Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: PC (Steam), PS3, PS4
Release Date: December 3, 2013
A PS4 downloadable code was provided by the publisher for this review
What has been sorely lacking from the gaming world as of late? It seems that there are fewer and fewer co-op games available. Although there are zillions of online shooters cropping up, being able to play with a friend or two in your own living room has become a much rarer occasion. Spearhead Games must have been aware of this disparity when they created Tiny Brains. This multiplayer-focused puzzle platformer is getting some attention, especially for launching on PS4, but is it worth your time?
It seems that if you are playing alone, you'd best skip Tiny Brains entirely. My first playthrough was a completely solo experience. Although it was beatable, it was also very tough with timing at points that would have otherwise been okay. On multiple occasions you realize that the developers really wanted this to be beaten with a few players and not just one person. Still, with enough determination a lone player can make it through.
The problem is they probably won“t want to. Tiny Brains focuses on four different animal lab subjects. They've been tampered with by an evil scientist, and of course, wish to escape his control! Each is tiny but highly intelligent thanks to the experiments. Although each creature has a distinctive design, little was done to infuse them with any discernible personality. A different skill is assigned to each of the four and it“s your task to figure out when to use what skills to solve puzzles. Even though there are four abilities, most puzzles don“t end up being complex. Some circumstances will be head-scratching the first time, but simpler once the mechanic has been introduced.
But even once you understand how to solve a puzzle, you still might take five or more tries to make it work. This is the case in either solo or co-op play. When one person is playing, the issue comes with timing. There are multiple timed segments in the game which are so tight that any misstep leads right to failure. With other players, the issue then becomes making sure everyone keeps up their task without screwing up. Playing with friends is a nice social experience but is definitely not conducive to careful game playing.
When puzzles have to continually be repeated it leads to intense amounts of frustration. Thankfully, checkpoints are frequent and puzzle rooms are usually quite small. They tend to require one main solution rather than a complex set of maneuvers. So, in a way, Tiny Brains is actually very simple, mechanically-speaking. It“s just when you factor in the many failed attempts at certain puzzles that most positive emotions begin to wash off.
Tiny Brains is certainly trying, but that doesn“t make it able to provide a very fun experience. A friend stated her opinion as â€œthis game is suckâ€ while listening to my gripes, and that awkwardly-worded jab is not something I usually hear. Frustration was the name of the game more often than not, but at least there were no huge glitches to run into. If anything, it just seems that the developers were playing it too safe with puzzle design. Things are mostly easy to figure out. Having to fight against a puzzle game to beat it is not the way you want a puzzle playing experience to go, and yet, this is exactly what ended up happening.
So when it comes right down to it, there is a small audience for Tiny Brains. You have to be someone willing to deal with a game that has little in regards to an interesting story or cast. There is also a need to be accepting of silly mistakes because they“ll happen incredibly often. Finally, you need to be okay with often troublesome play over the course of its three hour campaign. If, for some reason, you“re still desperate for a co-op puzzle game then go forth. Tiny Brains fulfills a niche - in a way that is anything but ideal.
+ One of only a few co-op puzzle platformers
+ Each lab animal has their own unique mechanic
+ Great music
- Most puzzles challenge patience and fortitude over logic
- Characters have practically no personality despite their intriguing appearances
- With single player being a more difficult experience, perhaps the game should have been made co-op only
Overall Score: 3.0 (out of 10)
Playing Tiny Brains reveals there were solid concepts in mind during development. However, the end product feels more like a rough draft than a finished work.