What does a Stegosaurus, a Fruit Fly, and a Green Lizard have in common? About as much as four genetically altered animals with superpowers, but beyond that they all have tiny brains. It’s understandable if you're still caught on the whole mice with superpowers thing, so I’ll try to explain the best I can. You see, there’s this secret underground base where this mad genius/scientist has created what he believes to be the perfect creatures. The next stage of evolution as it were. These tiny animals each have a unique superpower as well, which makes them insanely dangerous.
Don’t worry though, none of that is actually real, it just so happens to be set up for a hilarious and fun four player puzzle action game called Tiny Brains, released as a download for the PS4 for $9.99. I put this game through its paces in the story mode and had an absolute blast. But is it worth the price of entry? As per the usual, I’m not going to tell you just yet. Read on.
Tiny Brains is about a mad scientist who has managed to create four unique animal experiments, each with their own superpowers. There’s Dax who is a bat with the ability to push objects great distances. Stew is a rabbit with a vortex vacuum ability that allows him to pull objects to him. Minsc is a hamster who can create ice platforms that will launch you into the air. Finally there’s Pad the mouse, who has the ability to switch places with any object.
This team of super experiments is put through paces by the mad scientist until things begin to go awry. I won’t spoil any of the events or hilarious jokes, but suffice to say the game has this interesting mix of innocent Pixar like humor, combined with more sinister and macabre methods of telling it’s jokes. One minute you’ll be laughing at how the russian sounding scientist is singing in the shower, and the next you’ll cringe as he talks about eating the little chickens he uses for the experiments. It’s all in good fun, it’s just interesting to see the game’s humor use two opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to jokes.
The story here isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s also not intrusive. I think it fits a game like this perfect as it keeps everything grounded in a set reality, while also not hampering the pacing of the gameplay.
Tiny Brains is an action puzzler with a healthy emphasis on the action. The game can be played with one to four players either online or local co-op. The local co-op is a big plus for me as many games don’t offer this option and Tiny Brains succeeds wildly by adding it in as a feature. The camera has a fixed perspective, offering the ideal view of each scenario. The game’s puzzles start out simple but quickly ramp up in difficulty. They’re never frustrating and thanks to pitch perfect controls, in addition to rapid fire switching between the four characters, you’ll never feel like the game is holding you back. What makes this game even more unique is that it plays very differently when you play in a single player or multiplayer setting. I played with two players myself and we found ways to solve the puzzles that involved us working together in tandem. Without the second player, I would have been forced to use the various character powers is a far different way to reach the same solution.
Beyond the puzzles you solve, you’ll also have areas where you fight enemies or protect a friendly ally. This are great because they break up the puzzles with something a little more straightforward. Here you’ll have to find ways to crush, or knock the enemies off a ledge to defeat them before you’re overwhelmed. These encounters constantly add new and exciting environmental variants to keep them fresh.
In addition to using the DualShock 4, you can also play the game with the Vita as another controller, giving you the option to use that instead of having to buy another controller. Once you finish the story mode, which is unfortunately very short (only about three hours) you unlock two additional modes and you can access the challenge maps which are great for multiplayer. The unlocked modes include one called Troll where you can attack your allies, and Jules which has you playing a character who can use all the powers at once. Finally, there’s a soccer mini game that can be played in multiplayer.
One item of note is that when you’re playing multiplayer and you find one of the collectible cheese wedges, the game will freeze for about three seconds and then resume normally. Not sure why it does this, but there’s a heads up so you don’t think something is wrong with your system. Overall though, the gameplay in Tiny Brains is pitch perfect and absolutely fun when you have more than one player working together.
Tiny Brains unfortunately doesn’t really take advantage of the PS4’s graphical power. The art style is certainly colorful and the designs of the characters are inspired. The environments aren’t incredibly creative or striking, but they serve their purpose just fine. Background items to see offer some funny things to spot outside the level you’re inhabiting. One thing that did annoy me was that the game suffers from very noticeable screen tearing. You’ll see the screen stutter whenever the camera pans and this marks the first time I’ve seen the issue in a PS4 game.
Tiny Brains is also cross-buy with the PS3, so I’m willing to wager that this isn’t a true PS4 game and more so a PS3 one that was made to work on PS4. That being said, it does utilize the touch pad to put down arrows in case you need to point out something to your partner online. Each of the characters are also a specific color, red, blue, green, and purple. Depending on which character you are, the lightbar on the Dualshock 4 will change to match that character’s color. I thought this was a minor, but cool feature for the PS4.
The Final Verdict
Tiny Brains has some big ideas that elevate it past the realm of “fun little puzzle game.” This one deserves to stand amongst the titans of the genre. Perhaps not on their shoulders, but more at their feet. The puzzles are inventive, the action and pacing is great, and the characters are all fun to use. The only real complaints I have are the lackluster graphics, the screen tearing, and the length of the game’s story mode. If you plan on playing this with friends, it’s a no brainer. You may want to think twice before buying it to play by yourself though as the experience won’t be as long or engaging.
Final Score: 8/10
Have you played Tiny Brains? Do you think it’s worth the price tag? Tell us in the comments!
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 2/05/2014
April 7th, 2014 Update:
Tiny Brains has officially had its price decreased from $19.99 to $9.99, and we have updated the review text accordingly; the score, however, remains the same.
Additionally, Tiny Brains has added the following functionality to the game for free:
- 10 new time-based and puzzle challenges
- A new power for Minsc
- Users who are playing the demo can play online with users who have the full game
- Cross-Buy functionality, so users who own the PS4 version now also own the PS3 and vice versa.
Update by - Joshua Phillips