The Tiny Bang Story
Year Published: 2011
Publisher: Colibri Games
Developer: Colibri Games
Here we go, folks, knowing my track record it had to happen: I've finally found the most overrated hidden object game I've ever played. The Tiny Bang Story frequently dominates "Best Hidden Object Games" lists and replies to questions about what are the best ones to play, and it has received an admirable amount of critical praise. Judging from the screenshots and videos I watched, I didn't see myself agreeing with that. But what I also didn't see coming was a game completely lacking in any kind of narrative (despite having "story" in the title), and so "Been There, Done That" that I had to force myself to finish it - for which my only reward was the opportunity to replay its blase puzzles.
Planet made of garbage and hobbit holes.
Tiny Bang begins with a small planetoid (like the type "The Little Prince" lived on) being...damaged by the collision of a meteor and an orbiting soccer ball. It's...a very tiny planet, and I guess the point of its existence is to reassure us that livable worlds will be created by the garbage we shoot into space, as the buildings and various background objects are comprised of giant empty beer bottles, old shoes, and various rusty metal parts. The impact has conveniently turned sections of the world into jigsaw puzzle pieces, which you must find scattered around each screen, as well as other objects that let you complete the chapter.
This is where it quickly becomes apparent that the "Tiny" part of the game's title is overly apt. The puzzle pieces and other objects are often so miniscule as to be nearly invisible against some of the backgrounds. Each of my play sessions quickly devolved into me clicking everywhere in hopes the cursor would find something I couldn't see. I suppose I should be grateful for the lack of a misclick penalty. I am not grateful for the ridiculously tedious way you have to activate your hint button (by clicking enough random flying bugs until it fills), only to find out it doesn't work. I am also not grateful for actually having to put together those jigsaw pieces after every chapter, because you know, if I wanted to do a jigsaw puzzle, I'd play a Pixel Puzzles game or buy a real one. They're not as irritating as sliding tile puzzles, but putting a jigsaw puzzle in your hidden object game is still only about a half step up from that.
A joyless jigsaw puzzle stage.
The rest of the puzzles...Oh boy, perhaps we need a rundown. We have: Matching Pairs, Assemble the Torn Photo, Assembling a Machine's Parts, Flip All Tiles to One Side (Clicking One Affects Others), the Pipe-Fitting Puzzle, the Balancing Weight Puzzle, the Tangram, and then...a steam valve puzzle for which the game gives a blatantly false clue and no indication of the proper placement. I had to look up a guide for that one as I had long since lost my patience. There is also a color matching puzzle and...I don't even think I'm colorblind and yet I couldn't tell the difference between some of them.
I don't know why the game has received praise for "teaching kids how to solve puzzles". Well, first of all, it doesn't really teach them how, it just expects them to do it. Secondly, the only thing that skill would be useful for is solving the same types of puzzles in other (hopefully better) hidden object games.
This game sometimes feels like a strange promotion for Apple products.
Is Tiny Bang good for kids? Maybe. I don't know why they would enjoy it, but maybe they will. (And consider before you let them play it if you are okay with them seeing two naked angel statues urinating fountain water from exactly where you would expect.) But for a game to receive the title of "Best Hidden Object Game", it needs to be something more than just "a good game for kids". It also needs characters that do more than make caveman noises and a story of some kind, preferably a good one, but here there's none at all. There's only a subtext of "You get rich by working your way up", as depicted in the photographs of a character who starts as an apple farmer and is now a business executive - because we all know corporate CEO's got their start picking fruits and vegetables in the fields.
There's never any clear indication of why you're doing what you're doing except to "find the puzzle pieces and move onto the next area". There's no real ending because you need a story to have an ending and strangely, there are no credits. You'd think you'd want your name on something if you were proud of it.
To make matters worse, the art style is mildly impressive, but it appears that at least two of the character designs were ripped off of other artists (external links) without permission or compensation. Artist Sam Nielson wonders why they did this when they seemed to have talent. My response is that I would question if all the art was stolen/repainted from other sources, and if it isn't, then the reason becomes clear when you look at how bad this is. The artist may be good at backgrounds, but doesn't seem to know how to draw people, which would explain why the pilfered character's head and expression never change throughout any pictures of him seen in the game.
The music has received a lot of praise, too, but I had to turn the volume off. I found it repetitive, and I couldn't stand the weird, wet sloshing sound items make when you collect them.
Some of the backgrounds seem inspired by random objects the designer had on their desk.
How do I explain the accolades that a game I came very close to hating has received? I think part of it's the age. It was released in 2011, and although the first three Midnight Mysteries came earlier, I don't think the hidden object genre was quite mainstream yet, so it's likely most who played it had never played anything like it before. 2011 was also around that era when it was a fad for the gaming media to elevate subpar games to "Art" status for having unconventional graphic styles and weird mechanics (but it's hard to call a game with a corporate message, "art"). If you're the type of person who feels a strange cutesy art style can take the place of a story and truly engaging game design, then maybe you'd like it. But you can't say I didn't warn you of the reality vs. the hype.