Consider the following question: you’re a brilliant scientist… what’s the very first thing you do? If your answer is ‘genetically enhance a collection of lab mice with telekinetic abilities and run them through a gauntlet of increasingly more difficult and dangerous mazes for your own amusement,’ then Tiny Brains from Montreal-based Spearhead Games is exactly what you’re looking for when the PlayStation 4 launches November 15.
On the sixth floor of the Washington State Trade & Convention Center, the team from Spearhead, composed of former Ubisoft, EA, and Square Enix developers, brought in teams of three at a time to show off their PS4 launch title. What seems at first to be a cute, colorful puzzle game quickly gives way to a nuanced and deep co-op strategy session between you, two fellow players, and a member of the dev team. Each player’s ‘tiny brain’ has a different kinetic ability: force (push), vortex (pull), teleport (swap places with an object), and create (deploy a new movable object). Using these abilities, each of the four players must work together to solve puzzle chambers designed to require the use of most or all of your player abilities.
What surprised me most about Tiny Brains was the sheer amount of fun the game entails. As a general rule, I’m not terribly interested in multiplayer games, even cooperative ones. As much as I loved Portal 2, I couldn’t bother to achieve the Platinum trophy for the game because it required a lot of time with the co-op multiplayer mode–which was a blast, but something I didn’t find myself making time for. In many ways, Tiny Brains feels a lot like Portal 2–test chambers, teleportation, a bit of clever humor, and some genuninely satisfying puzzle mechanics. Finding ways to move objects from one side of the cage to another was fun, but never stress-inducing, and finding the quickest way to chain your teleport ability to your couchmate’s vortex was really neat to experiment with.
In our demo, the team showed off three different challenge rooms, beginning with a simple tutorial level using each ability in different ways, followed by two variations of time trial puzzle areas. The first room tested how quickly we could get a sphere from one side of the stage to the other. My tiny teleporter jumped onto an ice block created by one of my companions, which was force pushed out into the chasm. From there, I teleported the sphere to where my creature had been on the ice, and the final little mouse used its vortex to pull the object into the ‘goal,’ in a time that nearly rivaled the developers’ best. The second puzzle room was the opposite scenario, keeping your sphere from falling into the abyss for as long as possible on a rotating platform. This proved the more challenging of the two levels, as each player worked to run ahead or push from behind to keep the heavy object from cracking glass panels or falling into open spaces.
The final portion of the game that Spearhead’s representatives demonstrated for us was Tiny Brains‘ competitive mode. Each player is given access to all four abilities, mapped to the L1, L2, R1, and R2 triggers on the Dualshock 4. The mode we played was a 2v2 soccer-style match, challenging competitors to work as a team using all of their abilities to move a ball into their opponent’s goal. With so many abilities at your disposal, chaining combinations together became incredibly important. Using the Create ability followed by the Force push to shove an ice block into the ball, sending it careening across the table, was very effective. Countering with a quick Teleport followed by a Vortex to drag the ball in the opposite direction was always a temporarily devastating turn of events.
Tiny Brains doesn’t test the limits of the PlayStation 4’s power. Spearhead has made a good looking title, but one that won’t astonish players with its visual fidelity. What they have made, however, is a really good time, and one that will provide fun for players young and old. Tiny Brains releases on PlayStation 4 at launch on November 15, with subsequent release on Steam, and possibly on PlayStation 3 and Xbox Live in the future. No price has been set, but look for details here on SonyRumors as release approaches.
Are you looking forward to Tiny Brains?