Oh My Goodness, Play The Tiny Bang Story

By John Walker on May 9th, 2011 at 9:30 am.

I wish all games could be lovely, sometimes.

That’s if you have a spare £12 on Steam (or even £15 £12 now too – the power we wield! – on GamersGate) for a game that should probably cost closer to £6. Just browsing through Steam I spotted a recent addition I realised we’d not written about yet, and wondered if that meant it was the usual “casual” blather. It’s not. The Tiny Bang Story is absolutely lovely.

The name comes from the ridiculously cute idea of a very tiny planet being split up into dozens of jigsaw puzzle pieces when it’s hit by a meteor. But nothing else goes bang here. In fact, it’s about as calming and sedate as you could hope for. This is, in fact, the exact midpoint between an Amanita adventure and a hidden object game, and it’s a brilliant place to be.

The jigsaw puzzle pieces are scattered about the world. Which means you visit locations packed with things to find, and objects to click on. Find the right things and you’ll uncover puzzles, and most likely, other objects to find. But don’t poo-poo this just yet, you sneery-snob-face. Just because you (incorrectly) think yourself above hidden object games isn’t a reason to chuck this one aside as well. There’s no list of nonsense to mindlessly cross off. Instead you’ll be told, pictorially, that you need to collect – say – ten wheels in order to operate a particular machine. Find those ten wheels hidden amongst the four or so locations in each chapter and you can then solve the related puzzle, which will likely unlock more challenges, or that one final item you needed to progress.

Each of the five chapters has about 25 jigsaw puzzle pieces cunningly hidden, along with a further five or so larger puzzles to solve. Most of the game’s puzzles are reasonably traditional, and unfortunately it does rely on torn images or rearranging tiles a little too often (but praise all that’s alive, there’s no sliding tile puzzle). There’s on a par with the more hands-on challenges you’ll find in a Professor Layton game. It’s only toward the end do a couple of genuinely frustrating puzzles appear, where solutions seem more about guessing than strategy. But it really is only a couple out of many.

The two most striking things are the design and the music. The soundtrack comes courtesy of Strategic Music, a Russian company who have provided tunes for very many indie games. And it’s absolutely beautiful. Despite there being short-ish pieces, their repetition never becomes irritating. In fact, I am a little upset that the game silences when task-switching to write this, since completing the game lets you listen to any of them at will. You can hear one of the pieces here.

The art certainly owes a lot of Amanita’s distinctive style, but frankly if you can emulate something this well, you’re pretty much on the same level as it. That said, it’s not quite as organic or rustic, instead preferring a more cartoonish style that verges on Beryl Cook characters. Whatever the inspirations, it’s gorgeous. The world is breezily alive, swaying, and endearing.

In another smart move, where a traditional hidden object game has a refilling clue button that normally lets you cheat your way through any challenge, here if you want to spam your way past anything you’re going to have to work for it. At any time the screen will have two insects buzzing around it. Catch them with a click and they’ll contribute to filling your clue button. But you’ll need 30 to fill it, which isn’t done quickly. It means that if you’re genuinely stuck there’s a way forward, but not one you’re going to lazily rely on. And it’s less flipping annoying than Machinarium’s 2D puzzle game.

The work of two Russian developers, Colibri Games, this is just utterly lovely. It’s also smart. Things are hidden well, and never unfairly. Real thought has gone into the placing of every item. And the screens are just packed with things to explore, doors to open, machines to operate, and so on. It’s a pleasure to explore them. And my absolute favourite detail is the main jigsaw. As you fill in pieces onto the faded background image, they come alive, gently swaying – it’s a gorgeous effect.

I wish it were cheaper. If this came in under £8 I’d be insisting anyone of the right frame of mind get it immediately. And of course more people would be likely to. At £12 I worry it doesn’t last long enough (it’s about four or five hours, at a leisurely pace), nor go deep enough, to warrant the cash. Perhaps they’ll rethink their pricing strategy over time. It’ll eventually be released for iOS and Android, where such a tag will never be acceptable, so maybe we’ll see an accompanying drop around then? Who knows. But gosh, I’m glad I spent my Sunday with it.

