Tumblestone Review

By Cindy Minguez, 5 months ago
Tumblestone is the new matching game from The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild that will be released via the ID@Xbox program. The game begins with Queen Cleo, who is out for a walk in her desert kingdom only to discover that her way is barred by a sudden deluge of tumblestones that have been dumped all over her path. To make her way through, she must solve puzzles and remove the barriers along the way. She eventually reaches the edge of the Goblin King's world, who takes over the challenge of reaching the Tumblestonecrown and the power to control the tumblestones. He will eventually give the lead to the Sea Princess, who hands the baton off to Sausage, and thus it goes on.

The game begins in Cleo's domain.The game begins in Cleo's domain.

Tumblestone has a slightly different take on the match-three puzzler. Instead of matching three or more items and having them disappear from a grid, in Tumblestone you remove three blocks of the same color from the bottom of a grid, working your way up until all of the blocks are gone. The bigger and more complicated that the puzzles become, the more planning this requires so that you don't block off colors that you need.

Gameplay is easy, using the directional pad or triggers to choose a column, and the cn_A button to choose a block. As the game progresses, one plays as different characters and each character receives new challenges. Goblin King adds blockers, which prevent you from choosing a block from a certain column at a certain time, while in Sausage's levels, the same color can't be matched twice in a row. In Queen Bee's world, only part of the grid is visible, with columns dropping down as blocks are used. These different handicaps (known as modifiers) make the game more interesting, but sometimes the challenge can become annoying, especially when more than one modifier is in play.

Match the colored blocks.Match the colored blocks.

If you solve a puzzle on the first attempt, you get a sizable bonus. If you're having difficulty with any regular puzzle, you can re-set/re-start at any time with the cn_B button and you will get the same puzzle each time so that you can figure out where you're making your mistake. You will also occasionally earn Skip Tokens with which you can skip puzzles on which you're stuck. Every ten or fifteen levels, however, is a special multi-puzzle that must be completed before you can continue.

The multi-puzzles can be problematic because you have to finish a certain number of puzzles in a row, and these puzzles are randomized. For instance, if you have to finish 4 of 4, you must finish all four perfectly. If you mess up on puzzle 3 of 4, you start back from the beginning, and this will be a whole new set of puzzles. It's easy to get stuck on these multi-puzzles, which can be frustrating since one isn't allowed to use Skip Tokens here. You can't pause to study the blocks either; the pause screen covers the puzzle completely. The difficulty is only compounded when the blocks of these particular puzzles begin to move, slowly scrolling toward the bottom of the screen, effectively creating a time limit. When a block touches the bottom of the grid, the puzzle automatically starts anew. The only alternative is to keep trying, and with the total randomization of the grid, one can be stuck on a single puzzle for hours.

Choose to have blocks animated or not.Choose to have blocks animated or not.

The single-player story mode is extensive and is told via cutscenes with cute cartoon characters. Each "world" has 30 levels, aka 30 puzzles, and there are 11 worlds in total; there are LOTS of puzzles to get through to finish the game. The game also offers multi-player mode. Multi-player can be played locally or online, the latter offering both public and private matches. Co-op may be played with 2-4 players with the remaining spots being filled by A.I. After choosing one's character, a puzzle race begins among the players. The first player to win five games is the winner. This mode is enjoyable as you try to beat your friends' times. The game also has an Arcade mode, with Marathon, Infinipuzzle, and Heartbeat games, but these are available only as demos. If you want to play them for real, you'll have to buy them as DLC.

One feature that the game has is a color blind setting. When turned on, the faces on each block are changed to be made more distinct. You also have the option to turn block animation off or on. With animation turned on, the blue blocks cry, for instance, and the green blocks loll their tongues around. If turned off, the faces are static. All of this is a nice addition to make the game more inclusive to players with vision anomalies.

Choose a character...Choose a character...

...and race!...and race!

At the time of writing, the achievement list is not available. An achievement is earned at the end of each world completed, so these will be gained naturally as the story progresses. The achievement requirements beyond that are not yet known. What is known, however, is that the game will not be a fast or easy completion due to the long story mode and progressive difficulty of play.

Summary

Tumblestone is a fun game for the first several hours but then it starts becoming tedious from the sheer number of puzzles that you face. For puzzle lovers, the promised 40+ hours of story mode will be a boon. For more casual puzzlers, the hundreds of puzzles that are required to complete the game could be a trial, as well as the difficulty of some of the puzzles. While the game is a nice fresher take on the matching genre, it's not quite exciting enough to carry its cute story for so long.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Cute story and characters
  • Lots (and lots) of puzzles
  • Progressive difficulties
Negatives
  • Not exciting enough to carry 40+ hours of story
  • Puzzles can become tedious and/or frustratingly difficult
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 12 hours solving puzzles and getting stuck, earning 4 achievements along the way. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Cindy Minguez
Written by Cindy Minguez
Cindy has been writing for TA/TT for three years now and is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueTrophies. She's an English instructor at a small college and considered a remarkably cool teacher for knowing all about Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Diablo III.