UPDATE: Release date has been pushed back to November 26th for PS4, and a later unspecified date for PC and PS3.
My most anticipated games of the PS4 are Infamous: Second Son, Killzone Shadowfall, and The Crew, but I suspect I am not being open minded enough with the games I’m looking forward to.
You see, those are all big AAA releases from major studios that got a lot of face-time at shows like E3, and while they all look amazing, I was recently shown a title that I was unfamiliar with…and it blew my mind. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time.
Tiny Brains is a quirky little indie game set to be a downloadable launch title on November 15 (it will also be available on PS3 and PC later in November). The best way I can describe Tiny Brains is that it is a puzzle/party game that’s a combination of Portal, Fusion Frenzy, and Pinky and the Brain….all backed by an electronica soundtrack. Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds, and with the talents of the development team behind it (Simon Darveau of Assassin’s Creed 3’s naval battles fame and Malik Boukhira of AC II and Dead Space 3 fame), it’s a quality piece of work as well.
In the world of Tiny Brains, a mad scientist has created four superpowered lab animals. You can play either of the animals, each with a unique power. One character can create blocks, another can swap its position with any inanimate object, one can push objects, and the last can pull along a vertical/horizontal plane. Each puzzle (presented as individual sections of one giant lab maze) is best solved with a combination of each characters’ powers, but if you find yourself with less than the ideal four players, the game will dynamically alter the puzzles so that they are solvable with however many people are playing at the moment.
I got to try out the PS4 version of the game, and the different colored lights on the controller will also correspond to whichever character you are using (red, blue, green, or purple). It’s not something that’s an integral part of gameplay, but it’s still a nice little added quirk. By the way, separate note; even though it was a prototype, the Dualshock 4 felt REALLY nice, leaps and bounds above the DS3. It’ll work quite nicely with shooters and racing games.
Like I mentioned earlier, four player co-op is the ideal way to play the game, and if you can get four players in the same room (vs online) playing local co-op, then that’s the way to go. Tiny Brains has a party game atmosphere, and working together to figure out puzzles is a blast. The concept of each puzzle is very simple in theory, and very Portal-esque: your job is to essentially obtain crates scattered about the room and use them to throw switches in order to open gates to advance to the next area.
Simple on paper; often mind-blisteringly difficult in practice.
In any given level, you’ll have to work together to figure out one of multiple solutions on how to proceed. The frustrating (in a good way) thing is, as soon as you enter an area you might think to yourself “Oh…one switch and one crate, EASY!” Then 20 minutes later you’re still trying to get one damn crate over the gap onto the switch. You might need to use one character to swap places with the crate, then another to force push it over the gap onto the switch. Or maybe you’ll need to build a block, have another character stand on it, then force push both over the gap in order to even access the area to do anything with the crate. Or maybe everything you tried doesn’t work, and the only thing you can do is to sacrifice a character in order to switch places with the crate (unlimited respawns, btw). Either way, experimentation is encouraged, and teamwork is a must.
Thee demo session I attended let me and a few others try out a few levels in Story Mode (which not only involved the aforementioned switch throwing, but also some areas where we had to fight hordes of chickens and big, leviathan chickens), and a Challenge Mode. There was also a third mode called Tiny Soccer which I didn’t get to check out, but based solely off the name, I assume it’s pretty epic.
The Challenge Mode level I played involved all four characters moving a giant ball through a large tube-shaped room. The room is constantly rotating and scattered throughout the entire “tube” are breakable panels and gaps for the ball to fall through. All four of us players were thrust into a wild race against time to get the ball as far up the tube as possible, and it quickly turned into a screaming match as we tried like hell to avoid the gaps and breakable panels. Superpowers were thrown about with reckless abandon as we all struggled to do something as simple as moving a ball around. It was SO much fun.
I ended my session with a good feeling about PlayStation’s slate of indie titles, and a hankering to spend more time with Tiny Brains. Let me put it this way; I have Battlefield 4 and Killzone Shadowfall reserved as the first games I will pick up when I get my PS4, but I suspect the first game I will actually play will be Tiny Brains. I got a small taste of what’s in store, and I had a blast at the demo. Technological prowess impresses me a lot, but at the end of the day, a fun game will always beat out pretty graphics in my book. Tiny Brains puts the “fun” back into video games; it makes me think back to my college days getting together with buddies and playing through Fusion Frenzy while drinking, uh….juice.
Keep your eyes on this one, and give it shot when the PS4 launches on November 15th for $19.99, or later in the month for PC and PS3! For more information, check out the Tiny Brains Twitter page, and also the Spearhead Games Facebook and Twitter pages.