By Joseph Puntschart / July 23rd, 2016
|Developer||The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild|
|Publisher||The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild|
|Platform||Steam, Windows 10, PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, Wii U, PS4|
|Age Rating||PEGI 3|
Match-3 games have been around in the game industry for a long time now (I recall playing Bejeweled a lot when I was younger) and the next original match-3 IP to release is Tumblestone, coming out for an assortment of platforms and developed by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild. Given that casual games are becoming increasingly prominent in the games industry, it would be inevitable that some new games would be released in the genre. With this in mind, I dove into Tumblestone.
The gameplay for this title is pretty simple. At its simplest – you have to match three blocks of the same color to get rid of them from the cluster of blocks above you. If you hit a block of a different color to the one or two you have already selected, you will be unable to complete the stage and you have to try again. There is an element of strategy here as you have to select the blocks in a particular order to clear them, which encourages the player to think ahead, which is a neat design choice. There are variants to this general rule, both in modes – which will be discussed later – and block variants within the towers. For example, one variant are stone blocks that either obstruct until the row they are on is cleared, or the stone blocks disappear whenever a block is destroyed, and appears when another one is destroyed. There is also Wildcard, tile flipping (where entire columns are flipped when you strike them) and more and these add much needed variety to the experience.
Now onto modes – there is the main game with a story mode. The story is not worth discussing in much detail as it essentially exists to give a reason for switching through the 11 worlds. The only thing of note is that it is very lighthearted and family friendly, which helps to set the tone of the game. The world design (even though it’s a bit generic) also helps to achieve this, from prehistoric mountains to underwater kingdoms. Graphically, this game has quite simple visuals with the hand drawn characters and backgrounds being nice to look at. The blocks themselves have a variety of faces and expressions, and the character designs are varied and use a wide palette of colors. Each world also introduces and uses one of the block variants to add variety into the game spread over the 30 or so levels in each world. When you reach certain levels, you may encounter a race with another character (whom later become playable) or a more challenging time-based mode where the tower of blocks descends and you have to clear them before the blocks touch the bottom, otherwise you will fail the stage. These levels are much like some other modes within the game outlined later, so it essentially acts as a teacher for the player to prepare for these other modes. There are hundreds of levels within this mode so for those that are prepared to complete them all there are dozens of hours of playtime within this mode.
Other single player modes are Marathon, Heartbeat and Infinipuzzle. Marathon is where you have to get rid of as many blocks as possible for the longest time before the blocks touch the bottom. The distinctive feature of this stage is the glass ceiling. If you successfully manage to clear the blocks below the glass, it is raised by one row. If you select a block in order to make a combo, the blocks are lowered for each row you dip into. If you make a mistake, both the blocks and glass ceiling are lowered by one. Heartbeat is where the tower of blocks moves downwards and you have to think on your feet to remove the blocks, otherwise this plays exactly like Marathon. Finally, there’s Infinipuzzle, which has a self-explanatory name, aside from the fact that the various block variants also appear, and you can change what modifiers appear as you unlock them during the main game.
There is also an assortment of multiplayer modes on offer – you can have online, local and cross-platform VS matches and Tug-of-War between up to 4 players or CPUs, where the goal is to clear the blocks first before everybody else. There is also a Tug-of-War mode, where the first person to win 5 rounds wins the battle. Helpfully, the developer even allows the player to gift a Steam key to somebody else whom can play with them in these online multiplayer modes, presumably to help with matchmaking and brand growth. Curiously though, whenever I tried to play an online match via Quick Play I wasn’t able to find anybody to play with, so I wasn’t able to test this mode out. It’s also worth noting that the multiplayer mode appears to be what is being pushed by the developer with the appearance of two pricing options for the game – the “Multiplayer Starter Pack” retailing at £6.99 (which only includes the multiplayer modes of the title). However the full game, which includes the single player campaign and modes outlined above, retails for £18.99, with the ability to upgrade with the price difference between them. This option is there so that players whom only want the multiplayer can purchase this portion of the game separately. This is a curious setup, though this writer would argue that you would be better off buying the full price game as the single player campaign and modes help you get used to how the game plays and the variant blocks work, prior to being put into online multiplayer battles.
There is one key factor that will determine whether or not you will get much enjoyment out of Tumblestone and that is how much you enjoy match-3 puzzle games. This is a well put together product, with no technical issues. The developers deserve credit for designing the randomly generated puzzles so that there always is a way to complete it and also that if you make a mistake you are likely to suffer for it. This is also designed with the casual gamer in mind, so more core gamers may find this title unsatisfactory for them. There are in-game achievements (presumably for systems with no achievement systems like the Wii U) which can be earned and are clearly indicated during the game. For example, “clear all blocks in Infinipuzzle” is clearly outlined when you start Infinipuzzle. This is a good design choice as it outlines to the player the tasks they are expected to do. With the Steam version there are also 28 achievements as well as Steam Trading Cards.
To conclude, if this kind of game is your cup of tea, there is a mountain of content here for you to enjoy. It is likely the single player campaign alone will take you tens of hours, and if you have some like minded friends, the multiplayer would be fun too. The music is also unremarkable. It’s serviceable and doesn’t get annoying which is the main thing but it isn’t anything to write home about. In my personal experience, although I tend to avoid this kind of game these days, I found myself enjoying Tumblestone for the four hours that I played of it. It has very simplistic design on the surface, but holds below a deep engrossing experience for those that seek it.
Review copy supplied by the publisher
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