The Thin Green Vine – TumbleSeed Review

Dec 10, 2017 by

TumbleSeed is a unique and different experience. The developers tried something new, which at times worked out, but at other times fell flat on its face.

Developer: Team TumbleSeed
Publisher: aeiowu
Review Platform: Nintendo Switch
Review Copy Provided By: aeiowu
Release Date: May 2, 2017

Two major complaints about games seem to circulate on a consistent basis: there are simply too many games on the market, and developers are scared to try something new. Enter: TumbleSeed, a rogue-like 2D vertical scroller that’s truly the first game of its kind. TumbleSeed brings pure innovation to the roguelike genre, as you take the form of a seed, rolling back and forth on a vine. At first, the control scheme comes off as incredibly foreign; no previous experience really translates to this new form of movement, but the initial learning curve isn’t too terrible. The main thing to note here is that you control the vine, not the seed, and your movements of the vine manipulate the seed. It can be a tricky concept to wrap your head around at first, but it makes sense after an hour or two.

TumbleSeed leverages a unique control scheme where each stick moves one side of the vine. While fun at first, the lack of precision quickly turned into frustration.

TumbleSeed borrows many elements from other roguelike games; there are 4 main areas to clear, the world is procedurally generated, and enemies are randomly placed. However, one thing that jumps out is a lack of precision. In roguelikes, where permadeath is a crucial part of the game, having somewhat floaty controls can ruin a fantastic run. It’s hard to accept being punished due to the control scheme not responding as crisply as it otherwise could. There are some other facets of the game that I enjoyed at first, but never understood the point of. There are quests that you can complete during different runs, but I never noticed what kind of benefit they granted. Generally, this game isn’t for everyone. The controls really aren’t intuitive, and it takes time to learn the intricacies of movement, stopping, rolling, and avoiding different pitfalls along the journey.

The towns in TumbleSeed offer a much needed rest and reprieve from the punishing sections. In these you can begin new quests and try out different abilities.

My main concern with TumbleSeed is what felt like a complete and total lack of playtesting. There are so many things that just don’t work with the game, completely ruining my experience with it. If you take a single hit of damage, you lose all your defenses and progress as a seed. If you fall down a pit, you tumble all the way back to either your last flag you spent currency on, or the beginning of the entire area – however you take a point of damage for every length of screen you fall. So typically if you make a deep run through the jungle, forget to make a check point, and fall? Your game is done. When you use one of your thorns (your primary method of offense), the rest of the thorns rotating around your seed don’t realign themselves evenly, so you wind up with a massive gap in your defenses. The allies that you can pick up along the way can hurt you, which makes them more of a liability than an asset as you need to be extremely careful when maneuvering through the jungle. Which, speaking of the jungle, is extremely brutal. The enemies, snakes in particular, are unrelenting and pursue you, and take multiple hits to kill, knowing that if you take a single hit, your game is more than likely over, as it’s borderline impossible to come back from most mistakes. I found the best strategy in the jungle is to simply hug the wall and sprint up the side of the area, which is somewhat comical for a roguelike (as opposed to be meticulous and careful while making your way through the level.

Once out of the entry stage, the difficulty ramps up drastically. Chaos ensues on screen, and the slightest mistake will often end what looked like a promising run.

TumbleSeed offers some fresh new ideas, but it’s a far cry away from greatness. At its core, it’s simply not a fun game to play due to a number of reasons ranging from controls to brutal difficulty. I had several games where the seed screwed me from the get-go. A simple mistake led me to taking 5 consecutive hits of damage, killing me. Or I simply underwent a barrage that I couldn’t defend myself against in the jungle. There’s potential here, but the developers seemed to figure it was good enough when they went gold with the game. TumblesSed had its moments early on, and I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out a new way to play games, but it didn’t take long for frustration to boil over quickly.

Review Overview

2/5

TumbleSeed has the best of intentions in trying something brand new in an industry where we seem to prioritize copy paste and sequels. While the game is a ton of fun at first, it gives off a feeling that it wasn't really playtested in any form. A brutal difficulty and completely unrelenting system of punishment for the smallest mistakes can lead to a set of massive turnoffs, especially considering the lack of precision in manipulating the seed around. While I enjoyed what I played at first, I was quickly turned off in the later areas which felt like an arcade bullet hell. TumbleSeed has loads of potential, but in many cases, can't seem to get out of its own way.

About John Ceccarelli

John lives in a small city outside of Portland, OR. He has been chasing achievements and trophies since his early teen years. After working at a small shoe company during the week, he enjoys spending time with his dog and wife, writing code, and crawling through monster-infested dungeons.

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