Fernando Da Costa
Available On: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
SMALL FRY OVER HERE! - Introduction
There aren’t many games that, upon first seeing them in an announcement trailer, ravage me with a strong urge to play. Tinykin managed to do just that. It seems I wasn’t the only one to have the feeling either. After all, if you were to jump over to MetaCritic right now, you’d find a favourable reception tied to this title. It’s an 85% approval rate, to be exact, and I, seeing that, couldn’t be more excited. My eagerness was aroused, and once I cleared my plate of personal matters, I jumped in. Developed by a French team with minimal experience, the comparisons to Pikmin are hard to avoid. Perhaps it’s fair to surmise that Nintendo’s franchise was an inspiration. The accolades behind Tinykin certainly paint the picture that it's a must-buy. What happens when it’s put under a microscope and dissected by my amateurish eye?
JUST A TINYKIN OF CHARM! - Writing
I can’t get over how charming the dialogue is. It’s both whimsical and cheery, being a perfect call back to the 3D platformers of the past. The actual narrative is the very definition of being simplistic, and yet, it’s so Goddamn good. Every NPC that you cross snaps a one-liner that has varying results. A couple is mere expositions meant to give them life and the illusion of a living, breathing community. Then there are those tiny blurbs and silly quips that, while not laugh-out-loud hilarious, did give me a nostalgic warmth - text bits accompanied by gibberish help a ton, too. Tinykin is a title where having a minimal script works splendidly in its favour because it’s the ideal experience for a child. I had Spyro growing up, and much like it, it won’t need an advanced reading ability. This title is perfect for children.
GRAB EVERYTHING! - Gameplay
Continuing with the love letter approach to the early nought’s, Tinykin is a collectathon that’s centred around the idea of gathering Pollen. Each stage has a set number hidden throughout, and, for the most part, it's straightforward. My only complaint, albeit minor, is that losing track is easy. Once the area is practically cleared out, it becomes tiresome to sniff out the remaining bits. Monotony slithers into your psyche and does sully the experience. Fortunately, that only affects anyone that has a fetish for completing the challenges a game presents. If you’re wondering why you’d even bother, there’s an achievement system for all of the hunters out there. Granted, this is a little gripe. It’s a nitpick, more because there were only two instances when I failed. Otherwise, I was consistently succeeding; however, there is another reason I bring this up.
FAVOURS FOR POLLEN! - Gameplay
Exploration is a pivotal facet of Tinykin. After all, the level design is absolutely massive, and it masks a fair share of secrets. See, within every zone, mini-goals are sporadically placed on the map. For example, envelopes covertly situated in random sections and, if located, can be delivered to mailboxes, which awards Pollen. Alternatively, there’s a museum within the hub world that had its artifacts stolen. Obtaining these requires taking up favours for NPCs which, often, rarely devolves into boredom. The entertainment is intrinsically laced to traversal, bringing the old-school ideology to the forefront. What I find myself smitten with especially is the items needed are permanently retrievable. In other words, accepting a quest to activate them is not necessary. I can immediately propel myself onto the journey, and if I cross something important, I grab it. This method of operation is unintrusive and, frankly, ideal.
MY MINIONS! - Gameplay
I’ve rambled on enough. You’re here because of the comparison I made. The key reason Tinykin is like Pikmin is that it uses colourful minions to help solve the puzzles of the wilderness, err, rooms. They come in a variety of variations with varying effects. Pink aids in transporting heavy objects to target spots, while red causes the boom boom to go off - blue then act like conductors for electricity, yellow can bridge gaps, and green forms a tower to help the player reach high-up spots. Know that if I could swear, I would, because Goddamn, I love the holy hell out of this feature. These tiny buggers are also sprawled out through the area, giving yet another purpose to squeeze into every crack and behind every book. A bar of soap, which I can use as a skateboard, helps add pep to the adventure.
IS THAT REALLY A GRIPE?! - Gameplay
One exponentially minor downside is knowing which solid aspects of a level can interact with the previously mentioned Pink minions. There’s an ever-so-dim highlight to showcase it, but, as I’ve already alluded to, it isn’t easy to notice. Thankfully, the developers, SplashTeam, have done their due diligence in making sure most moveable objects are more than evident to the naked eye because their potential mobility is tied to common sense, but there’s an exception or two to that rule. While the player does wear a special pair of goggles that can exhibit a unique texture, there are some caveats. Not only must you press a button to slide down the device, but you must be within relative proximity for it to function as intended. It disrupts the seamless loop. With so many high-up vantage points, why it doesn’t work from a distance is a missed opportunity.
SMILE, YOU’RE ON CAMERA! - Gameplay
Several mechanics in Tinykin are tight, responsive, and ready to mingle, but platforming will make or break this title. With that said, I’m thrilled to report that it’s pristine, fantastic, and a bloody grand romp full of child-like delight. It’s immensely beneficial that the camera is not locked, too, meaning a tilt of the right joystick sends it revolving around. It gives me a better perspective of my surroundings to plan the optimal path forward. The collision on things like leaves or furnishings is also immaculate. To illustrate that, I tried cheating it by getting close to the edge. Typically, the surface area isn’t exact, meaning there’s a tiny window when I’d appear floating in midair, but not here. It demands the utmost precision in my jumps for it to register correctly. While frustrating, it forced me to execute my movements methodically, thus engaging.
WHAT PRETTY COLOURS! - Presentation/Performance
If the raw emotion of happiness could be visualized, I’m convinced it would resemble Tinykin to the tee. Something about it left me grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps it’s the beautiful handcrafted and obscenely adorable cutscenes. See, whenever a newly discovered minion joins my ranks for the first time, I’m treated to a short but sweet animated sequence. It’s meant to depict the personality of these little critters, as well as give a hint of the abilities that they have at their disposal. Unfortunately, it isn’t all rainbows as the vibrancy of colours is dulled, and it struggles to pop. That’s a real shame because the graphical fidelity is begging to be graced by illumination. As for the performance, I never noticed a single frame drop as I paraded around with an army of pipsqueak cyclops following behind. I could throw them incessantly without stuttering. The optimization impresses me.
BLISS TO MY EARDRUMS! - Sound Design
There’s only one word to describe the musical musings and soundtrack of Tinykin adequately, and that’s sublime. It complements the cartoony aesthetic that the visuals have. Not only that, but the upbeat nature of it is enough to have you bobbing your head subconsciously as you’re grinding along spiderwebs. Most importantly, for a title that focuses heavily on nailing down the action platformer genre, all it needs is a background that endears you to the experience. By God, that mission was successful. I’m infinitely grateful that they didn’t go with trying to shoehorn voice acting because, honestly, it’s hard to imagine it there. This is a game that I’m of the mind profits from the cute gibberish murmurings. Surprisingly, these tracks also pack a punch with bass that body slams your cornea. The part that blows my mind is the orchestrated score.
AND THE HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS' VERDICT IS…
Tinykin is, without hyperbole, unadulterated bliss. Every gripe I could think of was steeped in subjectivity, proving that there isn’t anything wrong from a technical or objective standpoint. I admit there’s a cardinal sin I kept hush-hush about until this very section. The title is only a mere few hours long. I need more of it. Realistically speaking, it’s a double-edged sword since it never overstays its welcome. The pacing is excellent. This is a game suited to playing with a niece, nephew, son, or daughter. Regrettably, that’s not any indication of multiplayer. Still, I’m in love. The best praise I can give it is it made me feel like a kid again. I was enamoured with it every moment I spent inside the world it built. It’s an easy recommendation for me to make. Even at the total price, you can’t go wrong.
Special thanks to TinyBuild for providing the code used for this coverage.