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48 Comments »

  1. Squishpoke says:

    The art style is lovely. Reminds me of Machinarium in a way.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Machinarium in a non-emo or depressed style, hopefully.

    • MD says:

      I might be misinterpreting, but are you implying that Machinarium was “emo or depressed” in style? I found it a joyful experience, and the art certainly contributed to that.

      Either way, this art has some really strong echoes of Machinarium for me as well, though obviously it also differs quite significantly in some ways. I’m downloading the demo now, fingers crossed the game as a whole is even half as lovely as Machinarium.

    • Gnoupi says:

      “emo” is obviously an abuse of language.

      But in general, yes, Machinarium’s style is sad, heavy, rusty to me. It’s a matter of personal taste, of course.

      But opposed to Machinarium, the Tiny Bang story looks more cheerful and pleasant, and more inviting to play, if I were to choose between the two games from the style.

    • MD says:

      I can certainly see where you’re coming from, but I guess the experience as a whole for me was a very happy one, so that’s probably coloured my opinion of the individual elements. It is quite an oppressive world, but there was always a spark of mischief and silliness and hope.

    • magnus says:

      Emo is also an abuse of music, therefore indefensible on two fronts.

    • Xerian says:

      Well, yes. Emo is yet another word constantly being thrown around n’ raped, such as many other words nowadays (including “terrorists”) However, i’ll say that the artstyle of this looks cool, and the artstyle of Machinarium was certainly abit heavy, and possibly dark at times, nevertheless, enjoyable.

  2. Gnoupi says:

    The price bit reminds me of the discussion on Cliffski’s blog: http://positech.co.uk/cliffsblog/?p=1178

    In my opinion, it really is a matter of “amount of content” for the asked price. But 5 hours for 10 euros seem quite reasonable. I usually take the cinema as a reference. A good spot for a single player game, I believe, is twice the length of a movie for the price of the ticket.

    Besides, 10 is the “impulse buy” price for games, I think. If you go over this, you are catering mostly to a niche of people who are genuinely interested in your game, and usually fan of the genre. These are people who usually searched information about your game, before buying, other than the store page. Under, you can attract the “curious” client, who will be attracted simply by the store page, the screenshots.

    But I agree that thanks to that it can be hard to make a living from indie games.

    • DSR says:

      Worst analogy ever.

      When I buy a ticket, I pay for:
      -Movie itself(Of course)
      -Theater(That building costs money, you know)
      -Hardware(I don’t have huge screen at home and IMAX equipment)
      -Personnel work(Dude which makes sure everything is working as intended and cleaners)

      If you want to compare Cinema to Games, I want games I buy to INCLUDE:
      -Box with distributive
      -Nice place to play game in(Without my family members interference)
      -Best PC configuration possible(I pay to play, not to watch slideshow)
      -Sexy young maid who will clean up the place after I’ll drink couple o beers and eat some chips there during my play.

      That’s why beer at bar costs more than in your average shop.
      Do not compare games to Cinemas. Please.

    • Kdansky says:

      At the cinema, you also have to put up with the annoying kids texting, the self-declared rebel eating popcorn and the giant sitting in front of you. There is also a mandatory immersion-killing break in the middle. Currently, your gaming PC should be able to run pretty much anything. Crysis 2 runs better on my rig than Crysis 1, and I’ve got a just a Dual Core. These are all moot points.

      Comparing one kind of entertainment per value to the other is quite sensible.

      As for pricing: There is also the point where you can make your games getting bought from the coffee-budget instead of the game-money, but it is a very low price point indeed, around 3 € for me. I’d rather spend 20 € on a great, but short game, than 10 € on a mediocre, but long one. Because you know what? I get better entertainment, and on top of that, an hour of free time, instead of spending it ploughing through boring random encounters for the twentieth time.

