Published by Jack Taylor May 2, 2017
Keep on rolling with this charming new roguelike about a little seed on a big journey.
In just two months, Nintendo Switch has amassed an impressive lineup of digital software, including some weird and wonderful indie titles. Racing games and RPGs (and Zelda) have so far helped to lead the charge on the system, and we're pretty certain that none of the games currently on Nintendo eShop could be described as a "rolly roguelike" - enter TumbleSeed, a highly challenging and visually beautiful experience that'll keep you coming back for more, no matter how good or bad you think you are at it.
TumbleSeed's premise is relatively simple: the game is set on a peaceful mountain which is being threatened by nasties called ground dwellers, which are causing mayhem by creating holes in the mountain and attacking anything that moves on it. Your role is that of a sole seed who lives in a settlement at the base of the mountain, which must travel to the top of the mountain to plant itself and restore peace. Rather than directly control the seed, though, you control the movable vine that the seed rests on top of; your job is to move the vine up the mountain, keeping the seed safe from the many dangers that can be found along the way.
Using the left and right control sticks, you can tilt the ends of the vine up and down in order to roll the seed to the left and right, in order to avoid holes in the mountain or to reach planting spots, which we'll go into detail about a little later on. You can take your time travelling up the mountain - you'll need to sometimes in order to figure out which way's best - or go hell for leather in a mad dash to the finish line. Sometimes, you can; most of the time, you definitely can't. Either way, quick reflexes and quicker thinking are going to be the key to a successful journey.
TumbleSeed's simple control scheme is perfectly complemented by the Switch's fantastic HD Rumble feature in the two Joy-Con, which give incredible haptic feedback when you tilt the vine. The more you tilt, the greater the feedback you get, and the same applies when you hit an object or a wall while rolling. While you can play the game with HD Rumble turned off, it's a thrill to feel those movements come back to you, and it's arguably the best use of HD Rumble seen on the system thus far. At first, we did think some motion control would be involved - the game seems to lend itself well to the opportunity to tilt the Switch to move the vine in handheld mode - but using the control sticks works well and provides a great deal of accuracy and precision, though an option for motion would be nice if it could be made to work just as well.
The mountain is comprised of five different worlds, each with unique monsters and obstacles to overcome. Each world is procedurally generated, which effectively means you'll never scale the same mountain twice; think along the lines of the Mystery Dungeon series in that regard. Each monster acts differently, with some moving in a set pattern, some jumping around, and - just occasionally - some heading directly for you. It's pretty clear what an enemy's path is when you first see it, which is helpful, and you'll come to remember what most of them are going to do anyway. You'll also be able to defeat enemies, which leads us nicely onto seed powers.
We mentioned planting spots a little earlier on, and these tie into your current seed power. Your default state is FlagSeed - the cute little pink seed with green leaves - and rolling over a planting spot as FlagSeed will set it as your latest checkpoint, which means if you fall down a hole, you'll end up back there. As you continue your journey, you'll find other seed powers, and you'll pick up crystals which will help you to use them, since you'll normally need a crystal to use a planting spot. ThornVine is a great power to have early on, as planting spots will grant you thorns that can be used to attack enemies; also handy are Crystal and HeartSeed, which let you farm more crystals and hearts (you start with three) as you progress. There are more than 30 powers to find, and what's great about them is that they're so varied - you can choose which ones you like the most and use them as much as you want.
There are three different modes to try your hand at in TumbleSeed. You'll start off in the Tutorial mode, which is a gentle introduction to the game's mechanics, giving you plenty of time to figure out what's going on and what your goal is. Adventure mode is the main attraction, which tasks you with getting from the bottom of the mountain to the very top, and the Daily Challenge is a once-a-day test of your skills to see how well you can do on the global leaderboard. You can access the leaderboard from the opening menu, and this shows all daily scores - how far you've travelled and how long it took - as well as a global table with everyone's best times and your own personal leaderboard. It's really interesting to see how well you've done and how much you've improved over time.
Much of TumbleSeed's charm comes from its fantastic presentation. Whether you're playing the game or just on the opening menu, the game has a beautiful visual style to it and is always vibrant and cute, which is ironic given how deliciously difficult the game really is. The visuals are complemented by a unique and happy-go-lucky soundtrack, which will only further endear you to the game's charm. It even has little quests - such as kill three enemies - that villagers will give you. Yes, there are little villages too, with seeds who'll share stories with you, let you bank crystals, sell you powers, and things like that. It's inexplicably adorable.
There are already plenty of good reasons to want a Nintendo Switch, with some great games available on store shelves and from Nintendo eShop, but TumbleSeed stands out as one of the most unique and charming games on the digital storefront right now. There's nothing like it on the system, and there's hardly anything like it anywhere else either - yet rather than settling for being unique in its field, TumbleSeed's developers have ensured that it stands out from the crowd as a vibrant and delightful experience. Normally, if you're really bad at a game, you might go off it eventually, but that isn't possible here. You'll always be asking yourself if you can do just a little bit better than last time, and the daily challenge is a great way of testing your mettle against the globe. It's such an easily replayable experience, and one that makes its mark as one of the early highlights of the Switch's library.
TumbleSeed is out now on Nintendo Switch.
The Nintendo Channel would like to thank aeiowu for providing a copy of TumbleSeed to review.