Splashteam, developer of the humorous 2D platformer Splasher, is back again with a different set of curious creatures in their latest Tinykin project. This is a creative and very enjoyable 3D platformer that forces you to think outside the box and find a new purpose in everyday objects – especially since they will be the only thing that will help you escape from the 90s house you find yourself in. But it’s okay, you’re not alone; Tinykin is filled to the brim with intriguing NPCs who lead the way.
You take on the role of Milodan, an explorer and astronaut who finds himself in a cluttered house on planet Earth, but this house has an unusual atmosphere and is empty of people. Instead, every room is infested with a plethora of chatty insects that are quick to ask Milo for help as a reward for what we consider to be a mundane household item, but for Milo, they are the key to repairing his ship and finally getting home.
Yes it sounds an awful lot like Pikmin X Chibi-Robo, and as you might expect, Milodan can’t go on an adventure alone. Along with enlisting the help of the wise Elder Readme, Milo must rely on NPCs and a special species called Tinykin to get to where he needs to be. In the end, every creature Milo meets helps him find the parts he needs to repair the ship and return to his home planet.
So, like the Pikmin, the Tinykins are friendly little creatures that Milodan relies on to make progress. Unlike Pikmin, they can be found living in colored eggs around every room, or locked in crates and crying for help, which adds an exciting “collector” gameplay element.
There are five types of Tinykin, all in different colors, and they all have a unique quirk that comes in handy one way or another. While the blue Kindred help make electrical connections, the Green Kindred can build ladders to reach high places. Gather as many as you can in each area to make sure you’re not caught off guard when you need them most. To make things easier, the game will automatically apply the most appropriate Tinykin for whatever task you choose, whether it’s building a bridge between two platforms or moving a heavy object. These cute critters can be used whenever Milodan wants and follow him around the map without the need for babysitting.
While there are many Pikmin-like traits immediately present in the game, there are a few differences that make it more than just a copy. For example, Tinykin is much smaller. Each level will produce enough to comfortably support Milodan on the adventure, but there won’t be too much to scatter. Also, since there is no combat, there is no need to sacrifice Tinykin – good news for those of us who have felt terrible guilt for every lost Pikmin. Tinykins are used exclusively to advance through each area, using environmental problem solving rather than brute force in battles against marauding bugs.
Each time Milodan encounters a new subspecies of Tinikin, a cartoon animated cutscene briefly introduces the creature’s abilities. Instead of maintaining a 3D look and feel, these animations reflect the 2D style of Milodan and Tinikin and serve as wonderfully refreshing tutorials compared to bombarding you with text boxes, and if the animation doesn’t provide clarity, there’s always a hands-on practice available with Tinykin near that spot. where you first met.
One of the disadvantages of the combination of 3D levels and a 2D hero is the problem with depth perception. It is difficult to judge where Milodan will land after a significant jump, sometimes sending him to the bottom of the map. However, over time it becomes easier to choose the right camera angle to avoid risky leaps of faith and guarantee a safe landing.
That minor issue aside, the 3D platforming feels exceptionally solid here. In terms of controls, some players may have trouble jumping to “A” if they’re used to “B”, but like some of the mechanics in Tinykin, it becomes second nature after an hour or so. Other than remembering how to jump, the game doesn’t require much learning to pick up and get stuck. Before you know it, you’ll be riding the soap box and throwing Tinykin left, right, and center.
Gameplay is predominantly stress-free, and unlike Pikmin, there are no day/night cycles to limit your adventure, and no major antagonists or threats to Mylodan’s health other than a fall from a height – and even then, he respawns on the ledge he fell off after few seconds. There is no frustration or tension here to spoil the exploration. The only slight inconvenience you will encounter is the absence of the Tinykin you need, but a few cycles around the map will solve this. Simplicity is part of the game’s carefree atmosphere and doesn’t feel hurtful or boring.
Perhaps the most appealing element if you like collectibles is the mountain of goodies it offers right from the start. Even after completing the six hour central campaign, there’s more than enough pollen to collect and side quests to complete to keep you busy for a few more hours. For the perfectionist, Tinykin represents about ten hours of collecting and quest competition along with history. The central hub where Milodan repairs the ship makes entering each room incredibly easy, so there’s always a chance to dash between areas to clear this and that when you finally have the upgrades you need.
While the creature tossing element and the overall premise give the game an undeniably Pikmin feel, Splashteam has created enough differences to give Tinykin its own charming personality. The Nintendo series includes resource management and some proper real-time strategy that Tinykin doesn’t bother with. What Splashteam has to offer here is a light-hearted and very enjoyable platform game that is really very welcome.
Overall, Tinykin is more than just a rewarding, stress-free 3D platformer or “Pikmin Lite”; it is a lesson in appreciating the simple things in life, including the help of others. Even with tons of collectibles and a loose storyline, Tinykin never feels cluttered or overwhelming. While it looks a lot like a certain Nintendo series when you first pick it up, the game has enough unique identity to set itself apart from the others, offering an enjoyable, clean platforming experience on Pikmin.