Tumblestone was happily situated at PAX Prime, showcased in the Indie Megabooth and on the sixth floor. If you missed it, we got a hands-on experience with the upcoming puzzle game.
I think the best way I could describe Tumblestone is to say that it’s solid. It’s a game that isn’t due ’til 2016 from a small team of young developers, and it feels like a tried-and-true, polished App Store killer.
Tumblestone is a match-three puzzle game rooted in strategy. At first glance it looks a lot like Tetris; you see rows of colored blocks advancing from the top of the screen. Gameplay-wise though, it differentiates itself. Each match of Tumblestone is a procedurally generated puzzle, tested by the developers for solvability and fun.
In the basic mode of the game you’re matching same-colored blocks, and uncovering new rows of blocks as you go. If you’re not thinking ahead, you’ll match yourself right into a corner. Restarting levels is super fast: A necessity for some of those harder puzzles. With its single-player mode, I found myself strategizing and taking my time.
This was in stark contrast to the multiplayer mode, which is a speedy free-for-all and absolute mayhem. Up to four players participate in this mode, all solving the same puzzle. As soon as a player completes the puzzle, everyone wipes and starts over. The first person with a set number of wins is crowned the champion. This mode had the booth absolutely packed at PAX, and that’s a good sign.
“We all grew up playing lots of competitive multiplayer games,” Alex Schearer told me at PAX Prime. “By Saturday [of the game jam where Tumblestone was conceived] we were screaming at each other, playing the prototype, and we woke my wife up in the middle of the night. And we knew we had something really good.”
A lot of games like to bill themselves as accessible to both newcomers and experts, but it’s very rare that the shoe fits. Tumblestone is definitely an exception. It’s simple enough that you could walk up to the console and complete a puzzle, but it still takes practice to think ahead and stay fast. At the same time, the procedural nature of the puzzles evens the playing field a little more.
The single-player campaign also unlocks different game modes that can be applied to the multiplayer. My favorite of these was one that doubled the blocks that you select, which meant I wasn’t just choosing one block, but the one behind it as well. This mode made it even more crucial to think ahead, because more often than not your choice would set up what color you had to match next.
Another modifier drops a curtain over the top part of the board, limiting the distance you can shoot. Every missed match drops the curtain a little further. These are just a couple of the modes that I saw. The campaign will span a series of 12 worlds, with a lot of puzzles and game modes to choose from.
I really can’t stress enough how interesting the contrast between the single-player and multiplayer is to me, and how truly polished this game is. It’s fun, it’s competitive, and it’s contemplative all at once. I’m really looking forward to its release in summer of 2016, and I definitely expect it to become a staple at parties.
Tumblestone will be available on Xbox and PlayStation (current and previous gen), PC and Mac, Wii U, PlayStation Vita, and every phone or tablet you can get your hands on.