Despite the deep space setting, this simulation is less about exploring the stars and more about survival. A core meltdown has occurred on a spacecraft, prompting a frantic dash to the nearest one-person escape pod. Less than a minute is given to grab vital spare parts, with the rest of the experience then taking place in the cramped titular tin can. Claustrophobics need not apply.
The idea is to simply survive for as long as you can, managing and repairing the pod’s various life support systems. All the while, the pod drifts through asteroid fields, electric storms, and cruises close to the suns and stars – which see spikes and drops in temperature, both of which you must quickly address or face the Game Over screen. Upon death, you’re shown a breakdown of how you performed, along with the cause of your demise – something not always obvious. Survival times are then added to an online leaderboard.
With no story mode or main campaign, a lot of the game’s replay value comes from a desire to survive for longer than before to gain a higher online ranking. To achieve this, you’ll need to learn from mistakes and digest information from the pod’s manual. The manual is also where you’ll find a list of error codes, ready to be deciphered. When the lights start to flicker and asteroids cause the tin can to shake, it can be quite unnerving and tense – especially when oxygen levels start to drop too.
Things are quite methodical initially. Oxygen and CO2 tanks must be alternated, fires put out and leaks plugged, and the occasional fuse or power supply switched out. The pod contains a repair device, resembling a microwave, which can give items a new lease of life or dismantle them into parts. An asteroid storm always commences a few minutes in. After this, events are randomised so you’ll need to think quickly. You may have to shut off systems to conserve power, or even resort to opening the airlock to reduce pressure. Most of these techniques must be discovered first hand, as the brief interactive tutorial only covers the basics.
Outside of the ranked mode, there are a few challenges to play through. Oddly, though, there are no synopsises – you’re simply thrown into different situations, with just the names of the challenges themselves to go by. Sandbox mode lets you play without restrictions, while Rescue mode involves keeping the rescue beacon online for as long as possible.
It’s easy to admire how lean and focused Tin Can is. This is a game clearly born from a keen interest in complex systems and astronautics, offering a unique but arguably niche experience. In addition to its original premise, the control scheme is innovative too, assigning RT and LT to a hand each so two items can be carried at once. A simple idea, but one that lets you repair the pod’s system’s swiftly, holding the manual in one hand and a tool in another. There’s a little bit of light humour here too, in the form of a retractable basketball net; one that can block the adjacent locker if you aren’t careful.
Just like a real escape pod, Tin Can isn’t designed for the long haul. It’s a game best played for twenty minutes here and there, not for hours on end. It should, hopefully, be clear by now what to expect – a brief experience based around its replay value, where return visits should (theoretically) see you staying alive for longer periods, discovering more survival tips along the way. If you have an interest in engineering and space travel, you’re likely going to be left feeling that this was designed especially for you. I don’t know how many console gamers out there fall under that umbrella, but it’s still pleasing to know that they’re catered for.
Klabater’s Tin Can launches April 27th on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, and Xbox One.