Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tiny Galaxy (Wii U eShop) Review

A new week begins with a new review for a new Wii U eShop game that released last week, Tiny Galaxy. In the dog days of summer, is it a title worth downloading? The answer is in my review.

Tiny Galaxy, Big Problems

Super Mario Galaxy is one of my favorite games of all time. Now, that was a 3D platformer obviously, but it seems like the idea to make a game that was similar, moving from planet to planet in a 2D plane, should have been made already. Well, now it has with Tiny Galaxy, developed by just one guy! Is the game one that will pull you in or one that will send you off course?

Tiny Galaxy has a simple premise. You trot around miniature planets, (hopefully) avoiding obstacles, and collecting three stars to open the exit portal to complete the level. Levels are made up of multiple miniature planets that require you to jump from one planet to another when you're in their gravitational pull. This boils down to jumping when you're on one planet with the intended planet you want to land on being directly above you.

The goal of each level is to collect three stars
and reach the end portal while surviving.
One thing I noticed immediately with Tiny Galaxy is how difficult the game is. Even in the first world I died a seemingly endless amount of times, and on many occasions I found myself not enjoying myself due to how blisteringly challenging the game is. The main hazard in the first world is moving and stationary saws. The movement patterns require near perfect movement to survive, and even then it's all too easy to die. This is a game purely of pattern memorization and millisecond timing to survive. As Tiny Galaxy progresses, the patterns become harder to memorize and make note of and the timing for jumps become obnoxiously tighter.

I came, I saw, I came and got killed by a saw.
Now, that wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for Tiny Galaxy's not-so-tiny physics issues. Many times I tried to jump to a planet from directly below it, only for the game to not register that I wanted to change planets. Then there were the times when I moved to a new planet when I didn't wish to do so whatsoever. Considering there are hazards in between planets that you must time your jump between planets carefully, this makes for an even greater irritation concerning the gameplay.

Furthermore, the camera isn't the greatest. Now, while a fixed camera might have been better for Tiny Galaxy to null any players who might become nauseous with the camera moving around a planet as Orion walks around it, what is an obvious problem is how the camera transitions between when you move from one planet to another. When protagonist Orion jumps to a new planet, he's at the bottom of it, so the camera needs to spin around to situate itself right for the player. The main issue here is that this camera transition takes a couple of sometimes crucial seconds to occur. Some hazards can kill you while this process takes places, and while you can move Orion during this transition, moving in the proper and necessary direction when the camera is upside-down is a bit confusing and challenging.

There's no time to chill out, Orion! Get moving!
The issues go into the menus as well. While the game is played with buttons, the level select is purely controlled via touch, which is a bit confusing and annoying. Furthermore, there is no visual cue to determine which levels you've completed and which you have not. This means that if you skip around, you have to make mental notes or literal notes on which levels you've actually finished and which have yet to be completed. Very baffling oversight. Among another bewildering oversight is how even if you're in a world beyond the first one, if you complete a level, Tiny Galaxy takes you back to the first world's level select instead of the world you were actually in.

On the presentation side of things, Tiny Galaxy shines. Each world has its own sense of ambiance with planets that fit the theme of the world. Even though the worlds borrow from the traditional, perhaps cliche, tropes of games, such as the ice world and the tropical world, the levels are visually attractive and well themed. The music is passable. It doesn't hurt or accentuate the action that happens on screen. It's merely there. Meanwhile, the opening still frame cutscene is pleasantly done and enjoyable to watch. It's low tech, but it gets the job done.

The environmental design is rather nice in Tiny Galaxy.
Being a fan of games that try new things and have a unique hook, I really wanted to love Tiny Galaxy. Unfortunately, countless gameplay gripes that negatively affect the overall experience and some questionable design decisions wholly detract from the game. Most will not be able to tolerate the high difficulty of the game, but if you're one of the few that can, you'll still suffer from several issues with the game. This seems like a good first try for the developer, and it shows promise for the future. Hopefully future games from the developer will take the lessons learned from Tiny Galaxy to make a game that's a lot better.

[SPC Says: D]

Review copy provided by Taylor Hajash.

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