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Tumble (PlayStation 3) artwork

Tumble (PlayStation 3) review

"Building with blocks in a clinically pure environment, and then resetting the mess with the push of a button. It sounds an awful lot like a parent's dream come true. In spite of that, is Tumble still fun?"

Tumble is, apart from being a sickeningly jolly word, a game based on this concept: Move blocks around with the Move-controller. You pick up a block by pointing at it, holding the Move's trigger-button. Now you can wave it around, and place it down again at any angle you'd like when carefully releasing the trigger. The block flops down in mathematically perfect physics, shifts another block with an inferior surface-resistance property and weight, and then settles at an infinitesimally tiny angle in between. That's really neat. By the end of “World 1”, it's clear Sony has marvelously recreated virtually just about exactly what you can do with a couple of wooden blocks on the floor.

By the end of “World 2” things become a bit more interesting. I've figured out the camera-controls now, and can quickly spin the viewport around a small amount so I can continue rotating a block all the way around the back of the blocks, to put a polished plastic block into that crack in the foundation you don't see from the front. The electronic lady with the clinically correct grammar and pronunciation tells me that I “got gold on this level!”, and then assures me there are more medals to be earned.

Supermassive Games build on that foundation from here on - what about a tower that's so high it needs an impossible counterweight stuck into the tower halfway up on one side, so the lighter blocks further up will balance out the gravity-defying curve on the top? What about being able to place heavy blocks so softly on top of another that there's little danger of inadvertently tipping them over? And if you do - just hit a button and start over. And then fish the blocks quickly out of thin air in a speed-challenge? What about blocks that no builder-kit has ever, and will never contain? Sticky blocks to stabilize a mistake on the foundation-level? Rubber blocks that can be rested on top of other blocks at an angle?

Suddenly this game becomes virtual block-building that is designed to be reality-defying in the right ways. Where it breaks physics for the sake of convenience, and where the scenarios you build in are so complex that you would spend hours setting them up in real life. And where the physics exist to keep the tension building. Higher and higher, and more and more risky, until you achieve your target for the level. Or, until the tower falls with a theatrical gasp, and the grammatically clinical lady implores you to try again.

In the single-player modes, you are given a target each level, and then you need to earn a number of medals to unlock the next. The challenges are not difficult (at least at first) - instead they are different, and require a different approach. There will be varied puzzles that require you to balance a limited amount of blocks to hit a target, or challenges to build as high as possible within a short amount of time. Complete enough of them (or a few of them particularly well), and you unlock the next set, with more difficult ones. The Tetris homage and the puzzle-levels with limited blocks are my favourites so far.

My co-reviewer misses a mode where you can choose a block-set (and maybe pick your own box of blocks), and then just build freely, though. In a way it's strange that you don't have a mode like this in the game. Even if it's not as if you can't find a level you like, and then continue building on it, a free-world build really is something you miss after the fifth level of having to balance another tower on the small square tower base. But a mode where you unlock blocks and collect your own set really would be neat. A sequel or an add-on maybe?

On the other hand, the challenge modes are very good, and so are the two-player modes. There's a mode for building in turns, for example - you are given a number of blocks, and you place them. Now the turn goes to the other player. And you build until one of the players lead by such and such amount of points. If you place a block and it falls, you lose points.

The two-wand modes are a bit more stressful - the camera will simply follow the highest tower, and the intention is to build as high as possible to outbuild the other player. It might have been possible to have modes where you pick off one block at a time similar to mikado, etc, but that will also be saved for an add-on, I suppose.

In fact, the most interesting way to use two wands is by building in single-player mode. You can hold one wand in each hand, and control the camera while placing blocks with the other. Or you can hold two blocks at the same time, which actually can help you balance blocks to finish some of the puzzles. This is without a doubt the least stressful, as well as the most entertaining mode. Where you can build on your own, or have a friend pitch in and help - if they want to, at their own pace.

Tumble is a beautifully simplistic block-building game in 3d (also with 3d tv support, if you can bear that idea) for one or two players. It's an impressive technical demonstration with replayability and polish, basically. But it's also a very good game if you like something a bit more slow and thoughtful than most video-games. Feel free to read my semi-technical supplemental for this review as well elsewhere on the site.

Rating: 8/10

fleinn's avatar
Community review by fleinn (May 28, 2011)

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