Describing Tumbleseed is tough. When it was pitched to us in an email ahead of the show, one of the small team compared it to an old, mechanical arcade game from Taito. Here’s that game.
Got it? Here’s Tumbleseed.
Wild, right? Fall in a hole, lose a heart. Get hit by an enemy, lose a heart. Hit spikes, die immediately.
You play a seed, supposedly one spoken of in prophecy, that must roll its way up a mountain. You tilt a rod up and down with the right and left stick on a controller, and you roll and tumble your way up courses in biomes riddled with holes and enemies of all varieties.
This is a rogue-like, and that means stuff like intense difficulty, permanent death and random level generation and enemy placement.
Your seed has four core abilities called seed powers. There are others, though, and the devs told me there are more than 30. Some cause avalanches, others swing a medieval flail, there are standard ones that offer checkpoints and others that create minerals, the in-game currency.
You’ll roll over plots in order to plant seeds and cultivate powers for use further up the mountain. For instance, you’ll use the checkpoint seed to roll over a plot and create a checkpoint. That’s not always to your advantage, though, is you could have used that plot to get minerals for a power that might make you invincible or kill enemies. There’s a balance and strategy that develops during play, and that didn’t click for me personally until the demo was over. As you progress, biomes end in these camps filled with challenge rooms, banks for mineral investment and other calming, non-threatening features.
As you progress, biomes end in these camps filled with challenge rooms, banks for mineral investment and other calming, non-threatening features. This is your chance to relax, collect yourself and roll onward.
This game is tough. Really tough. I failed the tutorial mission on my first go, but I wound up restarting and “making it pretty far,” according to Composer and Sound Designer Joel Corelitz. I’m convinced he was lying to me to make me feel better, but whatever.
The tough part is that you have t0 manage your momentum as you roll back and forth through areas. When enemies come and force you to correct your roll one way or another, you’ll often wind up over-correcting and rolling into a hole.
I was told that a good player can beat this in 20 minutes. Getting good at Tumbleseed, though, will take weeks or months. It’s set to release this spring for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.