I think I ended up getting The Tiny Bang Story in one of the first Steam sales I ever participated in, grabbing it because it was über inexpensive and had a fantastic, whimsical art style, similar to Machinarium. I then allowed the casual point-and-clicker to sit quietly and ignored in my Steam library for a good while, eventually giving it an unsuccessful go during my Extra Life stream this past October. Yeah, turns out, playing slow-moving, atmospheric puzzlers does not make for thrilling entertainment, nor does getting stuck in the opening chapter because I couldn’t locate X, Y, and Z. Still, something was there, and so I returned to Colibri Games’ indie mosquito-catching simulator recently to solve every puzzle it contained.
But first, here’s the most disappointing thing about The Tiny Bang Story–there is no story. At least not a solid narrative throughout. Sure, there’s some light setup, but it is just window dressing for…item gathering and random puzzles. See, life on Tiny Planet was pretty relaxing until a great disaster struck–a meteor, that is! Now everything is a mess, and it’s up to, the player, the one with the power to click a mouse button, to restore Tiny Planet back to its peacefulness. You do this by fixing a variety of machines and mechanisms, as well as collecting hidden jigsaw puzzle pieces. That’s the story, and that’s all you get. The rest is left up to your imagination because you’ll get absolutely zero clues no matter how many times you click on those characters.
The gist of the gameplay involves clicking. Click on stuff until a sidebar pops up to tell you what to collect and how many in order for the selected item to work. In reality, The Tiny Bang Story is a very pretty “find the hidden items” game, the kind my mother and I used to play together on the Nintendo DS. There’s no time limit to any of the puzzles, and the game autosaves at nearly every turn, so if you are tired of straining your eyes in search of that one, teeny, tiny light-bulb you can always come back to it later. Which I did. Many puzzles are logic-based while others just ask to you click around enough times; I found a few to be initially difficult because, since there is no story or even text in this game, I did not know what was desired. I struggled the most with the puzzles based around sliding or rearranging tiles because I’ve never been any good at those.
Okay, besides the lack of story, I do have another peeve to pick: the hint system is tedious. In games like Professor Layton, you can collect hidden coins in the screen to spend on clues to help you solve puzzles. That idea is here, too. Sort of. On every screen you visit, there are blue mosquitoes that softly buzz around; if you click on them, you’ll collect them in a bubble at the top right corner, and once you have enough, you can summon a single mosquito to circle around a specific area if you missed something or don’t know where to click next. Fine, fine. Except clicking on the tiny bugs is harder than you first imagine, and then you quickly realize you’re going to need to click on far too many of them just to get a single hint. Like, I think maybe at 14 or 15. No thank you, I’ll just look up an online walkthrough.
Now, while many of the puzzles were hit or miss, the enchanting soundtrack was always spot on. After you complete a chapter, you get to play with the jigsaw puzzle pieces you collected along the way, filling in the picture of Tiny Planet itself. These moments are so soothing that I found myself moving each piece into its slot slower and slower, not wanting it to end. Some might see this as a rather boring task in a game, but the soundtrack and visuals work in unison here to really create something atmospherically pleasing. Plus, the picture in the puzzle moves–kind of like photos in the Harry Potter universe–which helps keep you immersed in completing it.
I thought The Tiny Bang Story was going to be something else, a more narrative-driven adventure game. What it ultimately is isn’t bad; in fact, I had a pretty good time in its kooky and unexplainable world, especially playing around with those jigsaw puzzle pieces at the close of every chapter, but I think this means I need to whet my point-and-click adventuring appetite and finally get around to Beneath a Steel Sky or To the Moon. Or just be content that I recently played Botanicula and it was everything I wanted it to be.