Sleepless nights and whirling marble shooters do not mix well, but they are the fare by which I stay somewhat sober. Tumblebugs, a game which I am loath to call a Blackbeard clone, is a new game by Connect2Media and Tag Games which will have you spinning like mad. What 35 million PC users have already discovered is that it is fun, but not easy to save the bug world from the evil dominion of the black bug and his legions.
Before praise ensues, I may have to clear the decks a little. Tumblebugs’ main menu is simply astonishing. Before you even set up to play; before you watch the intro story; before you do anything, you can taste Tumblebugs’ gameplay from the game menu itself. Yes, Tumble (that’s you) gets to shoot at an endlessly rolling army of bugs in what is a great, but small, preview of the game. I cannot say how much this means to me. Small feature? I think not – it is simply a stunning way to get users acquainted with the game which will dominate the better part of their afternoon.
Fortunately, Tumblebugs doesn’t look back from there. Among marble shooters, it stands tall for a number of reasons. Firstly, it looks phenomenal. From bright, colourful levels to Tumble’s great animations, Tumblebugs is a hot looking game. Somewhat strange in a marble shooter, there is an illustrated story which sets the mood very well. In my mind, a marble shooter game story shouldn’t have gobs of detail, nor should it be anything but jokes. There should be loads of melodrama and a loveable, but flawed hero. Points A-Z nailed: Tumble, the hero is great, but is s/he up the task? Answer: not when I play! There are simply too many beetles to liberate, and I am inept! As for the baddy – imagine a Star Wars Darth Bug character – that is the evil black bug – that is melodrama.
It doesn’t help that there are so many levels of varying layouts and bug trails. Just when I thought I had sussed out how to beat anything which came my way, the next level shoved me back in my seat. Thankfully, there are a number of powerups and combos available which will help clear the board. My favourite happens to be Ballistic Bugs, a powerup which lets you shoot over the rows of oncoming bugs to hit the exact gap you want to hit, and hopefully, cause collateral damage and spark any number of combos. I’ll admit to not getting much past about level 15 out of 78, but I can assure you that gameplay is top notch and with a small number of lives and many near-death experiences, a game which should suit nearly every level of gamer.
Of course, for those who do really well, or are not ashamed of public humiliation, scores can be uploaded to Facebook, and for the biggest fans, you can even send an email to a friend to encourage them to check the game out.
I’ll say it: Tumblebugs is perhaps the best marble shooter I have played and I will admit to having become somewhat of a junky. However, the iPhone version has some kinks to work out. The first is screen usage. Though nearly flawlessly laid out, when oncoming beetles come near the extreme top of the screen, they can tend to be buried by a semi-translucent menu, making it nearly impossible to take aim and fire. The other major complaint is tap accuracy. To shoot, you tap the gap or colour which you are targetting. Unlike other marble games which have a visible ball trail, Tumblebugs assumes that you and it agree on where you are shooting. The problem is that often, the spot which was tapped and the spot to where the ball fires are a few degrees off – a few degrees which make the game very difficult to finish.
There is no denying it, Tumbebugs is a fun, if in its current form, slightly flawed game. For the colour-blind (yours truly), it will be a true challenge as most of the bugs are perfectly within our our wide range of invisibles. But, it is good fun beat our handicap. In the world of marble shooters, it is a turn from the ordinary which simply rocks, but bugs the hell out of me in a most pleasant way.