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Oh My Goodness, Play The Tiny Bang Story

Featured post 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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John Walker

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One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and general hero of humanity.

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