging puzzles, a superb multiplayer mode, an achievement system that encourages trying everything out, and a good variety of modes for high-score chasers. Even if $25 still sounds like too much of a price for a digital game, have no fear, since the title is coming to retail in the future, where the value of the content will be an even bigger steal. Definitely pick this game up if you’re looking for a lengthy single player puzzle adventure!