Tiny Bang Story could be defined as a puzzle type game, but that label wouldn't really do it justice. It's an odd duck of a game that is unexpected, confusing and perplexing at times. Does this game deliver a fun gaming experience? Read on to find out.
Where's the Storyline?
There is an introductory scene at the beginning of the game but that's about it in terms of information at the start. The strange scene at the beginning is not explained in the least, and players will be left scratching their heads. What kind of world is this? What am I supposed to do? Why am I supposed to do it?
This is a complete 180 from the way most games are presented, and it works quite well for this title. There is a sense of childlike wonder at being dumped in the middle of a strange new world full of things to explore. The no storyline approach leaves players curious about the underlying story itself, and forces them to look for it rather than having the story spoon fed. It would be wonderful if more games took this approach.
The beginning intro showed the game world being split into many little jigsaw pieces, and it's only natural to start collecting them. The game doesn't have to spell it out for players because the course of action is intuitive. In fact, this game never uses any dialog at all.
Explore the Gripping Environment
The trade off with having no storyline is that the game world itself must be so engaging and inviting that it alone can entice players to interact with it. The surroundings in this game are impossible to ignore. I can't imagine a player not giving everything a click just to see if it's an interactive element. This type of cause and effect also serves to give the game a childlike feel, because that's exactly how we learned about our world as children. The environment also evolves during gameplay; what was once static may become interactive once the right conditions are met. The only word for it is magical!
Soft, Serene Visuals and Sweet Sounds Throughout
The art style of this game brings to mind pleasant childhood memories of Highlights magazines and storybooks read at bedtime. The art is well defined and crisp, yet gentle and smooth at the same time. Crispness is key here, since a lot of the gameplay consists of hidden object type puzzles. There is no photo realism in the game per se, but there is lots of detailing when needed.
The sound matches the visuals perfectly, and the two elements come together to create a game world that is quite the experience. Very impressive and fun!
Challenging Hidden Object and Puzzle Gameplay
The quality art style makes for some difficult hidden object gameplay at times. With so much thoughtful detailing everywhere it's easy to overlook the tiny pipe sitting in plain view or the fact that the wall sconce in a newly unlocked area will probably contain one of the light bulbs you need to collect.
The hidden object puzzles are a good balance between extremely well hidden objects and objects that are simply hidden in plain sight. Staggering both of these techniques makes for a more challenging game overall, and also makes it more enjoyable.
One thing I appreciate about the game is that they never pull a fast one and opt for using a poorly drawn rendition of an object. In this reviewer's opinion, there is nothing more disappointing when playing this type of game. Trying to find a wrench only to find it and have it look more like a burned breadstick than a metal tool isn't witty; that's more like cheating on the part of the game. All of the objects in Tiny Bang Story are perfectly clear and detailed, just like they should be.
Completing a level isn't necessarily a straightforward process, either. Some of the hidden objects needed to activate an area may be locked away in another area that's also locked and in need of unlocking. Which puzzle needs to be solved first? It will take some thought to figure that one out, and this extra element of strategy gives the game depth.
Scanty Hint System Without the Option to Skip Areas
It took me a while to discover that this game actually has a hint system. The little flying bugs aren't just there for looks; if enough of them are clicked they will unlock a hint. Clicking the hint button will reveal a secret about the area the player is currently in.
There are a few issues with this that are a bit disappointing. First, the game often reveals the answer to something other than the problem one is stuck on. That's a waste of a hint. Second, the hint system isn't that smart. Sometimes a player will be so lost that they won't know which area the answer to the puzzle is in, hence the need for a hint in the first place. Hints only work if you are in the area where the object is at.
Third, there is no way to skip anything. While this guarantees that no one will abuse the skip button, it also cuts down on playability. No puzzle is completely unsolvable, but either having better hints or a skip option would have been nice.
Lots of Fun the First Time Through
This game doesn't really have much replay value. After the first play through, players will have the answers to all of the puzzles. Not all game types have good replay value, and it's particularly difficult for hidden object games since the core gameplay mechanic lies in finding hidden objects. It's kind of like hearing a joke for the second time; the element of surprise is gone.
If you are looking for a game to play for the long haul, this probably isn't the game for you. If you are looking for a puzzle game that's lots of fun while it lasts, this is a good bet.
Variety of Puzzles Keeps Players Guessing
It's really hard to say what sort of task the game will throw at players next. All challenges fall under the puzzle category, but other than that all bets are off. The game stays fun and fresh throughout due to the variety of things to do.
Conclusion - A Special, Unique Game That is Worth Playing
The Tiny Bang Story is a simple, sweet little game that manages to deliver a heartwarming and emotive puzzle gameplay experience without the use of storyline or dialog. Games like this only come along every so often, so it's a must play for anyone with a love for a good puzzle. Here's hoping for a sequel!
Review by Alice Flynn
Alice Flynn is a gaming enthusiast and journalist from Los Angeles, CA. She is currently obsessed with obscure foreign dramas, making tofu taste edible and the latest, greatest computer games.
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