With PlayStation Move out on the streets it is fairly inevitable that we are going to start seeing a lot of Wii-esque titles coming out. Although not a complete clone, it is difficult not to compare Tumble with the award-winning Boom Blox franchise that came out several years back for the Nintendo console.
Tumble, from the same developers behind Sony’s other Move title ‘Start the Party’, is a $19 minigame available via PSN. It’s a physics based puzzler where players use the Move controller to pick up and place blocks in order to complete a variety of different objectives. Sometimes you’re playing a virtual Jenga game where you must stack blocks up carefully without toppling the tower and others you’re trying to blow up structures by placing explosive mines. Only once you solve the puzzle or complete a set task can you move on to the next room.
The Move controls work well, allowing you to “reach into the TV” and pick up blocks, rotate them and carefully slot them into place with your sweaty palms. Tumble features a fully capable physics engine that includes different surfaces on blocks that behave accordingly. For example a glass block is slippery and can slide out of place easily, rubber blocks possess a lot of friction and all blocks will vary in weight and shape as well. Sometimes the physics can be a bit dodgy, though. For instance there are levels where you must build a tower to a set height and wait for a few seconds to prove that it’s solid and won’t topple. But often, despite your fine craftsmanship, your tower will wobble and this will reset the timer. In one level, my structure never fell over but I never completed the level either because I had to sit there for five minutes while my tower perpetually jiggled like a jelly. After being stuck in an infinite loop I had to restart the level manually and try again. Frustration. As you progress through the game, the puzzles get increasingly more complex and include moving obstacles and even earthquake hazards that can cause severe headaches.
Other than the occasional glitch, the simple gameplay is fairly solid and anyone with a lust for physics puzzlers will get a kick out of this. The Move controls do the job admirably, offering the accuracy and tactile response that the hardware is capable of. But Tumble suffers majorly in the presentation department. Every “room” or level in the game is sparse and boring, making the game look like it’s a partially finished tech demo. Although the lighting and textures all do the job, there’s very little energy in any of the game’s aesthetics and it lacks all of the charm and cuteness of Boom Blox. Some later levels start to inject some life into the game, such as one where players line up mirror cubes to bounce a laser around the room. But overall, Tumble makes you feel like you’ve been quarantined in a sterile cell filled with children’s building blocks. Serious fans of brain-twisters might appreciate this minimalist approach though and there is little doubt that Tumble will get the grey-matter churning.
Tumble also offers multiplayer where each player can just use the single wand controller and see who has the steadier hand across a variety of different modes. But again, the lack of fun and the overwhelming frustration levels start to creep into what should be a competitive two-player game. For example in the Jenga-like mode, players take turns placing blocks into a slowly growing unsteady structure. But the game doesn’t wait and check if the structure is steady before passing the turn to the next player. So even if the tower is about to collapse, the player who just put the block there often wins the round. It’s enough to make you test the strength of your wrist-straps by flinging the wand controller across the room.
Tumble certainly has its flaws but for under $20, it isn’t going to break the bank either. Those hoping for the fun times had with Boom Blox will be disappointed, but Tumble is definitely for more serious puzzle gamers. Those lucky enough to own a fancy new 3D TV will get to enjoy a more immersive experience with full support for capable displays. Who’s buying these $5K+ televisions though?