We won’t get our hands on Pikmin 4 until sometime next year, but don’t despair. Tinykin, the 3D puzzle platformer from Splashteam is here to save the day. Not only is it a fun Pikmin-esque game, it also does a few things that should make Nintendo sit down and take notes.
Tinykin is a strange type of game that can best be described as a puzzle game, but let’s be more precise. It’s a hybrid game that deliberately evokes both collector platform classics like Spyro and Banjo-Kazooie, as well as the Pikmin series, in that game revolving around the use of tiny aliens with special powers. You play as Milo, an astronaut from the far future who has rediscovered Earth, only to find that he is the size of an insect, and all the other humans seem to have disappeared. Don’t worry too much about the setup though. All you really need to know is that you are a little guy running around a giant house, collecting special items that will somehow help you get back home. There are some nice narrative things going on in the background, but this is definitely the first stop in the gameplay.
Visually, the game is fun. The bright colors and cartoonish arcade art style are a perfect match, and each level displays a sense of imagination and an eye for detail that puts most other games to shame. There’s a level of polish here that evokes Nintendo at its best; Whether it’s wandering around the interiors of your TV, baking a cake with ingredients three times your size, or running a bathroom, with huge toy boats, there’s a strange magic in just about everything you do. Even the way Milo flaps his arms while falling through the air has a certain appeal.
Play Tinykin, I remembered it 1996 interview With Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto talking about the early development of Super Mario 64. The movement mechanics were dedicated to Miyamoto and his team, who spent time with Mario and a small room filled with simple cubes that fine-tune the controls so the act of walking, running, and jumping was inherently fun.
“One of our big development themes was letting players move Mario the way they wanted to. We wanted to make a game where just moving Mario around was fun.” – Shigeru Miyamoto
I suspect Tinykin’s evolution had a similar philosophy. The movement feels so well that I can spend hours on my way around the house and walk away satisfied. Milo is a nimble little guy who, in addition to a gentle, straight vertical leap, can surf a “soap bar” and use his “bubble pack” to float and slide into hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. You must use these tools to collect pollen (the small equivalent of Mario coins) and solve a variety of simple puzzles.
Puzzles are where the stars of the show come in. “Tinykin” are strange, mysterious creatures that Milo can collect, each with highly specialized abilities. Some can carry heavy objects, some can explode, others can conduct electricity and so on. Each Tinykin is presented with a short scene explaining their special power, then a brief tutorial allowing the player to learn how to control. Pikmin’s influence couldn’t be more obvious, but unlike Captain Olimar, Milo doesn’t pressure Tinykin into his infantry unit and wreak havoc in the local wildlife. There is no combat element for Tinykin, the focus is only on puzzles and platforming challenges.
The puzzles aren’t particularly stressful, and mostly consist of finding enough Tinykin for the current job, but they integrate beautifully with the platform. Each level consists of a number of smaller challenges that somehow serve up the big puzzle that runs through the entire level. The first level, Sanctar City, is about a cult of insects that all play in their heads a song that no one else can hear. You have to collect the parts of the CD player and blast the song at full size to make it cool. You have to explore the city to find each part, bring them back to the temple, and assemble the CD player.
You will need to use the various Tinykins to destroy obstacles, carry equipment, and free other Tinykins to boost your ranks. Revealing the city’s secrets as my alien crowd grew ever larger, then sitting down to watch as my Tinykin carried various bits and bobs to the temple was a remarkably quiet but satisfying experience. The way the two halves of the game, the puzzle and the platformer, come together reminds me of the kinds of games Nintendo used to make, but lost touch with long ago.
Nintendo is at its best when you take well-established characters and concepts, and put in a curve ball. That’s why Majora’s Mask is still one of my favorite Zelda games. The time loop mechanic (which was way ahead of its time) had a risky introduction but spawned one of the best games ever. Meanwhile, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door combines RPG and platforming elements very seamlessly. These days, Nintendo tends to play things safe a little more often.
Nintendo has the resources to do all kinds of new and interesting things, but a lot of times they don’t, due to a new IP address, an entirely external mechanic, or a merging of musical genres. How many times have we seen Mario go back to writing? How many thousands of Pokemon will there be by the end of the decade? There is some hope, thank God, in the form of Mario + Rapids: Sparks of Hope. The first game had amazing strategic depth, was really funny, and did a great job of translating turn-based strategy – a traditional kind of “PC” – into an excellent Switch game. This is a real innovation. Nintendo took a chance, tried something new, and it worked.
I think Nintendo could use a little bit of “outside magic”. Tinykin is reminiscent of NIntendo’s collaboration with Rare, many of which still stand today. DK 64, Conker Bad Fur Day, and Banjo-Kazooie are all classics that deviated slightly from what Nintendo (especially Conker) would, injecting the 3D platformer formula with its own mechanics and weird brand of humor while still retaining Nintendo’s luster and interest. the details.
We’ve seen Nintendo team up with Brace Yourself Games (Crypt of the Necrodancer) to produce Cadence of Hyrule, a game that Nintendo never thought of making on its own. When you’ve been in business for a long time like Nintendo havel, you need a new perspective every now and then. If they are looking for new collaborators, I would choose Splashteam as a candidate. They understand what makes Nintendo great, but are willing to give a new twist to old ideas. In the same way that Nintendo synthesized the world of Zelda in the Necrodancer mode with Cadence, or the world of Zelda (again) in Dynasty Warriors with Hyrule Warriors, they can do the same with Mario and Pikmin for Tinykin.
Tinykin is a prime example of what can happen when you ask “what if” – in this case, what if we take the Pikmin formula and give the protagonist some parkour lessons? By combining two old school genres that perfectly complement each other, Tinykin forges an identity of his own. It owes Nintendo a lot but it doesn’t just stay in its shadow.