Published on September 16th, 2016 | by Ethan
There’s a lot of button mashing in Tumblestone, but nothing feels better than mashing that “A” button down and firing the victory shot.
Tumblestone is a match three puzzle game with an emphasis on the puzzle.
In the main multiplayer mode, called puzzle race, everyone receives the same puzzle and has to race to complete it. Mostly it’s a matter of finding the three blocks that match and maneuvering as quickly as possible to nail it, but sometimes you can screw yourself into a corner.
If you find yourself stuck you can always hit the B button to reset your puzzle, but then your opponents are most certainly ahead. Your only hope is they run into the same roadblock you did.
Out of a lot of the multiplayer games we’ve played, this one seems to be the most “balanced.” Everyone is given the same puzzle for the first few rounds and the game will only give you a different puzzle if you’re two rounds behind or two round ahead.
This leads to a bit of rubber banding and makes winning match point (or sausage point if you’re playing the sausage, obviously) a real victory. In the end, puzzle race comes down to pure skill over your opponents and it’s glorious.
Adding to the frantic nature of the game, the blocks make satisfying sounds as they are plucked off the board. The game slows down when you’re about to make the game winning shot to make winning that round so much sweeter. The presentation overall is a tight package.
While puzzle race is some of the most fun I’ve had in local multiplayer gaming in years, the other modes I greet with a resounding “eh.”
Tug of war is kind of fun, but can get exhausting once you realize the pattern the game continues to give you. Battle I like a bit better because it’s a frantic fight to survive, but since the blocks are seemingly randomly generated it’s easier to get stuck.
There are ways to avoid getting stuck by strategically losing, but that’d require rewiring how your brain works from race mode and that’s hard. My advice, stick to race and have a hoot hollerin’ good time with friends.
Single-player side note:
Tumblestone does an interesting thing where the game costs $30 for the entire package but is only $15 for the multiplayer package. I’ll get this out of the way, unless you love mind-bending single player puzzles, get the multiplayer version.
The single player has a world map with the lightest amount of story wrapped around it. World 1 was good challenging fun, but then instead of more interesting puzzles in the next world, they throw in extra mechanics that complicate things, and not for the better.
For example, in the next world, there’s a block in the middle of the screen that alternates between being solid or transparent every time you select a block. It sounds simple, but it’s infuriating and completely changes the mechanics.
I couldn’t get past world two so I have no idea if any of the other modes are better, but I didn’t feel compelled to struggle to see the rest. Each of these variations can be unlocked and played in multiplayer, but why mess with what works?
Under the right conditions, Tumblestone is a chimera of hectic fun. Combine the hype-fueled hysteria of NBA Jam, throw in the technical, tactical, twitch precision of Street Fighter and throw in the accessibility of Bejeweled.
What do you get? A beautifully-crafted riot.
For its simplistic look and mechanics, I’ve yet to get bored with Tumblestone’s multiplayer. Each new game is a pendulous affair where you either ride your momentum into a slow-motion-blasted victory or wallow in a last-minute defeat. The game engages at all times, and that’s more than most games can say.
If you’re looking for something unintimidating, but endlessly addictive to play with friends, this one’s it.
Tumblestone is the sort of game that will have you shouting very regularly at your friends as your fight to complete puzzles the fastest. In a good shouting kind of way. The frantic speed the game both requires of you and betrays you with (when you box yourself in and have to reset) creates a brilliant balance for a multiplayer game. The desire to not blink, check where your opponents are at, and keep your own blocks lined up leads to a constant tension.
And it’s sheer brilliance that the round ends in a slow motion shot, even though there is no way anyone can catch up. It makes some of those close victories even sweeter (or bitter if you lost.)
It’s a shame the same can’t really be said for the single player content, but that’s mainly because the story mode is going for a completely different type of game. While the multiplayer is hectic, fast paced, quick-puzzle action, the story is all about deliberate, thoughtful puzzles with mind-bending alterations added on. If that’s sounds like fun then great! But if it’s not how you’re introduced to the game it can be a bit of a whiplash.