Open up the Nintendo eShop each week, and it soon becomes clear that there is a particular genre that the Nintendo Switch continues to readily attract. That’s partly due to how many can play the portable home console in short bursts on their commute, but, at this point in time, there are 116 games that are available which have been tagged to the puzzle genre.
These, as with any game, are all competing for your attention, and while there are many that you can’t go wrong with such as Snipperclips Plus, Gorogoa, and Puyo Puyo Tetris, there are those at risk of being overlooked. Tales of the Tiny Planet is one of those even if the game’s cheery icon instantly reminded me of the colourful LocoRoco. Sadly, this game, which is developer Pixelsplit’s creation, isn’t quite as wacky.
With a serene soundtrack playing in the background, each level in Tales of the Tiny Planet challenges you to help a planet with a beaming smile reach a portal so that they can continue searching the galaxy for their friends that are lost. You will only need to use the B Button to do so, as, once pressed, it activates coloured parts that move in the level. This reliance on a single button leaves you to observe how everything moves, to then work out how to interconnect the ways in which the separate parts will impact the planet as it rolls ever closer to the goal.
Your one-button input may be simple, but the complexity in level design will slowly start to leave you scratching your head as to how to use each mechanism to reach the goal. Lift the planet here, push it over there, catch it with that part, and then punt it to the portal with that part – there’s always a steady flow to what the game asks of you. The problem lies in the fact that that the game is physics-based, soon resulting in unpredictable imprecision with how the planet reacts to your efforts to move it towards the goal. It is the timing of your button presses that counts, but seeing as every level has a different setup this is something that continues to be hard to judge as you work your way through the five worlds.
That’s all part of the experience, of course, but with a timer ticking down losing you completion stars as it hits three specific points, stress is thrown into the mix in Tales of the Tiny Planet when there really needn’t have been any. There’s replay value to be found in shaving off precious seconds to collect all stars for each level, with a certain amount being required to unlock more levels – even if, again, this isn’t something that the game necessarily needed to have.
The Nintendo Switch version adds an exclusive Co-op mode that shares the parts in each level that you can directly control between two players, which, as you can expect, results in a far rowdier but hilarious experience compared to playing solo. It’s an appreciated addition that helps the game become a better fit for the portable home console, thanks to the split Joy-Con.
To move from a superb decision to a completely baffling one, publisher Joindots has chosen to release Tales of the Tiny Planet at retail. This choice to produce a physical release means that the Nintendo eShop pricing must match, and, therefore, this puzzler will set you back a rather alarming £17.99. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially when I noticed that the game is priced at £7.19 on Steam and an even more meagre £0.99 on the App Store. There is a clear disconnect between the game’s quality and breadth of content with its price, and I can’t help but feel that it will be damaging to its success in the long run.
It is the game’s adorable demeanour, the chance to experience it cooperatively, and the accessible single-button approach that can be recognised as the strengths that help Tales of the Tiny Planet to overcome this complaint. However, the continuous reliance on trial-and-error, which is compounded by inconsistencies in how the physics engine reacts to your input, can readily frustrate. It’s never enough to dampen your enjoyment too much, especially when thinking each puzzle through with another player, and I will continue to hope that it can find an audience on Nintendo Switch in spite of its misjudged pricing.