A Roll-y Great Game.
Scroll down to the bottom for a video review.
The early days of the Switch have been kind to roguelike fans, dishing up a number of quality offerings in the genre. However, there’s a new king in town and it goes by the name of TumbleSeed. This devilishly challenging game is easy to understand but difficult to master. You’ll often find yourself saying, “just one more run” as you work your way towards the top of the mountain, hoping to reach its peak. With a wide range of power ups and randomly generated obstacles, each run offers unique challenges that’ll keep you coming back time and time again.
How TumbleSeed operates is fairly straightforward. You guide your rolling seed by taking control of a horizontal vine and avoiding procedurally generated obstacles and enemies as you ascend the mountain. Each analog stick controls the corresponding side of the vine in order to get the seed rolling from side to side. You must avoid falling into holes, as the penalty is falling back down to the last checkpoint, all while taking away your valuable hearts. The further you fall, the more hearts you’ll lose. Getting hit by enemies also drains your hearts and losing all hearts ends the runs.
You’ll quickly be sprung into action in the first of four biomes. This acts as a learning area for new players, but eventually will be an important area for setting up deeper runs by gathering the crystals used for power ups. I originally found myself thinking that this game rewards patience, but the second biome put that notion to bed. As you continue to climb higher, the game ramps up its difficulty, adding more obstacles and unleashing hostile enemies that will persue your seed and force you to think and act quickly. Be warned, TumbleSeed is not for the faint of heart. Behind its cute appearance lies a brutally difficult game that will test the limits of even the most dedicated gamer, especially if you intend on reaching the peak to see what’s in store.
A vital element of your success in TumbleSeed is how you utilize power ups and auras. Whether it’s finding them out in the biome or purchasing them with crystals at the shops in town, you’ll need to effectively use each seed type if you want reach the top of the mountain. Power ups are activated by rolling over patches of soil. Each power up requires crystals to use and the cost varies from seed to seed. There are four seed types you start with – the Flagseed, the Thornvine, the Heartseed, and the Crystal seed. The Flagseed sets a checkpoint at that patch of soil in the biome and will save you from falling too far if you find yourself in a hole. The Thornvine adds a protective thorn around your seed and enables you to stack more to add further protection from enemies. The Heartseed adds to your pool of hearts, but requires you to run over four soil patches to gain a full heart. The Crystal seed requires rolling over three patches to gain two crystals. These act as your currency for using and purchasing power ups and are an integral part for any successful run.
TumbleSeed boasts over 30 different power ups forcing you to tackle each run differently. Some offer more defensive play styles, while others promote attacking enemies head on. While I found the diversity nice, I found myself completely ignoring some power ups due to their high crystal cost. However there were some game changing power ups that made me smile from ear to ear - primarily the Floodfruit, a seed that fills holes up with water allowing you to roll right over them with ease. Auras are another tool that can heavily influence any given run. These don’t appear very often, but the rewards tend to be greater. When you find an aura it attaches to the bottom of your vine and will give you a skill as long as you’re holding onto it. When an enemy hits you or you fall into a hole, it’ll fall off, but you can pick it back up again. Some auras include the power to pull crystals to you and another has a ghost falling following you that damages whatever it touches including you. Sometimes you’ll find you’re better off ditching the aura if you need to take your time and can’t risk getting hurt. This adds another level of depth in the gameplay I found to be very satisfying.
TumbleSeed is a joy to look at with its simple, but colorful graphics. Each different seed type is nicely designed and the seeds you encounter in town boast cute personalities despite most remaining silent. The soundtrack matches perfectly with the themes of each biome and helps create a cohesive experience. Another nice feature is the use of HD Rumble. While enjoyable with the Pro Controller or in handheld, I found the best way to play was with two joy cons. This way, you feel the seed rolling on the joy con depending on where the seed was located on the vine – a small, but nice addition. At the conclusion of every run you’ll get a score based on your distance and you can submit your scores online to be placed on a leaderboard. This works as you’d imagine, but the biggest let down was that you can’t submit scores you get while not connected to the internet, rendering any great scores on the go to just your local scoreboard.
TumbleSeed is the perfect combination of addicting gameplay, with a plethora of varied elements that solidifies itself among the pantheon of great roguelikes. Each run has its own unique feel that continues to keep the game incredibly fresh, whether it’s your tenth or hundredth run. While it’s a shame there’s no way to submit a score offline, the rest of the game shines so bright it’s easy to overlook. If you’re looking for a challenging, but insanely satisfying roguelike, look no further.