Devolver Tumble Time is the future’s future of physics-based puzzle gameplay, elegant monetization, and strategic brand integration. Choose characters from a packed roster of your favorite Devolver Digital games and rack up big points matching and clearing their impossibly adorable heads from the tumbler. Get hyped enough and unleash each character’s special ability to clear huge chunks and earn power-ups to create chaotic chain reactions.
Reviewed on: iOS (iPhone 14 Pro)
Also available for: Android
Publisher: Devolver Digital
I had been excited for the release of Devolver Tumble Time; the combination of simple but potentially addictive gameplay paired with the humour and cast of Devolver Digital published games seemed like a combination for success. After playing for a week, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth. The game follows the sin of making jokes about microtransactions while asking me for money and making fun of pointless gacha items while making me feel like nothing I do in the game matters. I feel like an idiot for playing it and even worse for spending the $5 I did.
The gameplay is addictive and a perfect loop of addictive endorphins releasing pops. Inside a machine, a bunch of characters’ heads — they look like Pop Vinyls without the bottom half to me — fall, and you press and hold your finger on any of them to light up all the connected ones, release, and they’ll pop. The goal of any level in Devolver Tumble Time is to reach a specific score or pop a certain number of different characters. It’s easy to pick up and play, and I felt like I was really enjoying my time with the game for the first hour of playing. But after this initial enjoyment, and past the time it had lulled me into thinking it was something other than a time-waster, I released that Devolver Tumble Time is just that: a waste of time.
Let’s start with the first sin: there’s a limit to how often you can play, but you can, of course, pay $4.49 to be able to play the game infinitely. And then there’s the second sin, the gacha mechanic of unlocking new characters — which would be fine in a world where it felt like it was worth being excited about opening with the currency I earnt by playing for free, let alone spending real-world money to speed up the process of, but it’s not. As your characters level up, they gain ranks, but it does nothing. Each character — of which you select one to bring into a level — has a unique ability, like how the baseball character for Hotline Miami will throw it across the game screen to clear out a bunch of the screen, but levelling up the character doesn’t make this more powerful, decrease the cooldown. At least there could have been a visual effect for getting the characters to higher levels. But the game tells you, “this does virtually nothing” as you open gacha’s, and it’s right; they don’t do anything.
But the game’s reliance on humour around crappy money-hungry mobile games while asking me for money constantly rubbed me the wrong way. I would finish reading some joke between levels or a bit of “story” content based around making fun of the industry, only to be offered the chance to “unlock everything in the game” for over $100. I thought this was a joke the first time it popped up, a gag about these things happening in mobile games, but when I tapped the button to purchase and it attempted to charge me, I was kinda shocked. And, of course, you can unlock some extra credits or lives to play if you watch ads in the game.
Devolver Tumble Time could have been special with the suitable systems behind the core gameplay to take advantage of the addictive and simply fun basics. Instead of feeling like your time spent playing the game is worth something, you’re part of the joke and not laughing along with the game. It’s disappointing that a game with such excellent core gameplay must be ruined by predatory and pointless monetization like the ones seen in Devolver Tumble Time. I’m disappointed in Devolver being involved in putting out something like this, which is precisely the type of thing they used to make fun of, and they were the cool publisher for not being involved in it.