Tiny Brains Review

  • First Released Nov 15, 2013
  • PS4
Brittany Vincent on Google+

Grey matter.

Given the relative dearth of absorbing cooperative journeys for modern adventurers, Tiny Brains is an appealing consideration, asking as it does for you to lean on your friends in-house or across the country to solve its various conundrums. It's unfortunate, then, that this is a game you'll complete on your own in a matter of hours, possibly even quicker when you bring friends along for the ride. Tiny Brains' colorful assortment of cartoony rodents makes the game momentarily interesting, but Tiny Brains quickly spirals into a repetitive mixture of similar puzzles.

Jump into the bodies acting as vessels for the titular "tiny brains": Minsc, a blue hamster; Stew, the rabbit; Dax, the bat; and a mouse named Pad. You don't need to rely on remembering their names so much as their telekinetic powers, which are put to good use as you lead the troupe of creatures away from the evil scientist who wants to continue conducting experiments on them. Minsc can summon forth blocks of ice, Dax can push items, Stew can pull items, and Pad can swap positions with other set pieces. To escape to freedom, they must work together, combining their powers to break out of the nefarious "fortresses" of the scientist's facility.

You can play alone, swapping between each animal as necessary, or enlist the help of friends to see you through trying quandaries. Fortunately, there are a set of reliable maneuvers to fall back on here and there in order to progress. While this cuts down on the amount of confusion you might feel when playing alone, if you enlist friends for the ride, things undoubtedly become predictable as you continually implement the same strategies over and over. An earmark of a great puzzler is the perpetual exhibition of brand-new challenges, and while fun in bursts, Tiny Brains doesn't deliver in that regard.

There's plenty of fun to be had, especially with a group of friends to control the various animals. It just doesn't last.

For instance, you might need to move a battery to the other side of a passageway or manipulate balls that float along in the air. You might need to use the hamster's ability to create a block of ice to reach a higher ledge, and then use another rodent to stand on top of it in order to travel to the other side of a prolonged gap. A battery could wait at the other side of the gap, so you might choose to teleport with the mouse to reach it or try an alternative method to complete your objective. Then, at some point in one of that level's four areas, you might be asked to repeat a similar maneuver in a different order. It's not always batteries or floating balls--you're faced with a multitude of roadblocks that the mad scientist has set up to deter the Tiny Brains crew from escaping--but you often know what's coming and how to best approach it, removing an important element of surprise that enables you to keep chugging along and recharges you to keep you ready for each subsequent puzzle.

There's still fun to be had, especially with a group of friends to control the various animals. It just doesn't last. You also face off against an army of chickens that cluck about, conveniently in the way of what you're doing at the moment, be it moving blocks or pulling items, so you need to smash them. It's violent, yes, but it's one of the only ways to take care of them so you can go about your business. They play a larger role in the game later on, but by then, Tiny Brains is content to all but fizzle out, having exhausted its supply of rollicking brain teasers early on before it can properly mix the chickens and other elements into the fold.

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The slow, deliberate movements of each character while you're controlling and swapping between each member of the team can be frustrating, especially with segments that require speedier response times than others. The action also seems to be at odds with a capricious accompanying soundtrack that sounds as though it's mocking you when you fail to progress during a puzzle. It's unobtrusive for the most part, but when you're stumped, a rollicking tune isn't exactly what you want to hear.

A two-hour story mode isn't much to come back to over and over, but the game's life is extended by the Tiny Trolls and Jules modes. Jules mode lets you take control of a new character with one life, and you're forced to control all four powers at once. Tiny Trolls transforms each level into a tug-of-war battle that's best enjoyed with friends. This mode is highly entertaining, especially if you've got a group of friends to invite for the purposes of wreaking absolute havoc on each other. Tiny Trolls turns into a Worms-esque battle royale from there, which makes for a rowdy good time. Alternatively, you can opt for Tiny Soccer or various challenges, which can tack on an additional few hours of content if you take your time. Overall, this isn't a purchase with much longevity, which you should consider if you're looking to add Tiny Brains to your budding PS4 library.

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Tiny Brains might look adorable, but its short length and lack of imaginative puzzles will turn your wide grin into a questioning smirk. However, if you're dying for a weekend's worth of solo or cooperative puzzle-solving, Tiny Brains is serviceable--though more tiny than brainy.

Brittany Vincent on Google+
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The Good

  • Whimsical characters with useful powers
  • Online and offline cooperative play

The Bad

  • Repetitive puzzles fizzle out too early
  • Extremely short
  • Characters move too slowly

About the Author

Brittany Vincent has puzzled through several PC and console adventures and considers herself well-versed in all things mind-bending. She completed Tiny Brains in both solo and cooperative modes for the purposes of this review, and though she was able to best it, that's more than she can say for her multiple playthroughs of The Secret Island of Dr. Quandary.