    • Gnoupi says:

      I’m talking about leisure/entertainment time for the money. You can use whatever you prefer instead of cinema. The point is to compare it to something else you would pay for on your Saturday afternoon, for example.

      Also, the “duration” in itself involves great content on the way. It’s a very basic way of evaluating, and works mostly for single player games. It’s roughly the amount of time of great, fresh content that you get in a single player game. For a multiplayer game (or a SP sandbox), it would be mostly based on the replayability without it getting boring.

      But I agree that this is a very basic way to think about value/price. It’s only one of the things I have in mind when buying a game.

    • arghstupid says:

      You are correct, its more like buying a dvd, which for new releases generally costs about the same as this game but won’t last nearly long (and dvds of indie films tend to cost more then mainstream ones, probably due to economies of scale)
      still falls down a bit as dvd sales are not the only revenue stream for a lot of films, but its reasonable enough

    • Gnoupi says:

      Yes, dvd would be closer indeed. The point was really only to oppose this to other entertainment means.

      And for the movie comparison, it’s more of a “low entry”. Most PC Games offer way more leisure time (and more quality) than movies, at least for me.
      However, it is the minimum: be at least worth a movie, for the price you asked me, or I will feel a bit upset and cheated.

      Of course, this whole point is mostly for what I would call “experiments” or “impulse buys”. It qualifies for games that I was unsure of buying. When such game is ending too soon, or that I don’t see myself replaying it after, I like to compare it in such basic terms to a movie,or something else.

    • aldo_14 says:

      I’ve normally taken DVDs as a reference, on the basis that 5 quid for 2 hours entertainment is reasonable value. But, at the same time there’s a sliding scale of how much I’m willing to pay to try a game; this is where demos are always handy (unless the game is crap, so there’s a vested interest for developers NOT to put a demo out…).

      Normally this is to justify buying games to my wife, mind you.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “There is also a mandatory immersion-killing break in the middle.”

      There is?

    • Deano2099 says:

      I think the whole pricing debate tends to miss the question of “who buys indie games?”

      The argument goes: “You can sell a big budget game for £30, why not an indie game?” but then you look at the primary platform for indie games: Steam. Where big commercial releases are often discounted down to a few quid.

      The sort of people regularly checking out Steam for indie games are the same ones that probably don’t buy many games for £30. They might pick up a few ‘event’ games but at whatever the cheapest price is, and then wait for sales on everything else.

    • BarneyL says:

      The £12 price tag might not actually be what the developers are hoping to sell most copies of the game for. It wouldn’t surprise me if that price is set relatively high so that when the inevitable 75% off steam deal comes round it looks to be better value than all those other £3 games that are only 50% off.

    • mwoody says:

      “There is also a mandatory immersion-killing break in the middle.”

      Really? Does Europe still do intermission?

    • jon_hill987 says:

      “There is also a mandatory immersion-killing break in the middle.”

      Not any time I have been to the cinema. Not even for Lord of the Rings.

    • trjp says:

      Whether something is ‘worth’ it’s asking price is highly subjective – which is why most reviewers don’t go near the topic (wisely IMO).

      I do tend to agree with Cliffski – the price of a lot of games is going to result in the developers not making enough money to ensure they make another game.

      End of the day, a developer should choose a price which they think the market will support – over time that will be reduced/discounted/put into sales etc. which will bring in other customers as-and-when.

      The whole pricing issue is a bit of a hot potato tho – I’d not go near it because it’s a war between people trying to make a crust from games and people who think that 99c should gain them a AAA title which lasts for months…

    • Kdansky says:

      Yes, most cinemas in Switzerland insist on having a break, where they try to pressure you into buying ice cream, popcorn or drinks. I’ve had it go as far as the screen stopping for a split-second, then going black and during that 500ms period the vendor shouting at the top of his lungs “ICE CREAM”, which is not just immersion-killing, but outright startling. They also want 18-22 CHF per entry (which is about 16 €), 3D is extra expensive, and so are overly long films such as LotR. Considering I can buy DVDs at or even below that price from Amazon, I don’t see the reason to go there at all.

