TumbleSeed Is a Tense Puzzle Adventure Game You Won't Be Able to Put Down

On the surface, TumbleSeed is a game about rolling a seed up a mountain. Deeper down, it's a tense, action-packed roguelike that will put your patience and your skill to the ultimate test.

TumbleSeed game banner

(via Aeiowu)

TumbleSeed rolls out today on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam. In the game, you take on the role of the titular TumbleSeed, waking up a happy little seed in a quiet town before disaster strikes. You're the seed spoken of in prophecy, and as you face off against a mysterious evil you'll need to learn new skills to fulfill said prophecy and make it all the way up the mountain to save the land you call home.

TumbleSeed controls differently than any other game I've seen before. The game ditches standard control schemes for a unique system that involves using two analog sticks to maneuver either end of a vine up and down, with the seed rolling back and forth across the screen depending on the slope you've created with the vine.

It's also a roguelike game, which means you have a limited number of lives to complete your adventure, and once they're used up, you have to start the entire process over again from basecamp. The worlds are randomly generated every time you play, so it'll be a new journey every time—and you can never predict precisely what might be coming next.

If this sounds difficult, it is—particularly when you're trying to dodge plentiful bottomless pits, with ever-more-dangerous insect-like enemies out to get you and spikes that will end your adventure in one fell swoop if they touch you. Thankfully, TumbleSeed has the ability to interact with diamond-shaped portals that litter the mountain. These portals allow you to plant any powers you acquire, which are represented by TumbleSeed's various suits.

At first, TumbleSeed's only suit is the FlagSeed, which lets it plant checkpoint-like flags along the mountainside. If you fall in a hole, you'll be able to return to your last planted FlagSeed, instead of all the way to the beginning of the area.

During the tutorial you'll also acquire three more suits. Activating the ThornVine at one of these diamonds generates a sharp thorn that circles the player and allows them to harm enemies. With the HeartSeed, you can activate four of the diamonds to add another heart to your health meter.

But these unique powers come at a cost. The in-game currency is crystals, and you'll need to spend one of them every time you use one of these diamond-activated powers. Crystals can be found scattered throughout levels, but they can also be obtained by destroying enemies or by using the fourth seed suit, Crystal, and activating three diamonds.

TumbleSeed games seed selection

(via Aeiowu)

It sounds a bit complicated, but in action the process becomes intuitive. Still, it means the game is a balancing act in more ways than one. As you stumble upon these diamonds on your path, you'll have to decide which of these four powers to use each moment to maximize your chances for success.

And those four powers are only the beginning. Throughout the game, you'll encounter various areas where you can select other power-ups. Some are freebies where you're given your choice between two upgrades, while others will cost you crystals, or even ask you to trade in two of your existing suits for one powerful mega-suit.

While the additional powers are quite useful, many of them use multiple crystals to activate. Whether you're willing to trade valuable crystals for these powers is your choice. For three crystals, the FloodFruit can fill surrounding holes with water, allowing you to roll freely over them without falling in. In a pinch, that's totally worth it. A BombBud requires five crystals, destroying anything within its huge blast radius—but if you don't evacuate quickly enough, it can blow you up, too. Again, learning to balance is critical in this game.

There are more than 30 of these forms in total to encounter and play with throughout the game, and I don't think I'm even close to seeing them all. If your favorite seed isn't one of the main four, then unfortunately chances are you won't be seeing it in the majority of treks up the mountain.

Your own blueprints for success will depend a lot upon your personal gameplay style and priorities. There's a special hut at the camps between areas that occasionally gives you small challenges, like asking you to collect five hearts with the HeartSeed or gather 15 crystals, which serve well to teach you new tactics for conquering the mountain. I thought this was an awesome touch because it gave me a chance to try new things in a purposeful way.

My personal favorite is the HeartSeed, as focusing on racking up lots and lots of hearts helps me survive a bit longer as the game gets more treacherous.

TumbleSeed jungle spiders lots of hearts

(via Aeiowu)


Of course, this tactic has its downfalls. Focusing too much on hearts means I occasionally forget to plant a FlagSeed, and one wrong move into a hole means I have to start my journey all the way back at the beginning of the area. And the moment I get to the second world, a lush jungle populated with really evil bugs, the fact I don't have an offensive strategy really comes back to haunt me. I probably need to adapt—but there's something really satisfying in inching farther and farther with my old strategy each time I return to the mountain.

I'm not ashamed to admit I've never made it past the second of the game's areas. It's a rainy jungle arena where you're introduced to long, creepy worms that move ever-closer toward your seed, leaping spiders attempting to crush you with their bellies and other bad, bad guys. They act like homing missiles, meaning you're no longer free to take your time and strategically plan out your every move.

TumbleSeed worms

(via Aeiowu)

But despite the fact I've never made it past this second area, I've still had tons of fun sinking hours and hours into the game. Randomly generated levels means it's a new experience each and every time, and every bit of progress further makes me want to keep pushing until I finally make it into the third area.

Beyond the gameplay, the design and sound of the game are also a joy. The worlds are vibrant and colorful while still maintaining an air of danger. Along the way you'll meet colorful seed characters with quirky personalities (including some who speak only in emoji) who exist to offer advice and build out the odd world of TumbleSeed. The enemies, while mostly terrifying, can also be kind of cute and bright.

The music in the game ranges from harmonic and atmospheric to downright dystopian, but all of it feels like a perfect tonal match for the game surrounding it. It also has a soothing calm about it, which is good because as you navigate your way up the mountain you'll probably be anything but relaxed. Chances are you won't make it past the first area in your first sitting, but that's what makes TumbleSeed work.

And to prove I'm not just entirely terrible at the game, here's proof that, at one point, I had the fifth best score of anyone who'd played the game on the Nintendo Switch. Of course, that didn't last too long, but I'm not kidding when I say the game is tough!

TumbleSeed scoreboard

(via Aeiowu)

I happened to be playing the game on the Switch, which brings me to a feature you won't get to experience on the other systems. The Nintendo Switch has something called HD Rumble that allows the controller to shake in very precise ways to make the vibrations reflect what you're seeing onscreen. In my opinion, TumbleSeed has had the most successful implementation of this technology so far, because as you play, you can actually feel the TumbleSeed rolling left and right along the vine in your hands. The steeper the incline, the more you can feel the rolling.

If you have a Switch, too, this might be the game to finally get you to put down Breath of the Wild. Even if you don't, it's definitely worth adding to your PS4 or Steam game libraries—especially at the cost of $14.99. And if you're still not sold, check out the trailer.


Want to find out what goes into making your favorite games? Click HERE to read our interview with the voice of Zelda in Breath of the Wild.