The PlayStation 4’s digital catalogue is bolstered by the duplication of its retail releases at present, with few truly unique titles available to download. One of the few early titles is Spearhead Games’ Tiny Brains, a curious puzzle videogame that can be played solo or with up to three friends. It’s a videogame designed purely with the intention of taxing its players with cerebral challenges; a far cry from anything else currently available on the console.
There are many indirect comparisons for Tiny Brains, with the likes of Portal and Quantum Conundrum offering similar mental challenges while Max: The Curse of Brotherhood presents the same variation in skillset. However, all of these videogames add an additional layer: Portal features momentum, Quantum Conundrum adds perspective and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood includes platform challenges. Tiny Brains is purely about the puzzling.
The player(s) will move through an elaborate testing environment in which the genetically modified animals as which they play will be used to solve problems and prove their intelligence. This means using the unique abilities of each animal in different ways. With four players onboard each takes on the role of a different animal, though a single-player can switch between all four instantly at will. The puzzles typically revolve around getting the correctly shaped object onto the switch in order to open the door to the next challenge room. These challenges begin very simply, using a block of ice to weigh down a switch for example, but soon they ramp up the difficulty and challenge you to combine multiple powers.
The videogame has been designed for you to confer with friends, with an arrow system that means you can directly indicate the area you wish for other animals (or yourself) to be in simply by using the Dualshock 4’s touchpad. Sadly, many of the puzzles have been designed with the idea of having two or more players present and as such are substantially more difficult when playing solo. Spearhead Games have made every effort to include a variety of multiplayer opportunities – online, local and even using the PlayStation Vita as a controller – but it’s still clear that Tiny Brains is significantly weaker when playing alone.
Tiny Brains also includes a number of additional gameplay modes outside of its main campaign, including a competitive challenge mode and Tiny Soccer, which is pretty much what its title suggests it to be. Two further gameplay modes are available once the Tiny Story mode has been completed, and without wishing to spoil the surprise they both add a little longevity to the Tiny Brains experience.
The visual design of Tiny Brains is welcoming without ever being close to astonishing. It’s colourful and clear in it’s distinction between heights and spaces, though to call if charming would be overstating the issue. The soundtrack is a typical ‘gamey’ style accompaniment and the voice acting is reasonable despite being hamstrung by a frequently irritating script. Tiny Brains is, without wishing to sound pessimistic, an adequate performer on a system far more technically capable than anything we’ve yet seen in console gaming.
A mental challenge in an era that’s all about action experiences, and for that it’s likely to stand on it’s own on the PlayStation 4 for quite some time. Those looking for a slower paced experience will warm to Tiny Brains, though unlike the Xbox One’s Max: The Curse of Brotherhood it’s not a videogame that can appeal to a wider audience simply due go the addictive nature of it’s high quality experience. Tiny Brains is enjoyable, but is only an easy recommendation for as long as the PlayStation 4 offers nothing else but guns, cars and fisticuffs.