Well, this is awkward. After accidentally launching Tinykin when the download finished, Xbox Quick Resume somehow skipped the intro when the time came to play it properly. So, while this paragraph would be a good place to detail Tinykin’s plot, the only means of recapping the intro appears to be starting a new game.
My initial guess was that it’s a re-tread of ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ starring a purple-haired chap turned tiny, but it appears to be far more imaginative involving a tiny space traveller in a house somehow trapped in 1991. His quest isn’t to become regular size by creating a reverse shrink ray but to rather create a rocket to return home. That was as much as I could summarise, at least.
In the same way Tinykin skirts around being a ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ retread, it takes also inspiration from Nintendo’s Pikmin but alters the formula so heavily that to call it a “clone” would be far off the mark. Our 2D hero soon discovers the titular creatures – colourful bug-eyed critters that trail behind Milo, able to carry items, create ladders, and more. Each of the five key locations – including a bathroom and kitchen, connected by a hallway with its own challenges – features a new Tinykin type which in turn makes each room more complex and involving than the last.
And whereas Pikmin had themes of resource and time management, Tinykin plays more like a combat-free platformer. Over the course of 7-8 hours, you’ll get to fully explore every room – including the greenhouse. Each is a self-contained environment with a main quest, a handful of sub-quests (mostly of the find and retrieve variety), and some well-hidden artifacts that revive a museum within the central hub.
Each location is populated by quirky insect inhabitants – in the absence of humans, they’ve managed to thrive, even creating entire cardboard villages with shops, cafes, and bars. Quests are likewise fun, involving baking a cake to feed the poor – requiring ingredients from all over – and putting on a foam party in the bathroom.
Rooms are large in scale, taking around 1-2 hours to explore fully and complete the central quest – taking Milo from fuzzy carpet to dusty light fittings. A cookie-crumb trail of pollen particles leads the way, giving a clear indication of which areas are researchable, while also helping to highlight areas that haven’t been explored yet.
Carrying a bar of soap to slide around on, Milo can get around surprisingly quickly. This is also used to grind silk spider webs, making traversal a breeze. Adding to this, Milo can float in a bubble – time jumps correctly, and the diminutive dude (it’s 1991, remember) can cover great distances.
The level design, based around the central quests, is fantastic throughout. A glorious combination of hidden areas, interactive objects, crafty shortcuts, interesting well-realised environments, and surprisingly picturesque views. All of this is sprinkled with a light dusting of ‘90s nostalgia, seemingly applied with careful restraint. You may notice some familiar VHS tape covers, and some quintessentially ‘90s toys here and there, but it doesn’t overdo it. Refreshingly so.
Milo is also equipped with a pair of binoculars, which show the location of mission objectives and the floaty jump upgrade store. While useful, it isn’t vital to whip out the binos every few seconds – despite Tinykin using an almost entirely invisible UI – as it’s easy to mentally track quests. Controls also benefit from being kept simple, right down to not even having to select Tinykin. Aim at a surface, and the correct type will be automatically selected. A whistle will round ‘em up – and because they fly, you never have to worry about your troops becoming snagged on scenery or going AWOL.
Indeed, Tinykin is an amalgam of smart design choices, which in turn makes it a pleasure to play. This is even true of its pacing, with each room taking around 2 hours – a typical play session for many – before whisking Milo off to a new location with fresh challenges and a new Tinykin in tow.
The only real criticism comes from the difficulty level – this is unlikely to tax, with no grounds for failure and little in the way of traditional puzzles. Perhaps some non-confrontational boss battles would have enriched the experience further. The lax difficulty does however mean that it can be enjoyed by all age groups – while being almost entirely frustration-free.
Tinykin is a genuinely pleasant surprise, and easily one of the best family-friendly games released in a while – even if I was missing the finer points of the plot.
Splashteam’s Tinykin is out now on all formats. Published by tinyBuild.