The formula is there, now it just needs some content
A few years ago, when the Yo-kai Watch craze still had a pulse, Level-5 launched a puzzle game on mobile that quickly became my go-to app for lunch breaks and train rides. It was called Yo-kai Watch Wibble Wobble and it was brilliant, fun, and full of annoying free-to-play mechanics. But the game was so good, I didn’t care. I just kept playing until the English version of the game was shut down in May 2018. Since then, I’ve been chasing that Wibble Wobble high, looking for other games I could ride the dragon with. Some have come close, but nothing I’ve found so far has quite captured the feeling of fun Wibble Wobble brought to the table. That’s true of Devolver Tumble Time as well, though it manages to make its own unique mark in this crowded mobile space.
From developer Nopopo, Devolver Tumble Time is a simple connect-three puzzler that requires a fast and delicate touch if you want to rack up high scores. The puzzle field is circular and pieces, each of which is designed after a character from a Devolver Digital title, fall from the top in a randomized assortment. To clear these pieces from the field, you simply need to tap a piece that is connected with at least two others of the same type. If 5 pieces can make a connection, all five will clear once you lift your finger. The more pieces you can connect, the more likely it is you’ll score a bomb you can use to clear out a small smattering of pieces. Not only do bombs help you out if you’re unable to make any connections, but they also help quickly build your Fever Time meter.
In Fever Time, the clock stops and you’re encouraged to clear as many pieces as possible in the short span of time to really build your score up. If you’re having a good run, you’ll probably activate Fever Time about three or four times before the clock hits zero. Depending on the pieces you’re working with, getting into Fever Time that often can turn a good run into an outstanding one.
As you play Tumble Time, you’ll earn coins to unlock characters using gacha pulls. These characters correspond to the pieces in each puzzle run, and if you own a character, you’ll level them up should they appear in a puzzle. Of the characters you’ve unlocked, you’ll choose one to be your lead puzzle piece that’ll appear in each puzzle run you have them selected for. As you clear this character from the puzzle board, you’ll build up a meter that, when filled, will allow you to unleash their special. Each special will clear pieces from the board, but the effectiveness of that clearing depends on which character you’ve selected and the pieces that are currently on the board.
For instance, Red from Heave Ho will turn all the Reds on-screen into socks, a type of currency I’ll touch on momentarily. Richard from Hotline Miami will throw a bloody baseball bat across the screen, clearing any piece it hits. Duck from Minit will clear all the other Ducks from the screen and turn them into seconds on the clock. My personal favorite is Gris from Gris, who will drop a big grey bomb that has the potential to clear the entire puzzle field.
Knowing when and how to best use these specials is key to getting a high score. As an example, Richard’s baseball bat is highly effective at running up your score if you use it in Fever Time. However, if the clock is winding down and you can see Fever Time is just within reach, using it at that moment just might be enough to put you into Fever Time, which again, stops the clock and allows you to really add to your score.
When it comes to making connections, it can be a bit of a crapshoot. A bunch of pieces of the same type bundled together will obviously clear no problem. However, sometimes you’ll see pieces close enough to one another without obstruction that you think would be an easy connection, only the game won’t see it the same way. On the flip side, there are many times I pressed down on a piece and watched as the game quickly connected a spiderweb of pieces I didn’t think would work.
Extensive connections like this may only be available for a split second. As pieces drop down, they might create a connection while falling that’ll disappear once they land on the other pieces below. You really have to be quick to make those connections, but you don’t want to be too quick as connections aren’t instantaneous. Though it takes less than a second, each sprawling connection has to be fully mapped out if you want to clear all the pieces. Lift your finger too quickly and some pieces may be left out.
As I said before, if you build up a large enough connection, you’ll create a bomb on the puzzle field. There are different bombs depending on how many pieces you clear, including bombs that can add a few seconds to the clock. When you use a bomb, some of the pieces you clear are converted into coins, which is Tumble Time’s primary currency. Others may be converted into stuff, such as socks, donuts, diamonds, gears, and apples. These represent the secondary currency of Tumble Time. Both coins and stuff are used to unlock new characters, but coins will only unlock characters with an A, B, or C rarity in what are known as Trash Pulls. Stuff is used with premium gacha pulls that can net you an S, A, or B ranked character. There is another gacha system coming to the game, but it doesn’t specify what you’ll pull with it. I suspect it will net players boosters and modifiers for each puzzle run as each of those menus is currently listed as “coming soon.”
If you’re wondering about monetization, it’s pretty straightforward. The game has a heart system you can eliminate for $3. You can also earn more hearts by watching ads, and as a side note, has anyone else noticed how awful mobile ads have become over the past year or so? Anyway, if you want to buy coins or stuff for gacha pulls, that option is also available with the largest available purchase being $5. I don’t imagine I’d ever put money down to buy coins or stuff, but eliminating the heart meter so I can play as much as I want is a bit enticing. It would be a lot more enticing if there was more to do in the game.
Right now, there are just two modes to experience. The standard mode has you just chasing a high score as you work to clear as many pieces as you can in 60 seconds. Other than that, you can play the daily mode, which either restricts you to a specific character (even if you don’t own them) or challenges you with a boss battle. The boss battle dailies task players with scoring a certain amount of points through four rounds before doing battle with a boss. If you fail to reach the target score in any of the rounds, you have to start the entire process over. With the right character, like Gris, these are a piece of cake. If you’re using somebody from Heave Ho, hitting a score of 80,000 might be a bit difficult.
Having to start from scratch with the boss battles is annoying, but I do wish there were more modes like this in Tumble Time. I’ve been playing for about three weeks now and enjoying it plenty enough. But without some sort of regular challenge, I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep with the game. I like its style, and it’s certainly replayable, but I’m not much of a high-score chaser. It would be nice to see some sort of adventure mode or mission mode added to the final game when it exits Early Access later this year.