Tinykin is a whimsical and captivating adventure that takes players through a sprawling, well-crafted world. The player character, Milodane, occupies a space the size of a thimble and explores a modest house that is proportionately huge.
The gameplay will be instantly familiar to anyone familiar with the Pikmin series. Milodane (or Milo for short) discovers and befriends tiny creatures called tinykins that populate the environment. Players use this growing army of helpers to complete quests, usually launching at items that need to be carried/exploded/powered up.
The world players will explore in Tinykin is definitely a treat and the game’s greatest strength. Milo set off from his home planet to find the ancient homeland of mankind. He crash-lands in what appears to be an ordinary Earth house, where time seems frozen in the 1990s. But Milo is no bigger than the bug he finds himself sharing this space with. Towering feline trees, plants, piles of toilet paper, and more have been transformed by sentient insect inhabitants into homes, businesses, and even places of worship.
Each new area will present the player with a new type of dwarf – there are five in total – each with different abilities. The pink and red types – used to carry objects and explosives respectively – were the first two to come across, and are still some of the most commonly used. To avoid spoilers, other tinykin abilities won’t be discussed here, but suffice it to say that most are fun to use and encourage steady momentum. Unfortunately, some of these abilities occasionally stop things, which is jarring considering most of the other mechanics are designed to facilitate a quick experience. These moments aren’t hugely intimidating, but they slow down the action and feel more like a chore. However, in the vast majority of cases, dwarf friends provide a huge help, allowing players to move faster, reach greater heights, or acquire new things.
Tinykin’s levels are reminiscent of Mario Odyssey’s design, offering players large open areas to explore. Collectible Pollen is everywhere, along with a few other interesting items, and it’s always rewarding to spend time exploring. Beyond these collectibles, it’s often enough to discover just a small part of the world hidden around every corner. For critters in the big world, the first aid kit becomes a clinic, the inside of a guitar becomes a small field, and a children’s plastic racing track becomes the venue for the world’s top sporting events. No matter where players travel in Tinykin, there will be many small discoveries.
In-game traversal can be a chore in some situations, but Tinykin’s movement mechanics make it a joy. Milo handles it well, with responsive controls and some flexible, fast navigation options. Players can instantly summon a bar of soap to speed ground movement, and a bubble will appear around Milo, greatly extending his jump distance. Even though Milo’s character design is a two-dimensional cutout in a 3D world, the developers opted to add a shadow underneath him – a small quality-of-life addition that makes platforming and long jumps more manageable. Combining all of these features with unlockable shortcuts, Tinkin offers some snappy travel mechanics that encourage players to keep exploring.
It’s been a lot of fun exploring these spaces – for the first time. A problem that plagues even some of the best platformers is missing collectibles, and each level of Tinykin contains hundreds of pollen clusters. Most of them can be found simply by wandering around, but there’s so much to explore that a few might be missed. There’s nothing more stinging than reaching the end of a huge level and seeing the pollen counter sit at 1188/1200. Here, one of Tinykin’s greatest joys becomes its greatest chore, certainly for completionists.
The game is divided into several areas, each area occupies a room in the house, and each area is home to one or two types of insects. The first area, the living room of the house, has become the religious center of this miniature world. It is the main abode of the shield insects, the crusading acolytes of the faith who can forever hear chants chanted like no other insect. There is a large temple in the center of the area, and the player’s goal is to use a gigantic machine that the shieldworm believes will allow everyone to hear the hymn : in stereo.
Each area presents the player with some sort of conflict or obstacle, which, when resolved, gives the player a piece of the spaceship that Milo is building – the main goal of his adventure. The narrative thrust behind these goals is often so loose and unimportant that there’s absolutely no need to interact with the characters. Players can choose to skip the dialogue and start exploring, and they will inevitably come across the materials they need to complete any quest. Working with each field is a fairly straightforward process that never becomes too taxing. Even without knowing exactly what their goal is, players can simply accomplish it by interacting with everything they can.
While its story and quests are weakly motivated, Tinykin’s NPC interactions are generally fun. If players take the time to chat with the many bug-people they encounter, they’ll be treated to some great writing and memorable recurring characters. It’s here that players get their hands on the astonishing world-building in Tinykin. While this is all presented in a very tongue-in-cheek way, the developers make this feel like an interconnected world, with each location having some relationship to the others. Each insect also plays a specific role : Ants are blue-collar workers, mosquitoes are wealthy elites, silverfish are drug addicts and partygoers. Farmer ants and merchant ants provide food for everyone and threaten to stop working, but they are fired and ridiculed by mosquitoes.
Despite some surprisingly engaging, albeit tongue-in-cheek world-building, Tinykin’s narrative is its weakest aspect. The larger narrative focus gives the impression that the developers had an ingenious idea for the premise — Milo’s search for the homeworld of humanity — but made no commitment to tell the story in its entirety. Instead, its development is left entirely to exposition and conclusion. What’s left are two conflicting narrative threads that build on an interesting struggle that doesn’t take the player seriously enough.
That being said, it’s clearly not the developer’s goal to weave a grand narrative, but to create a world that’s fun, enjoyable, and highly explorable. In this regard, Splashteam has achieved. Minor complaints aside, Tinykin is a bright and accessible game with some clever mechanics that allow players to focus on their goals. Let a tiny spaceman get lost in a vast and beautiful world.
Tinykin is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Game Rant obtained the PC code for this review.