The past few months I’ve had an exciting rush of nostalgia as the upcoming Spyro: Reignited Trilogy has been teased with loads of gameplay at E3. There’s also the Nintendo Switch and PC launch of the Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy recently. Both of these were classic platformers from my childhood and the desire to play them was strong…but what if I don’t want to be a dragon or a bandicoot for once? What if I want to be a T-rex called Borti who is capable of making me want to launch my monitor through a window? That is essentially the set up of Tiny Hands Adventure.
Tiny Hands Adventure by developer Blue Sunset Games and Funware will undoubtedly sate your classic platforming itch. From the first level, it seems rather evident that the developers had Crash Bandicoot sitting at the front of their minds, so I felt somewhat familiar. Tiny Hands Adventure does seem to fall into the mistake of not being sure what audience it wants to play to. On the one hand, it does a great job introducing a 3D platformer world that children can enjoy; on the other hand, it seems to grow overly difficult that you’ll end up wanting to rage quit.
The story takes place in Dinoburg, where protagonist dino Borti—a young T-rex—has to complete trials (read “levels”) and collect gems to access boss levels. Once the boss of those set of trials is defeated, the fairy grants Borti a tool to help in the upcoming trials. This will eventually lead Borti to get closer to his dream of playing soccer with his friends by gaining larger hands and arms. It’s a simple linear story and easy to follow, but it could all be let down by the gameplay.
The initial gameplay introduces collectible gems and meat as you head towards the end portal. Around the world are enemies that are either stationary or they begrudgingly shuffle towards you. They can be killed with one hit from your dino tail similarly to—once again—Crash Bandicoot. Offsetting this, Borti can be killed with one touch too. Should you die, you’ll get teleported back to the last Safe Zone checkpoint. Lose all of your lives, and it’s back to the very start of the trial.
The trials aren’t that long; it’s both luck and your reaction times that decide on how much time you’ll spend in a trial. I felt like there were many moments which were unfair and certainly too unforgiving for a younger audience. While some of these moments felt intentional, such as hidden drops, it was the actual game design that seemed to be the cause. Some enemies appear too late when the player runs towards the camera, some gaps aren’t designed well enough and stop a jump, and foreground objects can obscure deadly objects.
The camera is a huge nuisance, in all honesty. While it’s obvious they tried to get most of the types of camera angles from classic platformers into Tiny Hands Adventure; they failed to optimize it for seamless play. Levels where Borti runs towards the screen aren’t far away enough from the character, so everything that you run towards doesn’t show up until you’re right on top of it. The cameras that follow a bend in the path screw with the perspective, and some of the side on shots fail to give you a sense of depth
Once you’ve survived a few possibly torturous levels, the boss level for that set of trials unlocks. While it looks easy on the surface, the real challenge is how well you avoid the attacks. One boss felt a little bit too challenging when the last—third—round felt almost impossible thanks to random rays that were scattered all over the place. This left my success only down to being lucky not to get hit rather than skill. The same went for one of the bosses that spat out fireballs that went through the world thanks to bad design, thus making it a lot harder to survive.
Tiny Hands Adventure tries to be graphically interesting. Most of the time it’s a vibrant, friendly looking platformer that remains consistent throughout. But specific trials introduce different themes, such as a swamp level introducing darker colors and a bloom effect, or Comic Land that turns everything into a comic book filter. These changes are a nice addition and detract from the weird animations that litter the game. It’s just a shame more styles weren’t toyed with.
In regards to the audio department, while the music feels upbeat and makes up for the lack of voice acting, Tiny Hands Adventure had a stronger impact with its sound effects. These sounds certainly feel like a classic PS2 platformer and will please the good ol’ eardrums. Hell, they’ll probably even distract you from the menus that are a bit lacking and feel as if they were pasted in last-minute.
I felt a bit weird about the boxes scattered around the world because they’re almost exact replicas of Crash Bandicoot’s various boxes, just retooled. Normal boxes can contain meat; explosive boxes kill on impact; green boxes with a heart on contain an extra life; and special boxes grants you a shield. It mostly ended up leaving me feeling like I may as well just get the N-Sane Trilogy instead because it felt generally the same.
Tiny Hands Adventure also suffers from a keyboard layout that feels a bit clunky, but thankfully it does have controller support on the PC. And even while controllers feel like the best way to play, it does feel a touch buggy with unresponsive menu selections and performing precise moves, such as landing on platforms.
The saving grace for this game certainly lies in its difficulty and the number of trials available. Like I said earlier though, the difficulty ramp seems to target an older, more skilled player, but the visuals, style, and sound effects all seem aimed at the youngsters. In short, it is looking for people who have been playing since Banjo Kazooie, not people looking to experience 3D platformers for the first time.
The games playtime is relatively short; I managed to complete it in two hours, but there is the option to go back through the previous levels with your tools and collect everything. There also appears to be a “Skin Menu” which seems to allow players to unlock new skins for Borti.
Tiny Hands Adventure feels like it’s trying to hard to be the next Crash Bandicoot, but pads its experience out with poorly designed levels, bad camera angles, and perhaps too much copy and pasting from other franchises. The mascot platformer may be a fun game if you give it the chance, but it’s a more risky choice with other remastered classics readily available.