Switch Games That Arent Zelda Tumbleseed

first_img If you have a Nintendo Switch, chances are you also have The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The new Zelda is a massive, phenomenal game that you can and should play for dozens of hours. But eventually, you’re going to want to play something new on your Nintendo console/handheld hybrid. Switch Games That Aren’t Zelda is a new column highlighting cool, smaller Switch games to check out once you’ve saved Hyrule.Tumbleseed is a game I made a concerted effort to keep coming back to. Wanting to replay a game is certainly a sign of quality, but not necessarily the biggest one. However, considering that Tumbleseed is a roguelike, a genre that even the developers themselves know how much I dislike, that’s telling. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed this Nintendo Switch Game That Isn’t Zelda (also available on PC and PS4) because of its roguelike elements, but the rest of it is so strong it did soften my stance against the genre ever so slightly.In Tumbleseed players guide a humble organic ball up a treacherous mountain. As they roll their way to the top, they face enemies, obstacles, numerous gaps to fall through, and encouraging one-eyed villagers. Instead of controlling the seed directly, players make use of the tense and trusty arcade control mechanic of balancing. The seed rolls along a long vine bar players tilt up a down. Starting, stopping, ascending slowly, or sharply rolling downhill are all controlled through constant, subtle analog stick movements.Compared to any other 2D locomotion, the novelty and delayed satisfaction of this system serve as great rewards for tolerating nonstop avoidable deaths. But what makes it even cooler is that this is a digital recreation of an obscure physical arcade game called Ice Cold Beer in which players control a real beam and balance a real ball. The subtle ball vibration and momentum of HD rumble on Switch goes a long way toward replicating this tactile heritage.Then come the roguelike elements. The mountain is always made up of the same four biomes, but their layouts randomly change after every (frequent) death. It’s an idea seemingly carried over from mobile slalom game Dudeski, which was developed by one of the Tumbleseed developers Benedict Fritz. So instead of memorizing specific paths, players must become adept enough with the controls while learning enemy behaviors to make each new run more successful than the last.Nimble rolling is crucial, but to really survive long-term, you’ll need to make use of the dozens of seed powers. Rolling over special soil patches powers up an ability, but these patches are finite, making tough choices inevitable. The four core abilities plant checkpoints, restore hearts, cover you with protective spiky thorns, and generate the crystal currency needed to activate the soil patches in the first place.However, you’ll also find wilder abilities throughout your travels, from cannons that shoot foes to flash floods that fill in nearby deadly holes to passive toxic auras you can stack with other powers. You’ll lose these abilities after each death, and the ones you’ll find next time are random. I get why that is. Hoarding skills would make the player overpowered. But many of these powers also require large amounts of crystals to wield, crystals that might be more valuable spent elsewhere.Again, I understand that dilemmas like that are part of the point, but the hamstrung resource management just led to me mostly ignoring what feels like a huge part of the game. Powers are just too fleeting to rely on. The core rolling mechanic is demanding enough to create a baseline difficulty and subsequent level of satisfaction that’s already pretty high. The game wouldn’t lose anything with a less stingy economy.After playing countless rounds of Tumbleseed over the past few weeks, I did feel myself actively improving. I’m not good enough to compete for a daily challenge cash prize, but I am better. The most tangible way to check your progress is by completing quests. These sort of act as tutorials, challenging you to reach certain milestones or complete certain objectives. They encourage to take your runs in different, one-off directions and master skills that could positively influence your next real attempt up the mountain.I usually try to gain as much health as possible at first, but one quest opened my eyes to the value of immediate thorns. It’s like trying different build orders in a strategy game. Completing enough quests also opens up teleporters to different biomes higher up the mountain, vital for staving off game-ruining frustration later on for the impatient.When I think about why Tumbleseed mostly works for me in a way other roguelikes don’t, the answer I keep coming back to is that repeating the core gameplay loop is enjoyable enough to put up with the artificial endlessness, to revel in it even. Compare it to something like Has-Been Heroes. That game has a nifty RPG battle mechanic. But without the other arguably essential parts of RPGs like leveling up, collecting permanent loot, and exploring exquisite environments, the rest of the game collapses on top of the combat, crushing whatever potential it had.To me, a game with Tumbleseed’s mechanics but with actual discreet physics-based platforming levels, or even just arcade screens with high scores to chase, would be fantastic, and preferable to this roguelike. But these mechanics are still good enough on their own here to prop up the more questionable elements. It’s why I imagine Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac (also great on Switch) broke out like they did, by grounding their harsh roguelike aspects in palatable 2D sidescroller and dual-stick shooter dungeon crawler frameworks, respectively.Also uplifting the game is its mesmerizing art style. The pastel colors and soft geometric designs are reminiscent of the superb puzzle game Threes! (co-developed by Tumbleseed developer Greg Wohlwend) but with an added adorable nature theme. Also, this time the tranquility of the visuals is directly contrasted against the brutality of the gameplay. The chime that plays when you accept a quest is just a zen prelude to pain, set against the chill ambient tunes of Joel Corelitz.I’ll admit I’m biased in favor of Tumbleseed because it was developed by indie devs I had the pleasure of meeting during my Chicago days, and it was incubated by Cards Against Humanity, a company I’ve done freelance work for in the past. But I am also so incredibly biased against roguelikes that I think those two things cancel each other out, leaving me pretty confident in my ability to judge the game objectively.So here’s my verdict: Tumbleseed is knowingly not for everyone, and I disagree with some of its fundamental choices. It didn’t get me to win the victory over myself and love roguelikes. But despite all of that, I still think Tumbleseed is a great, impressive, incredibly cool, and utterly unique Switch Game That Isn’t Zelda I may ultimately end up playing even more than Zelda.Want to learn more? 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