- Format: PS4 (version reviewed), PS3, PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: 505 Games
- Developer: Spearhead Games
- Players: 1-4 (offline and online)
- Site: http://www.spearheadgames.ca/projects/
Tiny Brains is a co-op puzzle game featuring a mad scientist who has created genetically modified life forms called the Tiny Brains, from a group of colourful rodents. This group of four diminutive Frankenstein’s furballs each have individual super powers. There’s what looks like a purple bat called Dax, who can push objects around; Stew, a yellow rabbit who can pull items towards him; a freaky red mouse called Pad, who can move items around by swapping places with the object using teleportation; and finally there is Minsc, a blue hamster who creates ice platforms which you can use to place onto buttons, or jump higher. The aim of the game is to escape the clutches of the Tiny Brains creator, by solving a maze of devious puzzles.
You start the game in a testing lab and the Tiny Brains have to make their way through a series of trap-filled puzzle rooms, which have been created by the crackpot scientist. These puzzles start off pretty tame, and it doesn’t take long to finish the first few rooms with only the use of one or two of the characters. Later levels get a lot more complex and you have to quickly switch between all four of the tiny freakish critters. Having to create a platform as Minsc, then jump on it and use Dax to push the ice block under a moving platform, and then quickly change to Stew to pull a battery off a higher platform can have your fingers and thumbs tied in knots as you frantically push the L1 and R1 triggers to find the correct power for the task, which makes playing the game with co-op partners a much easier proposition.
Playing the game in co-op either off or online can be a lot of fun, and Tiny Brains is a lot better for its inclusion. It’s entertaining debating with your partners about how to solve a room, and there are different ways to tackle each of the puzzles, that you might not have thought about yourself. There are several levels that need you to navigate a large ball along a hazardous path, by using the Tiny Brains’ powers to push, pull, teleport or block the ball before it teeters over the edge, or falls back to the beginning of the level. It’s all very frantic, and the sense of achievement when you reach the end of the level is very satisfying. You also come across an army of angry chickens, who have been brainwashed to attack a poor innocent pink chick, and the only way to defend it is to stomp on the heads of the attacking chickens or push, pull or teleport them into a pit or other fiendish traps. This section is repeated various times throughout the campaign, and gets quite repetitive, with an annoying wait for powers to recharge, and the sluggish heroes struggling to keep up with the speedy movement of the evil chickens. Another annoying level sees you trying to save the pink chick from a platform of burners that alternate on and off, and you have to pull and push the critter around the stage to stop its goose getting cooked.
We have to say the visuals aren’t particularly good, and the game would hardly push a PS3 hard, let alone the next generation PS4. The art style is a peculiar mix of bright and colourful cel shaded graphics with the DIY cardboard box style of LittleBigPlanet. The story campaign is short at about five hours in length, and the puzzles themselves aren’t particularly taxing, but there is additional content in the form of challenge maps and extras like a multiplayer football mini game. There are also 20 pieces of cheese to collect to keep you playing. There are a few technical problems which marr the experience, with slowdown being quite prominent, which is inexcusable with the extra power the PS4 has at its disposal. Considering the game is also available on the previous gen machines, this shows that the game hasn’t been very well optimised for the PS4.
Tiny Brains can be an entertaining game when played with friends, and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments to be had; but on your own it can get a bit tedious with a lot of very similar levels involving retrieving batteries to put in a power slot, giant ball escort missions, and the attack wave of killer chickens. Considering the £16.99 outlay the campaign is far too short, with a weak story and unmemorable humour (The crazed scientist who narrates the story has some funny lines, but is certainly no GLaDOS). It may have similarities with Valve’s Portal series, with its mad antagonist and puzzle solving, but it’s nowhere near as accomplished. We can only hope that the interesting premise can fulfill its potential when a sequel is hopefully greenlit in future.