A virtual reality version of Jenga may not sound the most exciting use of VR, but it’s more fun than you might think.
Over the next few months it’s going to be interesting to see whether having VR editions of existing games becomes a new fad. Three of the PlayStation VR launch games are repurposed downloadable titles (this, Super Stardust, and Hustle Kings), and in the future there’s the promise of bigger name games such as Rez and Project CARS. Compared to most of those Tumble is a less obvious choice for adaptation, but it’s actually one of the best PlayStation VR games so far.
Tumble was originally released in 2010, alongside the then new PlayStation Move controllers – which have themselves seen an unexpected return from obscurity, as the best way to control many PlayStation VR games. Tumble itself owes its inspiration to pub favourite Jenga, as well as Wii puzzle game Boom Blox. That means you’re building and destroying towers made up of little toy blocks, and having considerably more fun doing so than that probably sounds.
As you’d expect, Tumble was originally just as much a demonstration of the Move controller’s accuracy and functionality as it was a standalone game. And in that respect it has always done well, with the control you have over the blocks you pick up proving extremely subtle and precise. There’s a very tactile feel to it all, helped by some excellent sound effects and good use of force feedback, as blocks clunk and clatter about the screen.
You don’t actually need the Move controllers to play the game though, as the DulaShock 4’s built-in motion controls also work fine. In fact, they’re slightly better in some ways, as rotating an object in 90 degree chunks is easier using the analogue sticks then it is flicking your wrist.
The game is structured as a series of different puzzles, the most basic tasking you with constructing a tower of a minimum height. But there are many other puzzle types, including building bridges, trying to fit a set number of blocks underneath a moving limbo bar, bending a laser light by positioning blocks with mirrors in them, and setting a small set of mines to demolish a tower.
Soon enough the different properties of the blocks – from glass to metal – also become an issue and there are levels that vary the gravity or spin the tile you have to start building on. There’s also a Tetris like element in the increasingly odd-shaped pieces that all seem to have been chosen as the very least suitable for the job.
In terms of the actual VR there’s no pretence that it does anything transformative to the gameplay, although being able to look around at the things you’re building from any angle is obviously helpful. And as ever the sense of immersion is greatly increased, although in this case it just feels like you’re sitting playing in what looks like a sterile Ikea showroom. The game’s lack of character was commented upon the first time round, and in the VR version there’s now a little floating robot telling jokes. Which comes across as a (very) poor man’s Portal.
But while the VR angle adds relatively little to the experience, Tumble VR is one of the few games which make use of the TV screen to allow other people to join in alongside you. In this case they get to control a robot drone and knock down whatever you’re building. It’s as gimmicky as it sounds, but it is interesting to see how offline VR multiplayer could work in the future.
Tumble VR is largely the same game that was released in 2010, but its simple visuals make it relatively timeless and its control trickery seems more impressive than ever when used together with VR. It’s not exactly something you’d buy the headset for, but unlike many of the other launch titles it works exactly as intended and is actually an entertaining little puzzle game to boot.