      And they complain that DVDs and evil pirates kill their business…

      On the topic of games:
      It’s probably not a bad idea to start at a high price, and then lower it. Market Segmenation, that is called.

  3. Canape says:

    @DSR

    ‘Sexy young maid who will clean up the place after I’ll drink couple o beers and eat some chips there during my play.’

    I don’t really buy into the ‘game= price of film ticket’ logic either. However, its kind of funny, you are swilling beer and throwing pack chips while hollering at your ‘sexy young maid’…all to this cute little indie adventure.

  4. arghstupid says:

    First of all thanks for posting about the game as it looks like my sort of thing and I probably would have missed it otherwise. However I think highlighting the price isnt particularly helpful. By all means bring attention to the fact that its a short, relatively shallow game but I am starting to agree with Jeff Vogel’s argument that the expectation for indie games to be cheap is a generally bad thing. Additionally, as absolute value is so subjective this sort of comment probably doesn’t really help anyone it just adds a bit of a negative flavour.
    Not my blog so continue to do whatever you please, just my opinion on the matter.

    • qrter says:

      I believe John Walker is just being realistic, plus he wants the game to do well, and he’s afraid the price will put off a large part of its target audience. Why not talk about this, especially when it’ll probably be talked about in the comments anyway?

    • trjp says:

      The problem with discussing price is twofold.
      Firstly, it’s highly subjective. What a person gets from a game depends on their level of interest, how they play games and what they like in a game. How much people can ‘afford’ is even more complex.
      Secondly, it will change. If a game costs £x and you don’t want to pay that, you just wait until it gets cheaper. It’s always happened and always will – early adopters pay more, the patient pay less – the game remains the same…
      By bringing price up as a factor in a review you’re not only “dating” your work – you’re breaking a semi-taboo in reviewing.
      Also – I’m sure the developers don’t want their game to be singled-out as the focus of the growing indie pricing debate – they just want you to buy it if you like the look of it!!

  5. Baboonanza says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mentioning the price, it’s useful to have the opinion of someone who’s played the game before buying. I do think the point was too prominent in the article though, it would have been better to leave it out of the summary and just mention the price in the closing paragraph.

    Personally I’ll probably get this for Android when it’s released, it looks like perfect tablet fodder.

  6. magnus says:

    I’ve played the demo and I loved it, I’ll get it when it’s cheaper though because my steam blow-outs are becoming increasingly expensive

  7. CaspianRoach says:

    This game is awesome! While I’m here, can anyone advise me some similar games? :3

    • Lilliput King says:

      I haven’t played it, but as John likens it to Amanita’s output, you might try Machinarium or Samarost 1+2.

    • trjp says:

      Drawn: The Painted Tower and Drawn: Dark Flight are notably similar, moreso than the Machinarium stuff really.

      I can’t recommend em enough if you want a game which is beautiful and needs brains to solve it.

    • CaspianRoach says:

      @Lilliput King
      I have both parts of Samorost and Machinarium, liked them a lot.
      @trjp
      Will check the Drawn stuff out, cheers

    • trjp says:

      On the topic of Drawn – the games are cheaper at BigFishGames than the one which is on Steam – and don’t forget the 10% off your first item code too…

  8. Rii says:

    On the subject of indie-games-wot-are-too-expensive, I’ve been meaning to check up on that ‘dating experience’ game that was released a little while back to see if it has occasioned to return to earth from the rarefied monetary atmosphere in which it was first released.

    Of course my other reason for avoiding it was the suspicion that, as someone who has never been on a date, it might hit a little too close to home.

  9. Sassenach says:

    “What Ivor did next”

  10. Mallgoth says:

    One thing that bothers me is that this image from the game is a pretty blatant ripoff of this one by artist Sam Nielson. The art in this game seems pretty good, so I don’t know what to make of this. Why would a talented artist plagiarize?

    • trjp says:

      I don’t see any connection between those images at all – other than they are both highly caracatured versions of an older woman’s face – caracatures are hardly unusual…???

