NextGen Take - Tinykin

Three things I like about this game, and two I don't

Tinykin

By Paul Hunter

Tinykin is exactly the kind of game I love spending a weekend with. Give me a 3D platformer with smooth gameplay and streamlined levels full of hundreds of goodies to find and I'm in gaming bliss. The pure joy of playing this game reminds me of platformer classics like Super Mario 64, Psychonauts and Banjo-Kazooie. Like those games, Tinykin gives you a world that's inherently fun to explore every last inch to uncover all of its secrets.

I've had chance to play through the entire game on Xbox Series X (also available on Games Pass!), including 1000/1000 achievements after about nine hours. Let's dive into my thoughts on the entire experience; here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.


Liked: Charming, Effective Storytelling

Tinykin is fairly light on story but underneath its cute exterior lies an intriguing Matrix-style story with unexpected twists and turns.

It begins in the far future with Milodane, an archaeologist and researcher, who leaves his planet Aegis to follow a mysterious signal to a nearby galaxy. Hoping to find humanity's true origin, Milo does end up discovering Earth but the harsh voyage destroys his ship's transportation device leaving him stranded inside a vast human house. Making his situation much worse, he's the size of a penny, there are no humans in sight and the house seems to be stuck in the '90s.

Hope soon arrives when Milo encounters a wise old insect named Ridmi that offers to get him off the planet—if he can locate and secure six human artefacts. According to a blueprint from Ardwin, a fabled figure that Ridmi and the insects in the house worship, the artefacts are the key to escaping their hopeless situation.

Parts of the story are told through gorgeously animated cutscenes that look straight out of a Nickelodeon cartoon. You'll soon learn that the home contains numerous insect factions, some of which that get along with each other while others are seen as rivals. It's quite funny seeing ants, dung beetles, silverbugs and mantises squabbling among themselves, especially given how exquisite the animations are.

In each of the game's six main areas you'll also come across dozens of insects eager to chitchat and deliver humourous, colourful lines. While I eventually stopped talking to every bug (there are so many!) the ones I did stop and listen to reminded me of just how funny the dialogue is in this game.

Liked: Adorable Tinykin Creatures

I went into playing Tinykin without much knowledge of the gameplay, so I was pleasantly taken by surprise when I realized it borrows so heavily from Nintendo's Pikmin—a series I absolutely cherish. There are some big differences though: in Tinykin your little helper buddies never attack, there's no day/night cycle, and you barely have to worry about dying.

Similar to Pikmin, as you progress in the game you'll discover new types of Tinykins that possess special abilities. Introduced with eye-popping cutscenes, your Tinykin range from pink the heavy lifters used to carry objects to red that explode interactable objects to blue that can form chains of electricity to power up machines. There are also two Tinykin types that help you navigate levels: green stackable ones that you can climb like a ladder and yellow ones that form bridges to reach new areas. What's really interesting is Tinykin is basically a traditional 3D platformer where your creature buddies are your super powers.

There are many puzzles to solve using your Tinykin but I was never stuck, which helped keep up the momentum and propel the game forward. Whenever I couldn't reach an area or progress it simply meant I needed to explore further to find more Tinykin or scope out the area better. Using the full range of your Tinykin abilities was intuitive and simple: you might need your red buddy to blow up a wall, then call upon your yellow friends to build a ladder, and then finally get your pink pals to carry important items down the ladder. Solutions were usually straightforward and because of this, it only takes about an hour to beat each level.

One final mechanic worth mentioning: your zoomable goggles. To help you scope out levels you can use Milo's goggles that lets you zoom in or out. And while I mainly used it for this purpose, I also used them from time to time to get up close with my lovable Tinykin, particularly to capture funny photos. You can have an army of 100 Tinykin or more, so if you're the type that enjoyed Kena's photo mode with fuzzy Rot, you'll have a field day here as well.

Liked: Impressive Level Design

Completing levels in Tinykin is such a treat, specifically because they're brilliantly designed. Perhaps it's the Dark Souls fan in me, but I loved how each level had so many shortcuts to find and unlock. These come in the form of walls your red buddies can explode, doors sealed with a weight that your pink buds can weigh down, or my personal favourite—blasting anchor points that unleash ropes you can climb or zip across. Leaning into the game's hilarity, Milo slides across ropes using a bar of soap he rides like a skateboard.

I also love the look and vibe for each area, including Celerion Park that features a massive Hot Wheels type race track, or Waters of Balnea that takes place in two connected bathrooms. Each sandbox is filled with funny objectives, too. In the first level, the City of Sanctar, your job is to repair a giant boombox and then get your pink Tinykin to carry a CD so all the insects can have a rockin' music party. In Waters of Balnea, your task is to throw a whole bunch of random items into a sink so the bugs can have a bubble bath party. In Lands of Ambrose, you have to carry a whack of ingredients, like eggs, butter and yogurt—plastic container and all—into a mixing bowl so you can bake the insects a yummy cake. Funny, funny stuff.

Lastly, I have to point out how beautiful the levels are. They're colourful and full of life with insects buzzing about and human contraptions everywhere. The 3D environments have a soft, cartoony feel to them and curiously much like Paper Mario all the characters have flat 2D models. Each level begins with several panning views of the many obstacles and challenges that await you, but it's also a great time to soak in the impressive visuals. I ended up taking around 100 snapshots during my adventure because the areas looked so photo worthy!

Didn't Like: Performance issues

For the most part, Tinykin runs buttery smooth, but once your little critter group grows to a certain size there are momentary bouts of slowdown. Thankfully, the frame dropping usually doesn't last that long, but it can reoccur if you visit the busier parts of each level, usually spots containing a bunch of NPCs. I find it unfortunate that after so many gens dealing with slowdown and given the high power of the Xbox Series X that it's still an issue, but here we are. Because of the performance dips I had to occasionally wait it out since it's a platforming game where precision counts, but again, luckily these dips aren't too egregious.

Didn't Like: Minimal Help Finding Pollen

Each level in Tinykin contains hundreds of pollen collectibles to find, and usually over a thousand. Pollen is hidden virtually everywhere—under stairs, around hard to spot corners, through hidden passages, way up high where you might not look and hidden inside objects that blend in with the environments. I could generally find about 90% of the pollen in each level through rigorous searching, but that final 10% could often be painful. I'd have to slowly and carefully walk through the entire level, taking every corner and climbing every objects to clean up the last few pollen collectibles.

Given the amount of effort, and not fun effort at that, to 100% each level, I have to wonder why you couldn't eventually unlock a pollen detector, even if that's after you complete the game. I did eventually find all the pollen through perseverance, but it added about two hours to my game time and it wasn't fun at all. Your goggles let you scope out levels, but pollen is often tucked away around corners rendering them useless. They could have at least given you a proximity sensor late game or some similar ability to help you out. There will probably eventually be YouTube videos with 100% pollen walkthroughs, but even that sounds tedious since you'd have to follow along nabbing a thousand collectibles per level.

The Verdict

Much like how Psychonauts 2 had quality rivalling the biggest and best AAA games of the year, Tinykin is one of the standout games of 2022. Pikmin fans will adore this game, as will fans of classic 3D platformers like Super Mario 64 or Spyro the Dragon. The graphics and animations are top-notch, the puzzles are fun and never frustrating, and the story is oh so charming. A delightful surprise absolutely worth checking out.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great


Tinykin details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Splashteam
Publisher: tinyBuild
Genre: Platformer, Action-adventure
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)


A key was provided by the publisher.