Animal experimentation is not a prevalent theme in video games. In reality, it’s perhaps the greyest of grey areas where us human animals would rather not know the details about what we’re inflicting on sentient, non-human animals all in the name of research. Maybe it’s a discussion for another time, but whatever your view on it, I applaud Spearhead Games for having this unlikely theme in their game. Of course Tiny Brains is not deliberately an animal rights themed puzzler, but as someone who feels uncomfortable with our treatment of animals on a quotidian basis it feels refreshing to say that this time, I can be on the side of the animals with my DS4 in hand, kicking some human ass.
Tiny Brains is set in a lab where four super-powered animals have to work together to solve puzzles and escape from a mad scientist’s experiment. Each creature has a different super power. For instance, one can push objects away from him; another can pull objects towards him; one can teleport to an object in turn swapping places with it; whilst your final ally can make a block of ice out of thin air. It means Tiny Brains is all about teamwork. Whether playing online with your friends or playing single player, you will have to use a combination of each character’s powers to progress through the lab. They are all colour coded and you will need to switch between each one frequently. A really awesome touch is that the light on the back of the DS4 changes colour to which character you’re using. It’s one of many cool touches on offer here.
Tiny Brains is an ironic title, because to decipher some of the puzzles you will have to rack your brains. The joy of Tiny Brains however is that it never gets too frustrating. Whilst brain power is required, there is never anything impossible to figure out, and that’s where Spearhead have got this so right. The single player campaign will only take you 3-4 hours, which is of course, tiny (to be fair it is called Tiny Story!). That’s why Tiny Brains works though. It doesn’t out stay its welcome. It doesn’t superficially drag out the game play with endless chapters and enemies. There are 4 chapters here, and they are all fun. Whether it’s the brilliant narration of the scientist or stepping on a telephone to find a piece of cheese, Tiny Brains delivers on exactly what it’s trying to do. You’ll solve puzzles, play football, escape lava and more. When written down, the game sounds bonkers. Which is great – because that’s exactly what it is.
As well as solving puzzles, you’ll also have combat sequences where you need to protect a pig in the weirdest tower defence game you’ve ever played, fighting off crazy chickens as you go. The further you get, it becomes crucial which character you switch to and at what point you do it. The game offers a friendly learning curve but doesn’t hand it to you. Tiny Brains may be your friend, but you’re gonna have to earn it and you’ll have immense fun in doing so.
The end of Tiny Story is simply fantastic. The final boss fight is one of the most fun boss fights I’ve ever had. Not too easy, not too hard – just perfect. And the song at the end is genius. It sounds like My Chemical Romance had a songwriting session with Def Leppard whilst getting wasted on helium, with Alvin and The Chipmunks producing. That’s not the end of the Tiny Brains experience though. There are a whole host of other modes here to playthrough and as doable as the main mode is, this is where things get tough. First up you’ll have Tiny Challenges, which are short bursts of ball challenges, combat challenges and puzzle challenges. You can then compare your scores against friends times and try and beat them. You then have Tiny Trolls mode, which is a variant of Tiny Story in which friendly fire is enabled (not an issue if playing solo). Then finally you have Jules Mode, which is the hardest mode. Instead of playing as 4 characters, you play as Jules, who instead has all the powers of the four, which is great. But sadly, he only has one life, which is not so great. To complete Jules mode, you will need to finish each level without dying. It makes trying to get the 100% trophy completion a fun but challenging journey.
Despite being a very clever game, Tiny Brains‘ secret ingredient is actually a very simple one – it’s fun! There is no missing piece of the puzzle here, everything is included; humour, fun and even a little message to take away from it. Whether you play on your own, with friends, or even people you don’t know, Tiny Brains is a no brainer for all ages. Go get it.
Punk rating: 8/10