Tetris proved to be quite an addictive game and was clearly well loved, as evidenced by the myriad of clones that followed over the years. I will unashamedly admit that I too was a junkie, but the one thing that Tetris lacked was a real purpose. Of course nowadays the developer would probably just throw in a bunch of achievements and “voila”, you have a purpose. That doesn’t really count. Thankfully, Tumble Jumble has come along to remedy the situation. It’s clear that the developers hold some respect for Tetris in their hearts, but they also seem to realize that such a game can be made with a purpose. And a couple of amusing characters, to boot!
You play, well, you! Except you in this case is an alien whose job is to collect and package up alien rodents for containment. I never realized that alien rodents looked like Tetris pieces, but I guess you learn something new every day. You are aided by your good friend – or at least tolerant work partner – Graeg, who diligently tosses you the rodents to collect. Your job is to use the remote control, uhm… controls to rotate and shift the rodents and make sure they get squeezed into the most optimal spot possible. On each level you have a certain number of rodents to contain, and if even one rodent breaks the barrier at the top of the containment unit once the critter has settled then you must start the round over. Unfortunately, some units haven’t been taken care of properly, and there are already creatures living inside of them. Certain varieties of these creatures can even kill your rodents, which you would think wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it is.
Fortunately, you have a couple of tricks up your sleeve. Until the critter hits a wall or another critter you can guide it by pressing buttons to rotate the creature or move it left and right. There’s also a button to increase the critter’s descent speed just a bit. Even when you can’t move a rodent around any more, all hope isn’t lost. Apparently the creatures are both restless and subject to minor gravitational pulls, as they will shift around sometimes even after coming into contact with something. And, if you’ve been on especially good behavior, you might at times be rewarded with bonuses that will either eradicate a piece or cause it to grow bigger or smaller. I’m still trying to see the benefit behind pieces getting bigger, but I’m sure there’s a reason.
There are 4 difficulty levels, each containing two planets. The first planet in the easy section is the tutorial, but you don’t feel like you’re losing anything because of that. Towards the end the tutorial levels actually get a bit challenging. And the whole first planet is deceptively simple compared to planet two in easy mode. You can also create your own levels through an easy and powerful editor built into the game, and you’re supposed to be able to “share them with the world”. I haven’t quite figured out that part yet, though I suppose it has something to do with Facebook since the social platform is integrated into the game.
The graphics are wonderful. Cut scenes throughout the tutorial show the amusingly rendered antics of you and Graeg, and you’re treated to either a slightly pacified yet disgruntled or a completely exasperated picture of your boss depending on whether you beat or fail a particular level. The rodents themselves look like various brightly colored Tetris pieces or basic geometric shapes like circles and triangles. But let’s face it, they wouldn’t be nearly the challenge to try and arrange if they were all cute and cuddly and flexible-like, now would they? Besides the pieces actually falling, the main animations are the critters’ eyes blinking occasionally or rolling when something lands on top of them. And then there’s the quick zap when a rodent doesn’t completely breach the barrier at the top of a container.
The sound effects are pretty minimal. There’s a sound to accompany the shock when a creatures gets fried in the upper barrier, and there’s a sound played when a rodent first breaks free of the upper barrier, but that’s really about it. The music is a cool noir detective sounding theme that doesn’t really fit with the game, but it sounds cool, so who cares? On the other hand, the little “ditty” that plays when you lose a round is a 10 second whistle / drum riff that repeats ad nauseam (and I’m not kidding, it could make you nauseous if you listen too long).
I was pleasantly surprised with Tumble Jumble. It’s not that I expected the game to be bad, but rather that I really didn’t know what to expect out of it. What the developers came up with was Tetris meets Topple with a purpose, and that’s quite all right in my book. The atmosphere is humorous, the music and graphics are really good, and the game play is simple, fun and challenging. Now I just need to create some devious levels to share with my friends… oh wait, that means I’ll have to get me some friends…