Tumblebugs is a game from , originally released 31st December, 1969

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Tumblebugs Review

Hey, you know that one puzzle game where you’re that thing that shoots colored marbles at other colored marbles? You know, that one game? Well, Tumblebugs is one of those games and a fine version of it at that. However, if you already own one those games (Luxor, Stoneloops of Jurassica, Atlantis Sky Patrol, etc.) then there is absolutely no reason for you to care about Tumblebugs.

In Tumblebugs, hundreds of cuddly, multicolored bugs are forced into convenient marble shapes and rolled through various pathways by black bugs trying to enslave them. Only Tumble, with his ability to clear the marbles/bugs by matching three in a row, can save them. It’s always fun to see how games like these make sense of the marble shooting mechanic in the context of the story, and Tumblebugs’ brief humorous storyboards do not disappoint.

Many apps in this genre place your marble shooter at the bottom of the screen, and have you use your finger to scroll left and right while blasting the marbles of above you. Tumblebugs, on the other hand, takes a few liberties as far as shooter placement is concerned. Sometimes you’ll be on the bottom of the screen but often you’ll be somewhere in the middle. Moreover, the shooter itself is fixed in its spot and doesn’t scroll. Instead, you touch the area you want to shoot and the marble will follow the path until it hits another marble. This method gives you somewhat more range and control but is too imprecise too often.

Picnic infestation.

The controls start to become an issue later on in the game when things get tougher. At first, marbles go through a standard circular path, making it easier for you to clear them before they reach the finish. However, later on the paths get more twists and turns, and often the marbles you want to hit will be blocked by other marbles. It’s a shame because while these later stages add some nice variation to the experience, the unresponsive controls, combined with the complicated layout, add too much artificial and unpleasant difficulty.

At least Tumblebugs looks fine. Granted, it doesn’t have the style of something like an Atlantis Sky Patrol, but its standard cartoon visuals don’t detract. Marbles roll in a way that looks 3D, and since the game is based around fighting factions of insects, many levels take place in locales such as a forest, a backyard, a pool, and a front lawn littered with Frisbees.

Your quest to out-puzzle the evil black bugs spans 10 worlds with five levels each, and although the gameplay never changes significantly from each brief level to the next, it is a game worth playing until the end both for its challenge and varying level designs. Other features include Facebook connectivity and the ability to use your own songs as the game’s soundtrack, a feature that developers should always consider as it can change the mood of your game in a very humorous way. In-game sound effects have a nice pop and the default soundtrack, with its piano and xylophone themes, is surprisingly good on its own.

If you have not already bought a Match-3 marble puzzle game like this, Tumblebugs is a fine purchase. But chances are you already have, and that game may be better than Tumblebugs, too.

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Tumblebugs Hands-On

The marble-popping genre can generally be grouped into two categories: Luxor clones and Zuma clones. Tumblebugs, a port of the online game that has been played about 35 million times, falls into the latter category.

While the game is a port, its controls have been tailored to the iPhone’s touch screen. Shooting balls is performed by tapping where you want to shoot it, and touching the bugs switches between upcoming balls. The goal is the same as always: match three or more marbles of the same color and create chains. Power-ups are also true to other takes on the genre, including multi-color balls, bombs, and reversing the motion of oncoming waves.

Tumblebugs sports 75 levels to work through, increasing the difficulty and new power-ups as you progress. However, we felt the game was tailored towards a younger audience due to its youthful style, light story, and fairly easy difficulty level. This is not exactly a bad thing, though, and it shows that the developer Tag Games, who also brought you Car Jack Streets, can appeal to both sides of the spectrum of gamers.

The game has a good amount of personality. Occasional comic book cutscenes tell the story of how the once-peaceful tumblebugs have been taken prisoner by the evil black bugs. As the oversized Tumble, you must clear the backyard of your enemies. We would have liked to see this story take more of a front seat in the game, like in Blackbeard’s Assault.

Our current build does have some rough edges, however, that we hope are addressed before launch. The framerate on our 3GS is fairly choppy, and some more appealing fonts and animations would help this game immensely. Also, multiple difficulty levels would be nice to help the game appeal to a broader audience.

Tumblebugs is nothing we haven’t seen before, but if some extra polish and attention to the storyline is added, it could be a worthy filler for Zuma until Popcap ports their game over, which we feel will happen in the not-too-distant future.