Music makes the tiny galaxy go 'round
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Arcane Pixel Games’ Tiny Galaxy on the Wii U eShop. Its launch trailer showed a unique platform experience, and I thought it looked quite fun. While I ultimately found satisfaction and enjoyment, there were a number of things that proved to be rather frustrating — none of which came from the game’s steep challenge.
The first thing I noticed when loading the game was that the title screen, pictured above, was interactive. Along with the “Start,” “Load,” and “Credits” buttons, Tiny Galaxy’s pint-sized blue-boxed hero, Orion, can freely roam around and jump on the planet surface in which he stands. It’s a nice detail worth noting, as most title screens only allow players to start the game or access options.
Once you start the game, you’re presented with a series of humorous still images (the artwork made me smile) that paint the forthcoming storyline. Your job? Guide Orion through six challenging worlds — The Meadow, Frosty Falls, Lava Lagoon, Fall Harvest, Fabric Beach, Orbital Alloy — to retrieve your stolen stylish headphones from an evil dark monster. Each themed world offers ten levels — nine normal and one boss fight. New worlds are unlocked after defeating each boss. Each world has its own catchy music theme, but boss fight levels take on a more aggressive, edgy, and tense melody, which adds a fitting level of tension and stress.
But Tiny Galaxy isn’t your average platformer. Rather than traversing levels from left-to-right or right-to-left, and horizontally or vertically, you’re positioned on the center of the screen the entire time and jump vertically from planet to planet. While jumping, the camera follows you the and rotates automatically to find its correct position. This often makes for a rather dizzying experience, too — almost psychedelic even. There were a few times where I had to look away from the television screen and close my eyes to find my balance again. Other times it just felt like my entire room was spinning and I just zoned out. The jumping physics for gravity need work as well. On occasion, after attempting to leap to a planet, I drifted aimlessly off into space; fortunately, the level restarts automatically. This didn’t happen too often, but it was bothersome when it did. To better convey how the overall gameplay works, check out the trailer below.
To finish each level, you must collect three gold Stars which, in turn, opens a Warp Gate; jumping through it completes the level. Retrieving the Stars is no easy task as you’ll have to avoid huge hungry saw blades, deadly ice crystals, and relentless ninja stars along the way; one hit and you’re done for. Levels in each world can be cleared in any order. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell what levels you’ve cleared. While each level is numbered on the Wii U GamePad, those completed are not marked, highlighted, or checked off. If you’ve forgotten what level you’re on, Tiny Galaxy becomes a tedious game of guessing. Your total Star count is displayed in the upper-right hand corner of the GamePad, however, but who wants to do math when they’re playing a challenging 60-level platform game? This leads me to a few more frustrating development issues.
While playing levels, there’s no display for how many Stars you’ve collected. Granted, the levels are quick and do not provide very much exploration, but it was indeed very annoying to not know how many Stars I had nabbed. A few times, I had to retrace my steps in a level in search of a missing Star which ultimately led to my demise. Pause option? Forget it. An option to restart the level? Nope. The only way to restart a level is to press the “-” button on the Wii U GamePad — which actually brings you back to the screen that displays each world. Something else that proved frustrating was that the user interface doesn’t keep track of your progress. For example, once you complete the third level in, say, world 6, you’re taken straight to the world 1 map. To continue where you left off in world 6, your fingers will need to perform a tap dance on the Wii U GamePad to get there. This issue happens for every single level.
Oh, that reminds me: The way each map is displayed on the Wii U GamePad (above) feels a bit lazy. The name of the world is displayed along with numbers for each of its respective levels. The problem is that the level numbers are so small, often making it difficult to find the touch point. For some of the levels, numbers are almost illegible. There’s just so much wasted space on the Wii U GamePad screen. Make the level numbers bigger and more vibrant. Space things out a bit. Give them a better look. I felt like I was playing with my old iPhone 3 at times. The game’s artwork is mediocre at best and needs polished. It does, however, get a bit better in later levels. My favorite world art is from Fabric Beach. Everything is stitched together; it sort of has a Yoshi’s Woolly World feel to it.
If you’re looking for an indie title that offers a good challenge with unique gameplay, Tiny Galaxy is worth checking out. While the game suffers from development issues, I was able to overlook them due to the sheer fun I had playing it. Each of the 60 levels were short and addicting, and varied enough in design to keep me interested. I feel the developer has a lot of potential and I look forward to seeing how he and his team can improve Tiny Galaxy in the future.
Tiny Galaxy is developed and published by indie studio Arcane Pixel Games. It launched in the North American Wii U eShop on July 16, 2015 for $5.99.
Review copy provided by Arcane Pixel Games