'The Tiny Bang Story' is, essentially, 'Machinarium' without robots. Bear with me, I'll elaborate in a moment.
First things first, 'TTBS' is a lovely-looking adventure game from a two-man Russian studio 'Colibri Games'. The game tells a story about a cute little planet that's been shattered into pieces (jigsaw pieces, conveniently enough) by a stray asteroid exploding nearby; that's where you step in - a brave, ahem, pair of binoculars on its quest to restore the planet to its original cute spheric form. Don't be surprised about the seemingly weird choice of the protagonist: the fact of the matter is that you don't see who you're controlling at all. Throughout the game, you'll just pan your viewpoint around the scenes and click on things - that's as far as your interaction with the world and its dozy inhabitants goes.
Having covered the 'without robots' part of the first statement, let's see what the two indie point-and-clickies actually have in common. Which can be summed up in one phrase: they're both driven by art.
You see, as cutesy and simple as the stories of both games are, they rely on carefully crafted and, most importantly, believable cutesy worlds so that we wouldn't ditch them as something overly childish and unimaginative. The good news is, 'TTBS' has succeeded in this regard. The Tiny Planet (yes, that's the name of the unfortunate planet in question) does indeed look like a self-contained place, with houses inside bottles, and tree trunks, and kettles; and tiny boats, aeroplanes, and trains running about the whole place; all in vivid colours and whimsical rounded shapes. Meticulously drawn by hand and filled with lively animations, the Tiny Planet is a comfy place to play in; and it does feel like a big playground at times. What differs it from the world of 'Machinarium', however, is that it's hardly inhabited. It by no manner of means seems dull or dead because of that, no; but the word 'deserted' does spring to mind by the end of the game.
When you do chance upon one of the few characters of the game, the only kind of interaction you'll engage in will be their explaining (by means of thought bubbles - sounds familiar, doesn't it?) what they want you to do and what they'll give you in return, the errands usually implying solving a certain puzzle or fetching a certain object (which implies having to solve a puzzle in order to get it) - all in all, your usual point-and-click questry. Except, this time, and I'm sure it'll come as a bit of a surprise, you're not playing a point-and-click quest. The thing is, unlike the obvious Czech inspiration, 'TTBS' is more of a hidden-object game, and, like the rest of the lot, tends to treat puzzles as a way to hinder the player, rather than to urge them onwards: the puzzles are usually there just for the sake of being there, not because something seems to have happened and needs overcoming. You don't solve a puzzle to get across an enormous precipice or deal with a menacing-looking giant; you solve a puzzle just to pull a lever or nudge a door. And before you get to that, you have to find a dozen or so objects of the same type - cogwheels, lightbulbs, apples - carefully blended with the scenery to frustrate the hell out of you. Even the main puzzle of the game - that is, reassembling the planet - is just a big jigsaw whose numerous pieces you're trying to collect throughout the whole game, usually locating them in the most ridiculous places.
This said, the puzzles that don't require collecting every umptieth piece of scenery (well, for the most part) are actually quite imaginative and nicely executed. Well, there are no redesigned versions of the 15-puzzle, which is a nice thing already. What you will find is, for instance, a pretty challenging pipes-and-valves puzzle, some punch-card arithmetic, and a mind-blowingly difficult Venn-diagram-like puzzle about rotating hemispheres - be sure, there's plenty of things to get your brain working. There are also two occasional mini-games thrown in for good measure (another nod to 'Machinarium'), both of which feel a bit sluggish and fiddly to control, not to mention quite out of place in a cutesy mechanised world like the Tiny Planet. However, it should be said at this point that even with all these tardy bits and difficult puzzles, the overall gameplay time amounts to just a little over five hours, give or take (depending on how good you are at logical thinking or, like in my case, how bad you are at spotting tiny things among heaps of other tiny things), which does seem a bit on the short side for the price tag of fifteen dollars.
All in all, if you don't mind the price and an occasional hidden-object sequence, these five beautifully drawn levels (there are several making-of videos made available by the developers, they alone are worth watching) will provide you solid puzzley fun; even without our old pal, neck-stretching Josef.
Cheers, Russia, you've done well.
- Vibrant colours
- Meticulously detailed beautiful art
- Challenging puzzles
- Catchy music
- Heavily relies on the hidden-object concept
- Useless hints (they just point you to the puzzle you need to solve)
- Rather short