Speahead Games hopes to revitalise the coop puzzler genre on PS4 with Tiny Brains. Only a mad scientist’s selection of hopefully devious puzzles can stand in the way of freedom for our rag tag bunch of super powered critters.
Unfortunately for ‘Mr Scientist’, his woeful experiments upon a harmless family of rodents have left them with unusually useful powers with which to escape a maze like situation. Filled with puzzles that conveniently require each of the various creatures talents, utilized in combination, seems the perfect setup for a coop game. One can create blocks of ice, another can push, conversely, one can pull; finally one can switch places with certain objects. Let the four player mass confusion commence!
As opposed to remembering each of the rodents names, which for reference are: Pad, Minsc, Stew and Dax, you’ll instead rely on their individual colour palettes to distinguish them in moments where time is of the essence. For some reason, the backlight on the Dualshock 4 also changes to correlate with the selected character too, not altogether that useful unless perhaps you’re sat opposite your coop partner and don’t mind being constantly distracted by the pad’s, vibrant, changing colours.
If multiplayer’s not your bag, then singleplayer should suffice at a push, the game is somewhat dynamic, meaning that areas should change depending on how many people are playing, making it physically possible! Whilst you’re on your lonesome, you can switch between each of the characters at a whim. The upside of playing by oneself is of course the lack of distractions, therefore letting you solve the games puzzles rather quickly, the challenge therefore, is being able to complete sections that were designed with multiple players in mind. Fortunately, when you switch character, the game renders in slow motion for a few seconds, letting you utilize your powers with plenty room for manoeuvring.
Unfortunately, the games diversity in puzzles let’s it down; you’ll quickly realise that there are only around three or four separate styles of brain teaser that repeat throughout the campaign. There’s the standard, get across to the other side of the room using the same tactic that was mentioned early on in the game. The frustrating, ‘ball must be pushed up a hill whilst avoiding obstacles’ puzzle. Another being the old, protect the chick by pushing it onto segments of a platform that don’t set on fire and finally, the fighting parts. These are odd. There are many ways to despatch the steroid induced chickens that swamp you; due to your powers, you can lure, push and pull them into the gratuitous bottomless pits that adorn the arenas. Whereas the little chicks can also be vanquished by creating a block of ice and squishing them, you can also take the tried and tested Mario route and simply jump on their heads too.
It seems odd that there appears to be more ways of playing as an intensive chicken farmer than there is of solving the games main puzzles. Whilst playing solo especially, you’ll often complete a puzzle via some exceptionally sketchy diagonal jumping and think, was that really what they wanted me to do? Whereas it’s either that, or hope you don’t get partied up online with a few irksome players who refuse to understand what you could possibly mean by placing an icon with the touchpad, indicating where they should go to help solve the puzzle.
For better or worse, you won’t be enjoying the myriad of brain teasing antics for too long as the length of Tiny Brains isn’t it’s strongest suit, 3-4 hours will easily be enough to polish off the campaign mode and a few challenge rooms too. Other modes become unlocked once you’ve completed it, primarily focusing on challenges and generally tarting about with your friends, but once you’ve had a few goes, there’s nothing to really drag you back.
The general visual appeal seems to flit between cutesy and simple to bland and mundane. The characters masquerade their own detail due to the nature of the game’s zoomed out, almost grainy viewpoint. Instead of seeing the uniqueness of each character, you’ll once again resort to calling them by colour. The soundtrack is fairly inoffensive if not a little underused, in fact the only time it seems to really kick in, save for (hopefully) a homage to portal during the credits, is when you’ve failed a section which can feel a little sarcastic.
There can be a lot of entertainment to be had with Tiny Brains; unless you’re interested primarily in singleplayer, there’s a reasonable amount of content too. If however you do want to play it alone, you’ll find yourself at the credits within an afternoon, along with a perplexed expression upon your face that has little to do with the games puzzles. Play with a bunch of friends however; a grin is all but guaranteed.
Reviewed on PS4, also available on PS3 and PC.