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The Tiny Bang Story (PC) artwork

The Tiny Bang Story (PC) review

"The latest lovely hidden object/adventure hybrid is The Tiny Bang Story - and, frustratingly, it gets the mix half-right. Itís evocative, painting a world that seems to spring more and more to life the further you progress into the game. But it falls into some of the classic traps that both adventures and hidden object games have succumbed to over the years, and the result is a game I wish I could recommend more than Iím about to."

Iím a firm believer that hidden object games can be wonderful. Long assumed to be for kids and grandmas, the genre has undergone something of a transformation lately, fusing together with the more traditional, story-driven adventure. And many of these games are just lovely.

The latest lovely hidden object/adventure hybrid is The Tiny Bang Story - and, frustratingly, it gets the mix half-right. Itís evocative, painting a world that seems to spring more and more to life the further you progress into the game. But it falls into some of the classic traps that both adventures and hidden object games have succumbed to over the years, and the result is a game I wish I could recommend more than Iím about to.

The Tiny Bang Story asset

The idea is a delight. The peaceful Tiny Planet has been struck by a meteor which, terrifyingly, has shattered it into hundreds of little pieces. Jigsaw pieces, to be precise. Youíre never given much of an idea as to who you are supposed to be, but whoever you are, itís your job to reconstruct the planet, collecting jigsaw pieces that are scattered around and joining them back together.

Unfortunately, somehow, a good portion of these jigsaw pieces have become trapped behind a range of puzzle-controlled obstacles. And each time you enter a new part of the world, thereís some sort of mad contraption stopping you from escaping again. So youíll collect not just jigsaw pieces, but a variety of different components, all of which have a use as part of one of the many rustic mechanisms that are strewn around the planet.

Itís quite reminiscent of Amanita Designís work - a cross between Machinarium and their earlier games. And Machinarium was, of course, one of the most stunningly gorgeous games ever made: a vast, hand-drawn robot city with distinct districts, joined together masterfully, populated by some of the cutest metallic critters there have ever been. The Tiny Bang Story has obviously taken some notes from Amanita, but they've mixed their new and old art styles into something that's not quite as satisfying as either.

The Tiny Bang Story looks extremely pretty, for sure, and the perfectly fitting soundtrack (available on a separate disc if you buy the special edition) chimes along nicely in the background. But it lacks a little something. In imitating such a tremendously distinctive style, it falls inevitably short - just slightly, but enough to remind you that youíre playing a game from a slightly less masterful developer.

The Tiny Bang Story asset

In the art department thatís nitpicking, but itís a theme that extends through much of the game. At four or five hours, itís not exactly a mammoth investment, but certain sections still drag on as you try to fathom the next irritating logic puzzle. Locating the hidden objects in The Tiny Bang Story is only half of your work, see, as they tend to activate a whole bunch of spatial brain-teasers that range from the basic to the oh-my-goodness-I-think-Iím-going-to-scream.

Which I understand, to a degree. A game like The Tiny Bang Story needs to appeal to a wide audience, and many will prefer to play in short bursts, having another go at this particular puzzle, then putting it down so they can go off and eat some food and watch some soap operas. Thatís fine. I played it in a single sitting, however, and their regularity became tedious. More frustratingly, though, thereís never anything at all inventive. The world in which these conundrums sit is a gorgeous one, devoid of a strong central narrative but brimming with character and the sign of little stories taking place quietly in the background. But most of the puzzles sit incongruously on top.

Have you played the Drawn games? The second one, Dark Flight, in particular? You really should. Theyíre ostensibly the same genre as this: hidden object collection at their core, but with this vast, epic adventure game stacked up around it. And Big Fish, the guys behind Drawn, know how to make this work from a puzzle perspective. Everything is written into the fiction of the game. Every task youíre asked to complete makes sense from a narrative perspective, and as such you feel like youíre having a much more profound effect than you would if you were just arbitrarily twiddling valves and pushing buttons.

The Tiny Bang story doesnít ever stoop to the level of so many awful adventure gamesí nonsense, but youíll still find yourself asking Ďwhy?í on a number of occasions. Why is this door controlled by what is basically a Rubickís Cube? Should I really have to collect 25 balls and arrange them in colour order via a collection of wheels in order to use this elevator? If the answer is Ďyesí, then okay, by all means write it into the story. Here, though, itís just silly and ill-thought-out.

The Tiny Bang Story asset

Thereís also one glaring problem with the hidden object side of things, even though the game deserves credit for always making it clear what youíre supposed to be looking for, and why. Thatís all well and good, but there should have been far more consistency in what you can actually collect. When Iíve been asked to collect ten wheels to use as part of some mechanism, I should be able to collect ten wheels. Any ten wheels. Not the ten wheels that the game has decided I can collect, from the 36 that are placed around the immediate area.

This doesnít happen all the time, but itís enough to take yet more shine off a game thatís honestly worth trying out. In my region itís just £7 on Steam now, which is a much more sensible price than its previous £12 - for the cost of a decent lunch, youíre getting a charming and almost beautiful little genre merger here. It isnít the best of its ilk, though - and when youíve played its inspirations, itís hard not to feel disappointed that The Tiny Bang Story stumbles over the very things those other games perfected.


Lewis's avatar
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (July 28, 2011)

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