The Tiny Bang Story
Developer: Colibri Games
Publisher: Collibri Games/Big Fish Games
Release Date: 4/22/2011 (Self distributed) 5/16/2011 (Big Fish Games)
As the person that reviews the vast majority of adventure games on the site, it probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that I pay close attention to all the scuttlebutt on upcoming point and click releases. The Tiny Bang Story is one of those games. It looks very pretty and artsy from pre-release screenshots, but with the game’s originally announced price tag, I decided to pass as it was three times what an adventure game usually costs in 2011. As well, this was Collibri Games’ first release and I wasn’t willing to pay a premium price on an untested developer unlike say Gray Matter or The Next Big Thing, both of which had extremely strong pedigrees.
Then on Monday, May 16th, Big Fish Games published their version of The Tiny Bang Story, which was the same as Colibri’s direct download release, but at a cost of only $6.99 for BFG members, or $9.99 for everyone else. As I had two free game coupons for Big Fish Games, I decided to use one towards The Tiny Bang Story to see if it was as good as it looked.
Well it wasn’t. In fact, if it wasn’t for Thor: God of Thunder, we would be talking about what is easily the worst game that I’ve played in 2011 so far. Let’s take a look at what went so horribly wrong here.
Adventure games live and die by their plot, so it was downright shocking to see that The Tiny Bang Story didn’t have one. In fact, the only story bits I knew were from Colibri Games’ website and the synopsis of the game of BFG’s website. Basically this tiny planet has a meteor hit it and it breaks up. You have to put the planet back together by solving puzzles and doing some of the worst hidden object encounters I’ve ever seen. The game takes place over five chapters, but there’s never any story, dialogue, or substance to the game at all. You just go from scene to scene collecting hidden objects which earn you items which earns you the chance to do a puzzle. Repeat this whole ball over several times per chapter and then you have the game. In between chapters, you’ll get puzzle pieces which are used to put the world back together. However, there’s still no story, no plot based reason for any of these puzzles or hidden object scenes, and no real reason to play through the game at all. It’s just inter-connected third rate versions of puzzles that have been done repeatedly as well as in superior fashion in other games.
If you’re fine with solving hidden object puzzles just for the sake of doing hidden objects puzzles, you’ll be somewhat fine with this, but it still annoys me to no end that this game was not only lacking in any form of storytelling, but that it’s in a genre that is perhaps the best in all of gaming FOR story telling.
Story Rating: Worthless
It’s obvious that The Tiny Bang Story is an attempt at “video game art” for the sake of art alone rather than having a story, quality gameplay or anything actually fun about the game. As such, the only real focus that the game has is on visuals. They aren’t high definition nor can they compete with top of the line full budget PC releases, but what’s here is quite pretty and sublime, even if that is the only nice thing I can say about the game.
The visuals are alien and yet somehow reminiscent of a foregone era; a simpler time if you will. Things are colorful and yet in pastels. The five human characters in the game are strange looking and yet obviously meant to be so. The backgrounds have a good amount of detail to them and create a somewhat pastoral-esque appearance to the game. What’s here is nice to look at, but if the developers had put even a tenth of the detail into the rest of the games that they had done with the visuals, the game might have been salvageable.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
There are only two tracks to the entire game. The first plays when the game starts up and the second plays in a nonstop loop throughout all five levels. The second is quaint at first. But it quickly becomes irritating and eventually you want to shut the sound off completely. You would think the developers could have provided a more diverse soundtrack, or at least have the track you hear 99% of the time be less irritating, but this horrible mistake is merely par for the course for The Tiny Bang Story.
The sound effects are just as terrible. You generally get two sound effects. The first is a bleeping noise when you find a hidden object or do something right with one of the puzzles and the second is the buzzing of flies which you will have to hear constantly if you want/need to use the hint function in the game. Like the music, these will both irritate you to no end and you will quickly find yourself muting the game or simply growing to hate this game even more. I suppose it’s a point in the game’s favour it even bothered with an auditory experience. After all, they could have simply ignored that like they did with the story,.
Sound Rating: Dreadful
4. Control and Gameplay
Ah yes, another area where The Tiny Bang Story falls apart horribly. Much like the story, adventure games are strong in the fact the controls are simple, tight, and easy to master. The general point and click aspect of the game is left intact, but Colibri demonstrates they either have no idea what they are doing in terms of game development, or they purposely wanted the experience to be as grueling as possible.
Let’s start with the hidden object bits first. When you see an item, you should just be able to click on them. Unfortunately the pixels for picking up an item aren’t necessarily in line with the object itself, making this an exercise in frustration. You’ll have to click on an items between one and five times for it to register. It’s even worse when you are supposed to find an item, but the chapter is littered with items that look exactly like it and you’re left to figure out why it’s not taking your clicks. Is it the game not registering, or did the developers forget they wanted you to find apples and then give you AN ENTIRE ROOM FULL OF APPLES THAT DON’T COUNT. Sigh.
Then there is the hint system. Instead of a hint bar that fills up slowly over time, you have to catch flies to fill up the hint meter. You need approximately thirty flies to fill up the hint meter, and they are all flying around the screen. Remember what I said earlier about the click detection issues? Well it’s even worse with the flies. The game also has trouble if a fly is hovering above an item you would otherwise collect. Instead of grabbing one or the other, the two cancel each other out and you can’t get either. Instead you have to sit there and wait for the fly to move. Thankfully this doesn’t take very long.
