1000 Tiny Claws
Release Date: 10/04/2011
Last year I reviewed a game by the name of Who’s That Flying?!. It was my first experience with a Mediatonic game and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a positive one. It smartly combined aspects of traditional shooter and tower defense games. It was one of the best shooters of 2010 and remains one of the best Minis I’ve played. So, when I got the chance to review the developers follow up, I couldn’t help but volunteer.
This game aims to shake things up just as much. Take the hack-and-slash genre, add in some Super Smash Brothers, and watching things get nuts. Together with Mediatonic’s trademark style and sense of humor, this could turn out to be either another gem, or a huge disaster.
So which did 1000 Tiny Claws turn out to be?
Tiny Claws essentially runs with a remixed version of the Pirates of the Caribbean plot. The ragtag group of pirates has stumbled upon a cursed sword on a remote island. Inevitably, the sword gets removed, the curse takes hold, and the area becomes the host for the a huge swarm of oversized insects. As punishment, the entire crew will be hanged. However, Captain Bluebell, First Mate Rana, and Mr. Yoho are given twenty-four hours to fix things. If they fail,the crew dies. If they succeed, a reprieve will be in order. You play as Rana, the only one who can wield the sword and get things moving.
The plot is pretty funny. I didn’t like the jokes in WTF much, but I actually found myself laughing quite a bit while playing this. I suppose that has a lot to do with the lack of Uranus jokes. With the charm and gags, the story is a pleasant one to work through, even if it only amounts to a simple action tale. There isn’t any depth, but there doesn’t need to be.
The story mode is the primary mode. You have five chapters to work through, each with five levels. For those keeping count, that’s twenty-five levels. If you can survive five waves, then you’ve won, and there are boss fights and tougher stages to mark the end of each chapter. You’ll earn medals for your score, with the idea being to earn the gold. Getting gold medals unlock bonus content.
After each chapter, you unlock a survival map. In this mode, you’re simply trying to survive for as long as possible while racking up a huge score. This mode ends up being pretty fun as you try to balance huge swarms of enemies while trying to set new longevity and score records.
Once you’ve completely beaten the story mode, you unlock a challenge mode. There are several different variants on the gameplay to try, and multiple stages for each game. Some will have you collecting items, some will have you attempting to knock enemies through goalposts, and some simply offer tougher versions of the bosses. This is a great mode, especially when you’ve done all you can do in the story.
Overall, the modes in this game are easily among the best I’ve seen for a Mini. Mediatonic pulled off a similar feat with WTF, but the superior story wins out to give this gave a definite edge.
For the cut scenes, TC uses the same art style as WTF. The characters appear as if made of ink. It’s very similar to a lot of modern cartoons. The look is spiffy and fits the pirates theme quite well. It also allows the game’s sense of humor to shine through. Mr. Yoho is a great example of this. As he is a witch doctor, he wears a big wooden mask over his face. However, he still has a pair of eyeglasses that he wears over it. The effect is quite comical.
The rest of the game may use the same designs, but the art style isn’t quite as strong. The developers have stated that they game was originally conceived as a dungeon crawler. As such, the levels have a flat look to them that would be at home in that genre. There is a decent usage of color and a few different themes, but nothing is particularly good looking. It is however, better than your average Mini title.
The character designs are a bit of a letdown when it comes to the enemies though. Most of the bugs you face look like different colored giant beetles. Only a couple look particularly nifty. The bosses look impressive of course, but that has more to do with sheer size than anything else. I really felt that more variety could have helped liven things.
TC continues the trend of using garbled nonsense instead of actual speech. If you don’t read the subtitles, the only actual words you’ll get are the character’s names. I generally hate this sort of things, but it actually worked here. I have a strong suspicion that the reason for this is because you expect pirates to be drunk on rum and therefore completely incomprehensible to anyone but themselves. That, and the voices are nifty, which is helpful.
The music in the game is pretty darn good. The main theme is about a catchy a pirate theme as I’ve heard. There’s even a version with lyrics you can listen to when viewing the options. Each themed world has its own tune, and each of them fit nicely. They won’t stick with you once you’ve stopped playing, but they compliment the action. At one point, I turned off the sound effects and had a blast with the music.
The sound effects aren’t so great, but they do have an upside. The chaotic nature of the game is helped by the constant screams of exertion on the part of Rana. And, the audio cues can be helpful in determining when an enemy attack is coming or when your special attack is ready. Still, when I played without them, I actually enjoyed myself a bit more.
Overall, this is a pretty solid audio package.
What this game does is take the basic hack-n-slash gameplay and add in some Super Smash Bros. While there are some issues, this recipe works out pretty well.
You can only attack with your sword, which is done by mashing a button. If you can lad successive hits, then you can build a combo and eventually land a huge final shot. Each time you hit an enemy, they take damage. However, enemies will never die do to a strike. Instead, each hit knocks them back further and further. The object here is to hit them so they fly off of the stage. The game is well designed for this, as enemies can knock each other back, and there are plenty of places to pinball a pesky insect around. There’s nothing quite like getting that bank shot just right. However, you work the same way. Each hit knocks you back and eventually even the smallest bug can throw you off of the edge.
As you land hits, you build up a super meter. When this is full, Rana can unleash a devastating super attack. You can charge this move for maximum damage. It becomes an essential tool for surviving tougher sections and maintaining crowd control.
