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Tumble


14:4622/09/2010Posted by Richard BirkettNo Comments

You have to admire developers who put their game on the line at the launch day for a particular product, be it a new console or in this case, Sony’s new motion controller, the Playstation Move. Sure, they might get more attention than would probably be possible elsewhere in the lifespan of such hardware, but as we’ve seen in the past, they can also fall foul of a diminished development schedule and newness to hardware specifications resulting in a substandard finished product. But then, all publicity is good publicity, right? Well…

As it’s the first game that we’ve had the opportunity to play on the Playstation Move (out last Friday), it’s probably best to start by giving general impressions on how the new piece of hardware feels and functions. First and foremost, PS Move is undoubtedly a quality piece of kit, accurately tracking 1:1 movement functionally, while slight rotations are also neatly – and delicately – monitored, making this the finest motion controller on the market and far from the waggle movements of the Wii-mote. It’s also incredibly handy at recognising where in the room you’re standing thanks to the colourful ball placed on top of the controller that the PS Eye can track, which neatly brings us into Tumble’s puzzle-based game play that involves, more often than not, stacking blocks as high as you can (through grabbing a hold of them using the PS Move’s trigger button) before they fall to the floor in a dazzling array of colour and shape.

It’s perhaps unfair to start off the full review by stating that to get the most out of the game, Sony’s touted stereoscopic 3D is desirable, but sadly that is the case here. The problem is, even though the camera can pin-point exactly where you’re standing in comparison to the huge tower of blocks at the centre of each of Tumble’s ’stack’ challenges, it’s often annoyingly frustrating trying to exactly judge where the controller is in comparison to the blocks on the floor, or indeed on the leaning tower. Although Supermassive Games has allowed us to manoeuvre the camera (through a hold of the ‘Move’ button), frustratingly this doesn’t pause the rest of the action, meaning that your block comes with you after you’ve delicately balanced it on top of the pile, only to make sure your angles are correct. It’s one of many design choices that we have a problem with in Tumble, whether it goes down to the aforementioned launch-day development complications or another matter entirely is unknown. Tumble also has a habit of resetting levels straight back to the beginning even if one lone block falls from the top of the pile of mismatched shapes and cylindrical blocks meaning that, especially in later puzzles, you’ll be overwrought with un-needed disgruntlement when you’re ever so close to that ‘Gold’ medal marker, only to be asked to start again!

Each puzzle, whether in the game’s go-to stacking challenges (in which certain heights need to be achieved through use of the given blocks) to the laser challenges (mirror blocks have to be correctly placed in order for the laser to hit the end point), each stage will award medals based on how well you do. Usually only set to one of either Bronze, Silver or ‘Gold, other medals are sometimes added to further your expertise, such as placing blocks with printed mathematical solutions on their surface in the right order on the construction of the tower. Thankfully, Tumble’s use of medals keeps the game fresh for much longer than it would otherwise, since some puzzles are devilishly tricky or technically unforgiving (see our earlier complaints). How Supermassive Games introduce new mechanics to puzzles in order for you to alter your approach to each can also be admired. For instance, in one level we see the earth shake every 10 seconds or so, thus making the use of blocks made out of material such as rubber incredibly important, while also requiring you to quicken the pace to build high before it can all be unhinged from its roots. Other stages might see a bar pass over your tower from X to Y every time you place a block down, which will mean you’ll have to extend your tower to the sides instead of going straight up.

Tumble ’s easy to get to grips with play style is soon overtaken by the need for understanding of real-world physics, material properties (from slippery glass, to heavy metal and light and grippy polystyrene) and good old logical thinking. The stages can become incredibly difficult to master, but with the game skipping from impossibly tricky levels to stages where you feel you’re starting all over again – the sense of progression is slightly misguided to say the least. We would have also appreciated more stages that acted as separate challenges apart from the main block-building puzzler, such as the laser challenge; or the explosive Jenga-inspired mini-game that also plays similar to the Wii’s Boom Blox for its high-scoring mentality, where mines have to placed on a huge tower of blocks in order to fell it and score points depending on where each block lands.

Tumble is, on the whole, what is expected from a launch title; that is, it demonstrates the technical nuance of the product, allowing users to get to grips with the new piece of kit while enjoying a decent puzzle game. The problem is, it lacks any sense of appeal in its muted visual style and cold, hard exterior, and the game never truly tests for long enough to be satisfying. There isn’t enough here to get excited about, ultimately, but a good effort nevertheless.

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