Devolver Tumble Time

If you search for Devolver Tumble Time, you find an article describing the games genre as “Puzzle and Monetization.” Presumably because this article was written with ChatGPT. Apparently, the AI that wrote the article thinks that “Monetization” is a genre of mobile game. And the worst part is, I don’t think it’s wrong.

This is evidence that there is no hell but Earth, and there is no devil but man.

Usually I’d include images of the game. Tumble Time hasn’t earned that, so here’s an unrelated panel from the manga series Chainsaw Man.

Okay, so the game for a moment. Devolver Tumble Time is a “Tumble Matcher.” I don’t know if that’s what the genre is called, but I know full well it’s not the first game to do this mechanic. The first paragraph here should give you a taste of how this review is going to go. This game will get the same level of charity from me that Salvation Army gets, which is say: FUCKING NONE.

(On a more serious note for one moment: the Salvation Army is terrible. Don’t give them your money or stuff. Okay, now back to talking shit about a bad mobile game.)

The game’s primary mechanic is that a bunch of objects fall down, and you match them. Unlike something along the lines of HuniePop, or Beglitched, there’s an aggressive timer. As such, it’s almost always best to just make any matches as fast as possible. Ultimately, this means just tapping the screen semi-randomly as quickly as you can. There are levels, and there are collectible characters, but the tumbling is the game’s actual “mechanics.” I won’t be talking about the mechanics again in this review because they (mostly) don’t matter.

The other thing is, that even though there is an aggressive timer, you can always watch a longer-than-10-seconds ad to get an additional 10 seconds f game time to complete the level. So as long as you’re willing to expose yourself to infinite ads, it is literally impossible to lose. Or if you just spend money. That also makes it impossible to lose.

I think Devolver Tumble Time is trying to be something of a parody of mobile games. Is it satire? Well, Jonathan Swift didn’t go out and eat the Irish, when he wrote “A Modest Proposal,” so I think not. And while it may be ironic that a “good” indie publisher is trying to profit off their IP back catalog by tossing it all together into a standard “good simple game mechanic wrapped in microtransactions for mobile” thing, that’s done by literally every triple A publisher in the world. So I don’t think it’s ironic either.

So, Tumble Time is trying to be a parody. But I’m not sure it’s a very good one. The tone of some of the writing has a light mocking touch to it, poking at the greed of capitalism in general, and a bit at mobile games directly. But the game is also engaged in everything it seems to be trying to poke fun at. There’s a big fancy $99 dollar package you can buy that unlocks everything permanently, but only appears after you pass certain levels that you don’t get any rewards for, because they get “stolen” by the capitalist character, because you didn’t unlock other special characters.

That’s not a parody. That’s classic “One Time Offer” FOMO with a ridiculous price tag. “Ah” you say. “But isn’t it poking fun at the prices and values of items in mobile games?” to which I say “Not really.” That button isn’t a joke. If I press it and enter my password, I’ll be charged $100 dollars.

I could buy 6-7 of the other games the characters are from with that money. I could buy every single Serious Sam game.

The same is true of things like the Daily Login bonuses. These are just tried and true tactics of habit building. Same with limited hearts system, which yes, I can buy infinite hearts for $3, but that’s still $3. And infinite hearts doesn’t unlock all the characters which I can still spend REAL MONEY to do.

Putting on a clown suit, and clown nose and going “Haha, look how silly we are, we’re so silly” isn’t making fun of clowns. It’s being a clown. Clowns are supposed to be funny. Likewise, putting a thin veneer of mockery over an in-app purchase, daily login bonus, or limited hearts system doesn’t make it parody. It’s still the exact toxic bit of design you seem to want to make fun of.

The design that Tumble Time is guilty of.

A friend called the game “Self-Aware,” which I think might be more accurate. But self-awareness and nothing else is a cop-out. Being aware that you’re an awful person, like being aware that you’re a terrible generic cash grab game, and doing nothing to fix it, doesn’t make you better.

So, fuck you Devolver Tumble Time. I actually quite like a lot of games Devolver publishes. The ones I don’t, usually just aren’t for me. But Tumble Time can go die a trash fire. It’s a greedy and manipulative exemplar of every issue present in mobile gaming. It’s self-aware, while not trying to do anything different, and that’s what cements its guilt.

If you want a good puzzle game, go play Beglitched. I refuse to link to Tumble Time here. It hasn’t earned it.