Then there are the hidden objects themselves. Sometimes they are the exact same colour as the background they are on top of and the only thing you have to go on is to look for some sort of edge. Some items will also be in the most insane places possible. For example, there is a train you have to find the pieces for and build. You use a diagram to see how the train is put together. Well, one of the pieces is a wheel that you can’t find at all. It turns out the wheel you need is one of the wheels in the diagram itself. It looks exactly like the other wheels in the diagram and while the other pieces you have to find are the same size that they will be when connected to the train, the wheel is a tiny fraction of what you are looking for and again, it’s on the diagram like every other part. Why would one be placed here? Insane.
Next are the poorly done puzzles. Every good puzzle in an adventure game has a reset button in case you mess things up. Not in The Tiny Bang Story. Instead, you have to cancel out of the puzzle, then go back in. This is small, but annoying and a great example of how poorly conceived the entire game is.
Finally there is the world itself, where you put puzzle pieces together to reform the world. First, the puzzles pieces for the sky don’t actually match up with what they will look like when you put the pieces in their correct slot. This makes putting things altogether little more than guesswork. Conversely the world based bits of the puzzle have a ghostly image of what the world used to look like, leaving to real challenge or difficulty to these. How one particular puzzle can be so messed up in two very different ways is beyond me.
The bottom line is that while The Tiny Bang Story is definitely playable, it one of the worst designed adventure games I have come across in my life. There is not a single, solitary thing the game does right in terms of gameplay and it is truly proof that adventure games are harder to design than one would normally think.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Dreadful
The Tiny Bang Story is very short, only two to three hours in length, but it will feel like days when you are actually playing it. The game is exceptionally linear and even if you ignore how horrible the game is to actually play, there is no real reason to ever pick up the game again. The one thing that The Tiny Bang Story does offer is the ability to replay any of the puzzles in the game once you beat it, but as the puzzles are as awful as everything else in the game, only an escapee from an asylum would even contemplate doing so. Just stay away from the game in the first place. You’ll feel far less angry that way.
Replayability Rating: Dreadful
You would think a horrible control scheme, poorly done puzzles and a lack of any depth or substance would be enough black marks against the game, but I’m afraid there’s more. The puzzles are either so easy a toddler could do them or are nigh unsolvable. One example is the globe puzzle where even the official walkthrough for the game says, “this puzzle is horrible.” What does THAT tell you? Right after that is a compass based puzzle where you have to make a straight red line with three different compasses. However the game keeps freezing up when moving the compasses but the goal is to move them all in a counterclockwise rotation. If you stop, you mess up and have to start over. Because the game stops noticing the controls regularly on this puzzle, it becomes a matter of luck and nothing else that gets you through it.
I could keep going but suffice to say, the puzzles are as badly designed as they are to play. You CAN play the game, and even beat it, but there isn’t a moment of fun to be had anywhere. The puzzles are so horribly done on every level that The Tiny Bang Story could turn a gamer off adventure games completely.
Balance Rating: Bad
Well, this is the first ever adventure game I can think of that has less of a plot than most fighting games. It’s the first adventure game I’ve played that sucks in nearly every way possible. It’s also got a style all its own, both visually and in terms of gameplay with things like the hint system and the horrible hidden object usage. I suppose all of these things count for something. In truth though, the game has almost no originality save for the graphics styles and I can’t even really count that. The puzzles have all been done before. They’ve also been done with better controls, gameplay and interface. The most original thing about the game is how awful it is.
Originality Rating: Bad
This is my least favorite game of 2011 so far. There was nothing enjoyable it at all. I expect quality puzzles and the bare minimum of a story in my adventure games. This had neither. Instead it has some pleasing graphics and that was it. I hated playing the game. I hated the hidden object bits. I loathed the hint system. I abhorred the puzzles. The only reason I kept playing was so that I could write this review and ensure the game earned a spot on our “Worst of 2011” list at the end of the year.
Remember my review of Thor and its two back to back game breaking bugs? Well that was still more fun of an experience than The Tiny Bang Story. This was as excruciating to get through and the best part of the game was deleting it off my hard drive when I was done. Praise *INSERT DEITY HERE*
Addictiveness Rating: Worthless
9. Appeal Factor
I have found only a few people that have actually liked or defended this game. Even sites that are geared specifically for point and click adventure games are badmouthing this thing? Just read the scathing review at Adventuregamers.com. It’s the lowest review score I’ve ever seen on that site. This thing is horrible. Only the most zealous fans of adventure games or people who defend any game that is meant to be “art” will have anything kind to say about The Tiny Bang Story and even then they will be arguing more to convince themselves than anyone else.
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
So, this is the worst adventure game I’ve played in years. This is the worst 2-D adventure game I’ve EVER played. It’s original $19.99 price tag in a day and age where high quality adventure games that last twice as long go for that much is a hideous insult. Even the $6.99/$9.99 price tag at Big Fish Games is far too much. Hell, I got this game for FREE and I still feel like I should get some sort of compensation for having played through this terrible thing. The Tiny Bang Story is a perfect example of how to do everything wrong with an “Art for the sake of Art” game. Go play Flower or Linger in Shadows for a quality experience in that same vein. Play The Tiny Bang Story when you are looking for a solid reason to commit suicide. Everyone involved in this game should be barred from working in this industry for life. It’s not offensive, it’s just plain horrible on nearly every level a game can be.
Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless
Control and Gameplay: Dreadful
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
FINAL SCORE: VERY BAD GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
The Tiny Bang Story is a wonderful example of a game that gets nearly everything wrong on a disastrous level. There is no plot, the interface is poorly done, the puzzles are awful, the hint system is the worst I’ve ever encountered in an adventure game and it is simply a chore to play without any semblance of fun. The best things that can be said about it is that the game is artsy looking and that it is over quickly, meaning your trip through video game hell is short and concise. Stay away from this turkey at all costs.