STAFF REVIEW of Tinykin (Xbox One)

Thursday, August 25, 2022.
by Peggy Doyle

Tinykin Box art I have been looking forward to the full launch of Tinykin since I had the pleasure of previewing it back in June. In my initial preview I was enamoured, and I am pleased to say that those feelings are still evident after getting to play the full game.

My love for gaming has always had one constant. Drop me into a massive non-linear environment where I can explore and collect, and I’ll be my happiest gamer self. Give me a unique way to move around and some cool abilities and I’m even happier. Cute animation and little pet like creatures are a bonus. Tinykin checks all of these boxes for me. Developer, Splashteam, and publisher TinyBuild, have combined eye catching 2D art with interesting 3D environments that kept me fully engaged and interested. I was so invested in the game that I played through the whole story in one sitting.

You play as Milo, a tiny space man who has crash landed on Earth. Well, a specific place on Earth, someone house. This home is normal size for us but enormous to Milo. An entire universe unfolds before him, each room opening to another unique landscape and explore and adventure in. A variety of bugs (cute and not creepy) have set up colonies throughout the home, and you’ll interact with them as they perform their normal daily routines. Some will work low wage jobs and struggle, some live like royalty.

There is a ‘church’ in one section with insects worshipping and singing, another room has insects planning a huge party. Each room has its own theme and is beautifully crafted to create a full landscape using typical household items in a variety of ways. The kitchen had ‘fields’ made of scouring pads for example. You’ll definitely want to spend time getting lost in the environments and explore, a lot. The attention to detail when creating these worlds did not get overlooked by me. The way Splashteam took normal objects and created something out of the ordinary, kept me playing the game with a grin on my face the entire time. A convert hall inside a guitar? A beach party in a bathtub? Adorable.

Each room had one main mission to get the piece shown on the blueprint to rebuild the spaceship, but there are also some side quests. Some of them are optional and some are required to progress the main quest. There is a jar of nectar, 4 letters to collect and deposit into a mailbox, and pollen to collect in each room. It varies per room level but often was close to 1000 units of pollen to collect in each room. If you want to collect all of it, it will take time and dedication. Thankfully there is a counter to tell you how many you have as you work through the rooms. This pollen replaces the standard coin collecting mechanic that you’d often find in platform style games.

Ants, beetles and other tiny creatures bring additional stories to the game play, and some of them will give you these optional tasks to complete. When you complete them, you earn collectible items or pollen as rewards. These collectible items go into a museum of sorts where you can view them. I didn’t 100% Tinykin, as there was a lot to collect, and I think if you’re a completionist you will find it a bit of a grind to get everything. I played through the journey, collecting the majority of items in about 6 hours.

Traversing these large room landscapes uses three basic mechanics. Walking, using a soap bubble to float (which can be upgraded over time to float longer distances) and a soapboard. The soapboard is a skateboard-like object that helps you glide across surfaces quickly, also allowing you to slide across strands of web above the ground. I think the soapboard could have been used in more ways, and although fun to use I wish they had expanded on its use. Mechanically I found very few issues with movement in the game, and if I fell, it was normally my own inattention versus the fault of sticky controls.

Now, of course this game would be nothing without its namesake, the tinykin. Once you free them from their eggs, they follow around behind you. There are 5 colours of them, each coming with their own powers. First you will encounter pink. They are the strongest and can carry items around for you. Then red with the ability to blow things up. As you move throughout the levels you will have a different combination of tinykins to locate and use. They will not follow you from level to level, but if you leave and come back to a level later, they will be waiting for you - you won’t lose them. As you collect the tinykin, you will amass a large, adorable group of followers. When you need to use them it’s a simple pull of the Right Trigger to get them to activate. I was glad there was no awkward menu scrolling to determine which to use, and if you have them in your inventory they will automatically select.

Each interaction has a certain number of tinykin needed to perform the action. It could be 1 or 2 to blow something up or it might be 25 to carry an item. If you don’t have enough of a particular colour, you can look around and gather more of them. By the time you reach the last room you will have all 5 colours. Joining pink and red is green, with the ability to stack you can reach new heights, blue with the ability to conduct electricity and yellow with the ability to join together to make ramps and bridges. One complaint I had was the last 2 you encounter were the blue and yellow and they had the least interesting abilities in my opinion. I know I’ve already said how cute the game is, but now you can just imagine a group of close to 50 teeny, little tinykin following you and when you stop for a moment, Milo and all the tinykin fall asleep. It’s really cute.

Along with the ease of use when determining which tinykin to use in a situation is how smart they are, particularly the pink carriers. If you need something moved from one location to another, they will simply pick it up and take it where it needs to go. There is no need to micromanage them. The only thing you will have to potentially do to assist them is create ramps or bridges, or open areas for them to cross parts of the room. One example of this is when you need them to pick up and move a polaroid camera. They will take it where it needs to go. Then you just go to the location and complete the next step in the puzzle.

The artwork in Tinykin is really a great combination of 2D characters in a 3D environment. The combo was unexpected but just worked. The dialogue was all in text format, so there was a lot or reading involved. I would have liked to see some more options for increasing the size of the text or changing the colour of the text on screen. For a game that does rely on colours a lot, I would have thought you’d see colour blind options. It was something I did notice during the preview and had hoped it would have been added in the full launch, but no luck. I am guessing because the menu is intuitive and auto selects the tinykin for you that perhaps they felt the need wasn’t there. There are adjustments for screen movement and vibration though, and these helped immensely with the motion sickness I experienced a bit in the preview.

Tinykin doesn’t do anything original in the platforming genre, but that doesn’t matter. What it does, it does really well. I played the whole game through is one sitting of about 6 hours and had a silly grin on my face the whole time. While that may seem really short for some players, I appreciated that it didn’t overstay its welcome. It showed up and gave me a solid gaming experience and moved on. I didn’t get bored or find myself just wanting it to be over. While I would have liked a few more mechanics to mix it up in the later levels. I was so enthralled with the environments that it didn’t take away from my overall impression of it. This game was full of clever dialogue, enough puzzles to keep me happy and a narrative twist that kept me on my toes. It’s quirky from start to finish and proof that good things can come in small packages.

**Tinykin was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X*

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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