      So unless your comment is a blatant link generator I’m confused.

    • Lilliput King says:

      trjp: What is it with RPSers and lack of visual perception?

      Look at the bottles on the shelves.

    • trjp says:

      I saw them and I still think it’s reaching – probably insulting – to accuse anyone of plagarism (are you sure it’s not the same artist tho – I mean a lot of CGHUB stuff comes from people who work in games!?!?)

      They’re similar for sure – the bottles and the women’s eyes are the most obvious similarities – but I think ‘similar’ is as strong a term as I’d use.

      Looking at other art by Sammich, he’s hardly afraid to use palettes and styles which are very suggestive of OTHER artists himself – there’s a thick streak of Pixar’s palettes and styles in his work, for example – and his work is pretty varied overall which means you could hardly say his style has been copied anyway?

    • Lilliput King says:

      You’re fucking kidding me. That’s not ‘suggestive of another artist.’ It’s clear that Nielson’s picture has been used as a base and photoshopped over – the groups of bottles are all identical in placement and size. Look at the bottles just next to the chin of the model – there’s the large, bulbous green one and a wine bottle shaped one full of a grey liquid on both pictures, in exactly the same place! Indeed, all the groups have the same composition on both pictures. This is also particularly clear in the top right. And where the chimney is in one picture, the other replaces it with darkness!

      There’s a difference between being stylistically influenced by something and just grabbing that thing and editing it in photoshop.

    • sleepysalt says:

      Sam Nielson posted on his blog about plagiarism in this game:

      http://artsammich.blogspot.com/2011/05/good-artists-borrow-great-artists-steal.html

      Nielson even found that another artist’s work was used in the painting.

    • godwin says:

      Wow. No words. No doubt that’s a rip-off. Also no wonder it feels (looks?) so similar to Machinarium. Someone has a bad habit.

  11. trjp says:

    Well I tried the demo and I got horribly horribly stuck – and the help wasn’t any help at all so I binned it.

    It’s pretty – sure – but the key element in a game like this is teasing/guiding the player when they’re clearly not seeing what you want them to see and this doesn’t bother doing that at all – or at least the demo didn’t…

    I’ll stick with the Drawn games – they’ve astonishingly beautiful AND crafted to a fantastic degree so you don’t get bogged down/stuck looking for something…

  12. Saiwyn says:

    Thank Heaven for Russian game developers, and all developers in general, who focus on fun rather than bro-fueled blockbuster-ness. Most of the big American and Japanese developers seem to have lost their way. It must have something to do with swimming in money…but I digress…

    I shall give them a huzzah!

    HUZZAH!

  13. RichardFairbrass says:

    Having loved Machinarium to an unhealthy degree, and also being fond of hidden object games (Everest on the iPhone being the pinnacle of the genre in my opinion), I am very glad to have been pointed towards this game. Thank you!

  14. Howl says:

    I was tempted but the price tag put me off. It’s definitely a Steam sale for me, or maybe a three quid job if they bring out an iOS version.

  15. kibayasu says:

    Too bad I got stuck on one of the very first puzzles of the game and the hint thing only seems to point toward puzzle pieces. An admittably charming aesthetic isn’t enough to make up for that.

    • trjp says:

      The hint will find SOMETHING you can do – you have to be on the right ‘screen’ for it to point at anything tho (and you seem to have unlimited hints – at least in the demo). It isn’t quite a nice at guiding you as some other titles (Drawn) tho.

      I got stuck initially finding the code – when I overcame that it took me EONS to find the last cornerpipe which is really well hidden (turn-up the gamma on your monitor!!) – I was well chuffed when I twigged where the train wheel was hidden tho :)

      I’m just not QUITE sold on it – it sways from lovely and charming to gnashingly frustrating quite regularly :)

  16. Sgb says:

    It is only £7.70 on bigfishgames.com. If you are a member of their gameclub you can get it for £5.39, or £2.70 using code NEW50, which is for new customers only.