Tumbleseed features a beautiful art style, crisp sound effects, and an altogether refreshing premise that can really help cleanse your palate in between re-releases and massive AAA releases. It feels smaller because of its objectives and of course when compared to many other games releasing but because of its roguelike gameplay it has the potential to pull you in for dozens and dozens of hours. This is refreshing because the style and seemingly small scope for the gameplay can help pull you into its world. It almost makes you want to live in this world because of how beautiful it is with its almost overwhelming art style. And I mean overwhelming in the best way possible.
Failure surrounded me so many times because of how lost I became within the visuals and atmospheric sound effects. Isn’t that the point of a game though? To create a world and an experience that surrounds a player? Beauty will follow you as you work your way through this procedurally generated and stunning world but unfortunately, failure likely won’t be too far away. Tumbleseed is certainly an achievement in both its unique premise, idea and its style but it doesn’t reach those same heights when it comes to its execution and gameplay. I really wanted to love this game but I just can’t seem to hold on to that feeling long enough while experiencing all that it has to offer.
Tumbleseed is what the designers are calling a “rolly roguelike” and I couldn’t think of a better phrase to try to sum up this surprisingly deep game in so few words. In Tumbleseed you’ll take control of a seed on a horizontal plane that can be slanted with the help of your hopefully skilled thumbs to reach the top of a mountain. If that sounds too easy then don’t worry because there are also obstacles and enemies the entire way up that you’ll need to avoid. If you fall into a hole on your way up the mountain then you’ll lose health and end up at your last checkpoint. There are also plenty of enemies that you’ll need to avoid early on but you can earn new abilities eventually which can be used to attack and destroy enemies. It’s not usually worth it though because it can take a couple of hits to destroy some enemies and it’s faster, easier, and safer to just avoid them. Then again that’s when the real difficulty comes into play.
One hit kills are also present in some spots which in a game with checkpoints that are sometimes a little too far from each other this can certainly add some frustration to the mix. The extreme precision needed from your thumbs may also really cause the experience’s magic to be somewhat dampened because of how difficult it can be to control your seed. The controls aren’t necessarily bad but they are absolutely precise–to a fault. I have incredible hand-eye coordination (Thanks, Mario and Crash Bandicoot!) but I still had an incredibly difficult time maneuvering around this gorgeous world. It’s definitely a game that’s fun to get lost in but unless you are skilled at controlling the seed you’ll spend more time dying, restarting, and getting upset to really enjoy the experience.
I never died because the controls were unfair. This is key and something I want to make very clear. They just require the utmost skill and precision and it isn’t something I always am able to be successful at. I was really surprised too because I’m usually great at controlling even the most difficult of platformers. A decision was made by the designers to design a difficult game that requires precision and there’s nothing wrong with it. This just needs to be clearly stated so that gamers clearly understand the expectations that the developer has for them. This game looks really beautiful and atmospheric and it is, but the controls could push some away.
The music and sound design of Tumbleseed are absolutely stunning. They help create a portrait that I couldn’t help but marvel at. They work hand in hand to really create something beautiful that I get excited about revisiting with each and every play session. The procedurally generated world really helps add a lot to this game because of the constant fresh feeling of discovery as you continue to play the game.
Few games in the world are perfect but many of them bring a lot of positive additions to the pool of game design that at least warrant some wading or maybe even deep diving if you’re able to overlook some of the negatives. This is especially true with Tumbleseed. It’s not a bad game. It’s just held back in a few areas that prevent it from being as entertaining to as many people as it could have been. There are plenty of niche games out there and there’s nothing wrong with that. I guess if anything it’s a testament to how beautiful this game really is that I’m so bummed that not everyone will get to experience what Tumbleseed has to offer. If you have patience though then Tumbleseed is absolutely worth the fifteen dollars. I think it’d be especially enjoyable on the Nintendo Switch as well because of the rouge elements. Tumbleseed would benefit from taking it on from a “pick up and play” angle–and players would too because they’d have time to take a breather before jumping back into everything.
Tumbleseed is a flawed but beautiful experience but still worth experiencing if you don’t mind the extremely precise controls and having to retry sections repeatedly. If you invest some time and patience into it, it’ll return the favor ten fold. Just don’t forget to take a break with some Mario Kart 8 Deluxe when you need to give your hands a break.
A Nintendo Switch copy of Tumbleseed was provided by aeiowu for the purposes of this review.