There’s Overwatch, CS:GO, Destiny, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, even in-development treats like Hello Neighbor and Subnautica that we’re drooling over, obsessing over; but have you ever heard of Tiny Brains, Contrast, or Stick it to the Man? I know the answer most of you just gave me. In the videogame industry, there are many, MANY hidden gems, but this batch are something special. And not just because they’re available on consoles AND Steam.
On with the show!
Let’s Talk Stick it to the Man
…a little game from Swedish development team ZOINK!, Stick it to the Man is the platformer to kick Mario right off of his platformer king… uh… platform… if it ever gets the trillion dollar advertising budget that Nintendo has. Platforming? It’s got that. Creative new gameplay mechanic? It’s got that. Interesting story? It’s got that. Unpredictable jokes? Good soundtrack?Aesthetically pleasing AND easy to use level design? An (ohmygoodness) creative AND fun item collection mechanic? Check, check, check, and check.
Stick it to the Man puts you into a world of sticker people with sticker thoughts and backdrops (buildings, water, vehicles, astral bodies) of cardboard. You play Ray, who takes a UFO to the head one night at work, thus ending up with a phantasmal sticky arm protruding from his noggin and being pursued by menacing men in black.
Having played it on PS4, where the game shines is not only the writing, but the titular sticky arm. The arm can be used on the environment almost exactly the way you can take those little stretchy sticky toys one purchases from vending machines and grab pieces of paper with them, and play merry hell with the gameplay environment (even some of the characters) using said sticky arm just like those toys. The icing on the cake is that ZOINK! even implemented the only touchpad controls for the PS4 that I’ve rather enjoyed; you can either use classic controls to use Ray’s powers OR slide your finger across the touchpad to wield the sticky arm like you would would fling rubber bands across a room.
The Steam version even has a an editor option for making your own levels and such! Really I can only find two downsides: it runs out of new things to do after roughly three days of play (not counting the level creator), and it is a little derivative of their earlier app game Swing King. This being said, though, for the PlayStation price of $19.99, Steam price of $15.99, and XBOX One price of $9.99, it’s well worth the investment for everyone who wants a puzzle/adventure platformer that’s VERY evenly balanced between fun and challenge, or just really want a single player game that’s very, very different.
Let’s Talk Tiny Brains
Spearheadgames are a Canadian development team who may or may not have developed this game partially while squatting in a university classroom. Tiny Brains is an online and (Gasp! Horror! How could they!) OFFLINE 1-4 player co-op puzzle game wherein you play one of four mutant lab animals trying to solve the (often fatal) puzzles in a mad scientist’s secret laboratory while occasionally battling a tribe of bloodthirsty chickens.
The game has an impressive array of solutions you can come up with for every puzzle, and even a decent amount of battle strategy in as much you can fight by yourself in battle, but working in concert with your fellow mutants in new and interesting ways to smite foes can absolutely done.
There are even a short but respectable list of unlockables, such as a hard mode where each player has only one life for the entire game, a Tiny Soccer mode (which came before Rocket league, but is honestly not unlike it), and a singleplayer option where there is only ONE mutant, but he’s got all four of our Tiny heroes’ powers at once.
Tiny Brains is available on PlayStation and Steam, and as of this writing, is even on a Steam sale for $1.99 (until April tenth, 2017). Did I mention Spearheadgames are such mad geniuses, they even remembered that some of us LIKE couch co-op?
Mad Russian! Radiation! Mutants! Freedom?
Let’s Talk Contrast
Another puzzle platformer! WOO! Wait, no don’t go! This one’s different. You are Dawn, mute acrobat imaginary friend of young girl Didi, a plucky, passionate little waif who lives in a strange yet familiar world not unlike our own roaring twenties in the United States, and who has a life and family full of passion and tragedy much like that real place and time. Compulsion Games gave their game diamond polish; the graphics, music, level design, game play, and voice work to create a world fair marinated in the class of a wild country in an aggressively hedonisitic time that, as we know in the real world, led to near ruin. But in this fairy tale, you have the chance to meet Didi and her family, and to save them from their shortsightedness, using your agility and your imaginary nature to get the job done.
What truly sets this game apart is Dawn’s ability to become her own shadow, and navigate the world (as well as solve problems) by interacting with the shadows of the world instead of the physical using transition and level of interaction that might make the makers of Paper Mario mad with jealously if they were to ever play it. It’s almost like they programmed two separate games, then seamlessly stitched them together so that you can play either whenever you like. Contrast does have the one flaw of being incredibly linear; once you beat it, it’s done; there is no more. But if you want a good challenge for your logic and your hand-eye coordination, and truckloads of atmosphere while you partake of it, this little beauty is for you. At $9.99 on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and Steam, you too could play what amounts to Andrew Ryan’s daydreaming.
The players that remember that “Triple A” publishers and developers who release too many unfinished games, unchanging series, and too. Damn. Many. Microtransactions. …are far from the only sources for electronic fun, imagination, and art. Join me, won’t you? Stick it to the man.
Igor, possibly a box