I like little things. I mean, I like big things, obviously, but I also like tiny models almost as much. I had a dolls house when I was little and my favourite thing was the kitchen, because it had tiny beans and carrots in tiny pans of water, and tiny bottles of milk and loaves of bread, and even a tiny mouse because my dolls had terrible tiny hygeine, I guess.
So I love games that feel like minatures, like Bad North, which I love for how small everything is, including the sound design for your tiny soldiers' little marching feetsies. And so I love the little almost-alive dioramas of Tiny Lands.
Tiny Lands is a 3D spot-the-difference game (on Steam now) where you're spotting differences in a little snapshot of a world: a campsite where someone is in the middle of a barbecue, or a terrible portal to another world as a battle between good and evil is in mid sway. Or a quiet fishing trip. Potato, potato.
Alice0 already wrote about how and why she likes it a couple of weeks ago, but it really is lovely, and I wanted to go into more detail on the loveliness.
I often spend time just looking at the worlds once they've loaded - which I know is the object of the game, but I mean looking at them as somewhere to be, not as a puzzle. For example, here is the aforementioned fishing trip:
Isn't it lovely? Imagine somewhere that idyllic existing in real life. The water is so clear, and the fish so almost-moving that it's reminds me of one of those amazing works of art where resin is painted, layer on layer, until it looks like you have a bowl of koi.
Tiny Lands groups its levels thematically, so there are a bunch of sort of "peaceful holiday" ones that the fishing is part of (though I should say that the first section includes several scenes of Native American people, and I'm afraid I do not have the knowledge to say if the representation is wildly insulting or not). My favourites are probably either the sea-themed ones, or the spooky ones. Like, check out this amazing scene of a kraken tearing a little ship apart.
I love the treasure tumbling out of the chests everywhere. And one can't help but imagine that Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson would have had a better time of it in this lighthouse:
Meanwhile, this diorama is worthy of an entire season of Stranger Things.
There's so much story hinted at in one snapshot. Big developers could learn a lot about the concept of show don't tell from Tiny Lands. There are lots of hidden details to find in most of the levels - like, in the apocalyptic battle scene at the hell gate, when you spin the world around you'll find one skeleton just chilling out on a bench, waiting for it all to be over.
What I enjoy most is that each level has sound, as well. The kraken has wood rending noises, while the fishing has gentle splashes. In scenes where its' raining, you often get the gentle pitterpatter of the drops hitting the ground. It's all tremendously relaxing. Even the differences push you towards a low-key kind of looking. You're not looking for things that aren't there in one scene, you're looking for things that are a different size or colour, or have moved, so you end up relaxing your gaze to take in the whole thing, until you snag on something a bit wrong.
Really, what I want is for developers Hyper Three Studios to release a line of physical dioramas that I can put around my desk and admire at all times of the day. But I'll take a video game, I guess.