Tumble works best when it’s at its most simple: using the PlayStation Move controller to delicately stack blocks of varying materials onto other blocks in order to create enough height (with enough stability) to bag a Gold medal. It’s an intrinsic, core principle that appeals to anyone that’s ever owned a pile of wooden bricks, or, to a lesser extent, some LEGO. The Move’s precision positioning lets you place the blocks absolutely where you want them to go and the gyroscopic sensors mean that you can angle them just as accurately – it’s only when you play something like Tumble, that doesn’t necessarily punish you for taking your time, that you can truly see what the Move controller is capable of.
Hence, unless the game’s being crafty with its pre-determined set of blocks (and sometimes it’s a bit of a lottery) the combination of precise control and unquestionable physics mean that if you fail, it’s because it’s your fault, not the game’s. Yes, some of the interaction between different types of surfaces are a little suspect, but nothing you can’t learn by rote and whilst the frictionless glass and the ultra sticky rubber can be frustrating at first, they’re not a problem after the first 10 minutes or so. No, when the game’s fair, it’s brilliant, and twisting and turning the wand quickly becomes second nature, and your times at any given level can rapidly improve with just a few attempts.
Which is good, because each level barring the first (and any special, bonus levels) has a number of stars to collect, with the obvious Bronze, Silver and Gold for the heights achieved (and you must show that the structure can balance for three seconds before getting a medal) but there’s also a strict time limit based star and one for hitting a target that floats in a given location in each level. The camera’s mostly on top form, but can be adjusted by holding down the Move button and angling the wand, with the Square button offering a quick (and welcome) zoom out should you need it. Most importantly, and something I’d like to see in every Move-enabled game, is the quick centre function mapped to circle, which instantly re-calibrates the onscreen pointer.
Tumble’s Height levels, then, are brilliant. Where the game starts to crumble a little is with the introduction of other gametypes, often completely unnessary. The destruction sections, where you gain points for blowing up an existing tower, don’t really carry the same gravitas – the limpet mines woolly and unpredictable and the point scoring equally so, for example. Likewise, the pre-set puzzle levels where the game becomes a bizarre, slightly clunky version of LittleBigPlanet’s Create mode interrupt the flow of the game. Finally, the game’s decision to start changing the fundamentals, such as the way the main board is angled, or – sigh – making it spin change what should have been a gradual increase in difficulty into something much less smooth.
However, such spikes can be avoided by anyone except the most compulsive, because Tumble’s Wipeout-esque grid of levels opens up progressively regardless of the colour of your medal – only the most basic completion is necessary and you certainly don’t need to beat every level in a pack to open up the next. There’s loads of levels, too, representing a serious single player investment if you’re to 100% the game and grab every single star on offer. If that’s your goal, we wish you all the luck in the world, but most of us mortals will be happy enough just to see the end of the game. It’s good that Supermassive Games can unobtrusively cater for the hardcore, though.
In terms of multiplayer, there are two modes. The first is a pass-the-Move affair with each player placing three blocks in turn, scoring points as they go and the second is a type of race where the two players create a structure in their own half of the screen with the twist being that the camera follows the taller of the two towers, with the player who’s blocks are out of view losing the round. Both modes are fun diversions but it’s clear the single player section was the target of most of the development work.
Tumble’s a clever game, and most definitely shows off the PlayStation Move, instantly distancing itself from the similar (but far less accurate and three-dimensional) Boom Blox! on the Wii. In fact, the depth recognition of the Move is one of Tumble’s key selling points, the ability to properly manipulate the controller and the blocks in 3D space shouldn’t be underestimated and it’s only because the senstation is so naturally represented on screen that you don’t stop to think about it. It’s just a shame the developers had to try to shoehorn in so many other, diversory game types because the main act of building the blocks skywards is so excellently executed anything else just feels like filler.
- A brilliant example of motion control technology
- Lovely, crisp graphics
- A serene atmosphere
- Some game modes feel at odds with the core concept
- Multiplayer lacks longevity
Tumble’s prescence at the Move launch shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s a very clever game with some really impressive ideas and a main mechanic that sets the game apart from the rest of the line-up. For the most part, it’s a great example of what’s possible with Move and the slick interface, full 3D visuals (if your TV supports it) and intelligent, thought provoking puzzles mean that anyone looking for a more pensive game to test their Move skills these coming weeks should make sure it’s in your queue. Tumble might not be perfect, but it does have moments of brilliance that we hope could be nurtured into a sequel more confident in the elements that work best.