You have a couple of ways to defend yourself. You can hold down a block button to stop enemy attacks for a bit, or even use that same button to hop around. While hopping, you can’t be hit. It becomes something you need to learn quickly. Also, if you fall off a ledge, you can pull yourself back up by mashing the x button.
Enemy types are nicely varied. As you progress through the story, you’ll face basic bugs, bugs that get fast if you don’t hit them fast enough, fire breathing monstrosities, teleporting bugs of doom, and others. Perhaps the most annoying/coolest is a whirling dervish. These suckers hunt you down and can hurt you on a rebound. Bosses require a trick to beat, but also boast plenty of baddies to throw at you. They’re highlights to be sure.
I mentioned there were problems. For starters, the enemies can move in all directions while you can move only horizontally and vertically. This can be troubling because enemies can sneak in your blind spot without you being able to hit them. Another issue is that when you pull yourself up from a ledge, you automatically do a ground pound maneuver. This may seem helpful, but it usually doesn’t hit everyone and leaves you vulnerable. More than once, I’ve got caught in a loop of falling off the ledge. I also wish there was more obstacle variety. You only get crates to throw and apples to heal. A limited ranged weapon of some sort or maybe some other traps would have helped keep the game fresh.
Despite these issues, the game is fun to play. You’re in a constant struggle that can quicken your heart rate and dare you to get better. I found it thoroughly enjoyable.
Playing through the story can take you a few hours depending on your skill and how much you want to go back to get the gold medals. This is about the stand length for a Mini. After that, you have the survival and challenge modes to work through, which can more than double your time. Collecting the medals unlock trophies and bonus content should you go after it. It isn’t entirely for fluff.
As for going back to play the game once you’ve cleared everything, there isn’t a strong incentive. However, the game is great in short bursts and therefore a great candidate for pick up and play sessions. I find myself goofing off with it every now and then, even though I beat it in a couple of days. The frantic gameplay is simply fun.
This game has a great balance. The early levels are pretty easy in order to let you get acquainted with the style. New enemies are introduced constantly in a nice curve that allows you to get comfortable before a hefty new challenge is thrown your way. Also, the levels get smaller, making it easier for you to get knocked off. You need to adapt quickly to play each level correctly.
The challenges run the gamut of difficulty. While some are pretty easy to get through, there are plenty of devious ones that will test your limits. You will definitely need skill to make it long in a survival mode as well. Each level gets harder here as well, which is a nice touch.
I can’t think of a problem to bring up here. The game never felt too hard or too easy. It always felt like things where were they should be based on where I was in the game. That’s a rare thing.
I can’t think of too many games that do what this game does. It blends a genre with the style of a unique fighting engine and creates a new breed. I honestly can’t imagine how this kind of thing hadn’t come up before.
That being said, there are a lot of elements that feel par for the course. Pretty much everything about the presentation is the same as in WTF. They just swapped galactic heroes for pirates. The medal system works the same, as does the trophies, unlocks, and sense of humor. Even the plot, as I mentioned, was a bit too familiar. All of the originality comes via the gameplay. I suppose that is the most important place for it, however.
A mission isn’t likely to take you more than a couple of minutes. That allows the game to keep a quick pace. Toss in the ever growing difficulty and constant stream of new enemies, and this game just keeps on giving. It is very easy to play this game for lengthy sessions. Before I wrote this review, I went to play a quick level in order to remind myself of a few things. I ended up playing for about half an hour. That’s pretty darn good.
Earning those medals definitely has a draw too. This is especially the case when you get oh so close to earning that gold. On more than one occasion, I was forced to replay a level several times because I believed I could get that gold on the next try.
The gameplay is fun and challenging. That helps to make this a game that isn’t all too easy to put down.
This mish-mash of established genres is sure to grab some attention. For those looking for some arcade style action or even just a good hack-n-slash game, TC offers a great option. It doesn’t cost much, as it’s a Mini, and it comes from an established developer for the platform.
I’m having a hard time in coming up with people who won’t get a kick out of this game. I suppose there are always people who will simply not like action titles, but they are a minority. At the very lest, it is the kind of game that people should try.
I keep mentioning unlockable content, but what is it? Like in WTF, gold medals earn you pages of a log book. These pages cover all of the characters and enemies in the game as written by the main characters. These are funny and helpful at the same time. Think of it as a manual and bestiary combined with a sense of humor thrown in for good measure. They’re worth going for.
Overall, this is one of my favorite Minis that I’ve ever played. It pretty much sits in the top five with some stiff competition. It might even make the top three if I ever bother to number them. I like the genre mixing, the sense of humor, and frantic gameplay. More than that, it is still great to see a developer put so much love and effort into a Mini.
Graphics: Above Average
Replayability: Very Good
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Very Good
Final Score: Good Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Chalk this up as another hit for Mediatonic. 1000 Tiny Claws is a game that has plenty of charm in just about everything it does. The gameplay is a unique twist on the hack-n-slash genre, the story will make you chuckle at several points, and the presentation is some of the best on the platform. It also offers plenty of content and reasons to keep coming back. That all adds up to one heck of a Mini.
Tags: 1000 Tiny Claws, Mediatonic, Minis, ps3, PSP, Sony