In recent years, 3D platformers have experienced something of a renaissance in the modern game industry, with the likes of Yooka-Laylee, Super Mario Odyssey, and Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy making a notable impact on sales charts and the general conversation surrounding games. Though the appetite is clearly there for these sorts of titles to exist, it goes without saying that the quality and originality of these outings is a big part of why they’ve achieved the success they have. Tiny Hands Adventure does its best to follow in that lineage, but it struggles to fill those big shoes, offering up an experience that’s serviceable, but ultimately unoriginal and forgettable.
The story follows a little blue dinosaur named Borti, who struggles to play Soccer and other sports with his friends due to his short arms. Distraught, he approaches a magical fairy and asks for her help in solving this problem, and she agrees to aid him if he’ll collect magical gems on her behalf through several trials. It’s a flimsy premise to be sure, but one rarely looks for much in the way of story in a platformer; though the writing is rife with grammatical mistakes and bizarre phrasing, it has just enough heart to be satisfactory.
Gameplay takes ample inspiration from the Crash Bandicoot series, focusing on platforming that feels a little more like a 2D game in 3D space than it does a true 3D platformer. Borti can attack enemies by either bounding on their heads or slapping them with a tail spin, although this latter option feels a little slower than it should be and results in many deaths that feel unfair. Each level contains a gem required for unlocking the boss of that world, along with a series of five optional gems that can then unlock a harder variation of the level.
This setup works largely in the game’s favour, with the sheer quantity of levels creating a perception of the stage design being of a higher quality than it truly is. Individually, levels feel uninspired and simple, and are also rife with difficulty spikes and unfair enemy placement that hinders overall enjoyment. Perhaps the gap between two platforms is close to your max jump distance, or maybe the game fails to register your jump input at all and Bordi simply walks off a ledge to his death. Moments like this are plentiful and frustrating, but there’s a certain baseline quality that the overall level design still manages to meet which just barely makes progress enticing.
That baseline quality is nowhere to be found, however, in the boss fights, which range from being mind-numbingly easy to outright based on luck. The first boss, a dance with an evil hippo in a frozen arena, took us close to fifteen minutes to best, while the second boss was easily beaten in the first try with some deft usage of TNT. Rather than tasking you with using skills you’ve built up in previous zones to overcome a new challenge, the bosses seem like they were a rushed, last-minute addition to the game to pad out the playtime. We came to dread these boss encounters, and not in a good way, as they only manage to drag down an experience that already struggles to be passable.
It’ll take you maybe five hours to see everything that Tiny Hands Adventure has to offer, although realistically it would be about half of that were it not for the inconsistent level design and cheap boss fights. Tools given to you by the fairy after each boss battle may encourage completionists to backtrack to previous levels to grab missed gems, but they otherwise offer little to change-up the gameplay experience as you move forward. It also bears mentioning that later levels frequently reuse assets and obstacles from previous ones, which creates a sense of Déjà vu as you move forward.
From a presentation perspective, there are flashes of brilliance here or there, but the overall look and feel leave something to be desired. Animations are quite stiff, making for enemies and characters which feel oddly wooden and lifeless for a game which seems to be going for the opposite effect. Stage designs can sometimes be interesting, with a climb up a lighthouse and a run through a cel-shaded comic book land being memorable standouts, but for each of these, there are plenty of ho-hum designs, such as an all-blue ice world and a dull marsh. Nothing here is particularly hard on the eyes, but it’s clear that Tiny Hands Adventure would have benefitted from a stronger art direction.
All told, Tiny Hands Adventure manages to provide an okay platforming experience, but not one that we’d particularly recommend you jump for. The current price puts it in the same ballpark as plenty of other much more polished platformers on the eShop, and considering the forgettable presentation and uneven level design, there’s not much here that’s worth your time. You could do much worse than Tiny Hands Adventure, but you could also do much, much better - especially on Switch.