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Tumblestone Review

In a world where match-3 puzzles rule the mobile game playing field, Tumblestone brings the same level of unabashed addiction to Steam (PC/Mac/Linux), the Wii U, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Tumblestone is the latest puzzle game from The Quantum Astrophysicist Guild, and despite the crowded playing field, it easily stands out from the rest of the crowd.  Between the simplistic style and the quirky storyline, Tumblestone presents a comedic puzzle adventure game containing a 40+ hour campaign, boss battles, online and local multiplayer, and 10+ gameplay modifiers.

Most storylines in puzzle games often feel detached from the gameplay and can even feel forced or in the way of the player’s progress.  Tumblestone’s story, however, is wacky enough to generate more than a few laughs while not feeling overly obtrusive.   The story follows a young Queen of the Nile who is simply trying to make herself a salad when the Tumblestones appear.  From then on, the story includes complex love circles and other wacky escapades, all of which have almost nothing to do with the gameplay (other than the Tumblestones, which appear all over the world), but still add to the enjoyment of the game overall.  Throughout the story, the game features a unique cast of characters ranging from an Egyptian Queen, to a mermaid, to a sausage. That’s right.  A Sausage.

GAMEPLAY

Tumblestone’s gameplay comes packed to the brim with enough game modes to satisfy anyone’s itch for blasting away block after block for hours.  For starters, Tumblestone’s 40+ hour campaign offers hundreds of levels across multiple environments.  The story is also a quick way to pick up the controls, learn what Tumblestone is all about, and with only three buttons (not including the quick keys), the game is easy to learn.  While the game starts out simple, the game's ten gameplay modifiers soon come into effect and significantly increase the level of difficulty.  For example, one of the first modifiers flips a row when a set of blocks is destroyed, which can require much more foresight and planning when compared to aimlessly blowing away blocks as fast as possible.  Like many other match-3 puzzle games (Bejeweled, Candy Crush, etc.), the puzzles can get challenging and even frustrating at times, but Tumblestone sporadically rewards the player with level skipping tokens that can be used in times of extreme frustration.

Tumblestone also offers an achievement-like system through in-game quests.  The quests offer another dynamic to the gameplay that’ll encourage players to return to levels that have already been completed to get a better time or collect a certain number of blocks.  I particularly liked this feature when I found myself stuck on a single level because it allowed me to return to other areas of the map to make progress on another quest.  Outside of the main story mode, Tumblestone also includes traditional arcade modes like the intellectual Infinipuzzle, a laid back Marathon mode, and a faster paced Heartbeat mode.  These modes offer a casual approach that is fun to blow off some steam when you get stuck in the main storyline.

Even without Tumblestone’s already excellent campaign, the game really shines when it comes to multiplayer.  Tumblestone includes both local and online multiplayer modes; the full PC version even comes with a free Steam key that you can use to play with a friend online that doesn’t already own the game (I can’t confirm if any of the console versions offer a similar feature).  Both versions of multiplayer can be played in one of three game modes.  The Puzzle Race mode requires players to solve the traditional style puzzle as fast as possible over a set number of rounds.  The Tug of War and Battle modes, however, are endless modes in which players either push blocks down on top of their opponents or try to avoid being crushed by clearing Tumblestones as quickly as possible until only one person is left standing.  On top of the available modes, each game can be augmented with one of ten modifiers, which as mentioned earlier, can significantly shake up the gameplay.  The online matchmaking system works well, and the customization in game modes keeps the competition fresh.  I found that in most of the matches I played, each of the four players won a similar amount of puzzles, often leading to higher intensity two, three, and four-way match-point puzzles.

Local multiplayer allows up to four players to play on the same computer or console in any of the same modes that are available for online play.  Party Mode, however, is exclusive to local multiplayer and ups the ante by unlocking all of the game’s characters and modifiers so that you and three of your friends can go at it for hours with none of the pesky restrictions associated with your lack of progress in the main story mode. (Why have fighting games like Super Smash Bros. not adopted a party mode yet?)  Furthermore, story mode progress and player stats are not tracked in party mode, so it makes for an excellent option to restrict the game to wide open multiplayer battles without interfering with any hard earned progress in the storyline.

9

The Verdict

Everything about Tumblestone from the artistic style and quick learning curve supports the straightforward addicting gameplay.  Tumblestone is the most addicting puzzle game that I’ve played in a long time.  Even though some of the puzzles can become difficult, even frustrating, the feeling of finally overcoming a seemingly impossible puzzle only adds to the allure of Tumblestone and draws you back in for more punishment.  In the end, Tumblestone is undoubtedly the most fun you and three of your friends have had playing with blocks since kindergarten.

Mark Klink
Written by
July 15, 2016
Published in Strategy

Mark is a self-proclaimed nerd who has an undying need to take anything and everything tech related apart at the seams and break it down to the basics. His interest in video games reaches all the way back to his early days of playing Road Rash on the Sega Genesis. Games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Unreal Tournament only fueled Mark’s desire to get his hands dirty in video game design by offering in-depth level editors and a budding modding community. But alas, Mark was never a very good programmer, so when he’s not playing video games, he delves into information security and network engineering including Capture the Flag Tournaments and writing on current cyber security issues.

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