Do you know those indie games that get announced, make everyone that hears about them excited and then seemingly disappear into nothingness shortly thereafter? For some time, it looked like Tumbleweed Express was destined to be one of those games.
It's been about five years since the announcement of Tumbleweed Express; a game that puts a Western twist on the tower defense genre by asking players to arm and escort a train through dangerous lands. At the time of its unveiling, Tumbleweed drew a fair amount of praise for its offensive approach to the classic genre, as well as its always welcome use of the still criminally underexplored western genre. Since that time, however, the game has vanished into that dreaded "no response" space where games go before passing into the abyss.
Remarkably, developer The Dirigiballers actually managed to yank this title from the void and put it on Steam for $4.99.
The final product itself is a strange one. Tumbleweed Express mixes traditional western elements with traditional sci-fi to create a world that feels like what may have happened if the Wild Wild West filmmakers decided to just run wild with the concept. It's a bit misleading to refer to is as a tower defense genre, as the tower defense elements really only come in the form of outfitting your train with various pieces of equipment. Instead, most of the action in the game players out like an on-rail shooter (pun not intended) that has you controlling the main cannon to take down a variety of incoming "bullet-hell" type threats.
Is the game actually good, though? My answer would be an enthusiastic "meh." It's incredibly simple, fairly short on content and bears many elements of a game that has been worked on for far too long. Still, it's certainly not a bad game and there is a certain pleasure in seeing one of these titles escape development hell for once.