PAX Prime 2013 Impressions: Tiny Brains

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

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At PAX Prime this year, I had the opportunity to demo Tiny Brains, a co-op puzzle game for up to four players developed by Spearhead Games in Montreal, Canada. In Tiny Brains, players take on the role of one of four rodents—Dax, Stew, Pad and Minsc—being used as test subjects by a scientist. The scientist has given them each a different power. “I’ve made you powerful,” he says as the demo begins. “Let’s see if I made you clever.”

Hailee Kenney played this game with me, just like when we played PixelJunk Inc.. We were joined by two other PAX-goers. My character had the ability to instantaneously switch places with a player or object. Hailee’s character had the ability to push objects with an invisible force. The other two characters had the ability to pull an object with a vortex and create a short wall of ice, respectively. Although all four characters are necessary, you can play the game with fewer than four players and jump between characters in-game. If you’re playing by yourself, the levels will sometimes dynamically change to accommodate a single player.

Tiny Brains | Rodents

Other than their unique powers, the characters appear to only be able to jump. Following the test subject motif, we were not given a tutorial and instead had to just figure the game out on our own. Personally, I think that really added to the fun of the game. Regardless of the lack of a tutorial, the game was really easy to get into. All four of us quickly figured out our powers and easily solved the first test of putting shaped blocks onto like-shaped marks on the floor. Each block required a specific power to reach, and thus we all became somewhat versed in our respective abilities before beginning the second test.

Tiny Brains | Chicken attack

After the initial test, we went through a few test chambers where we had to work together to solve them. All characters were important. We used our powers to move our characters across a chasm and get a battery on the far side back to our side and into a power socket. Doing so powered a bridge, allowing us to continue. In the last chamber, we had to protect a poor wittle baby chick from some meaner, older chickens. There were a few ways to kill them (not the least of which was luring them onto a burner, then hitting the gas and flame buttons to char them). In the latter waves, the enemies became more numerous, and giant buff chickens joined the fray. It was close, but our team was triumphant. In the final moments of the demo, our characters escaped their test enclosures and jumped out an open window to freedom.

Tiny Brains
Beyond the basic demo, there were also challenges. The one we played required the four of us to work together to push a ball up a large tube as far as possible. Some of the panels making up the tube were glass, and if the heavy ball rolled over them too many times, they would break. Farther up the level, there were just large gaps in the tube. The push and ice wall powers were really useful for keeping the ball from sliding back down too far. The pull and teleport powers helped us move the ball up, and the teleport power was also able to save the ball if it had fallen through a gap, provided I was fast enough. Of course, doing that resulted in my death, but respawn times were pretty quick, and we had unlimited lives. The point was not to survive—it was teamwork.

Tiny Brains

As I mentioned in my ibb and obb review, true co-op games are somewhat hard to come by these days. A lot of co-op games, like LittleBigPlanet, make it too easy to be a jerk and just backstab your fellow players. In Tiny Brains, that’s not much of an option. Everyone is necessary to get by, and all characters are useful. Tiny Brains will first be available for download on the PS4’s launch day: November 15th. So far, the game has also been announced for PC (via Steam), Xbox 360 and PS3. I know I’ll be picking it up day one for my PS4.