Tiny Galaxy is an action platformer that takes the original concept of a platformer and turns it on its head. You play as a nondescript blue square, Orion, as you race through the "tiny galaxy", jumping from planet to planet to try and retrieve your stolen headphones. With a unique gameplay approach that blends the 2D platformer genre with the gravitational shenanigans found in the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, you're left with a rather nausea-inducing game.
In order for Orion to make it all the way to the end of the galaxy he has the ability to jump between planets and travel through worm holes; this is the basis for how each level unfolds. You start in a cluster of planets that are all within "jumping" distance from one another, and throughout the level there are three Stars that must be found to open the Warp Gate - get all the Stars from each level and you've completed the world.
It sounds simple enough, but this game will take you on a rollercoaster ride through various gaming challenges; even within the very first (of six) worlds you'll see a dramatic range of difficulty. The first level starts you off by having learning the basics. Running, hopping, jumping to another world, all the mechanics are laid out for you. By the time you reach level 4, there is an unforgiving number of moving saw blades and ground spikes to hinder your progress at every turn. The game may look like it could be a 'casual' indie title, but it's extreme difficulty will keep only the most hardcore around after the first world.
When this game is referred to as a dizzying experience, that is no joke. The game's title screen advises that you "Please remember to take a break every 10-15 minutes". This isn't just a suggestion - with the way the camera work is handled, it's mandatory (whether you think you need it or not). The player's character stays dead center of the screen at all times, but as you jump, flip, and spin around planets the camera is doing the same thing to keep up. Even those with iron stomachs and a love for spinning rides at amusement parks can walk away with a sense of vertigo and nausea.
Although the controls seem relatively responsive, and your character is quick to move and jump, the way this is incorporated into the gameplay mechanics can lead to many frustrating scenarios. Often you'll find yourself attempting a short hop over a pair of spikes on the ground. Of course, you need to jump high enough to clear the spikes, but you press the jump button for a fraction of a second too long and you're flung violently to a nearby planet, often falling into a group a spinning saw blades.
Tiny Galaxy looks and feels like an indie title, too; that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, but in this scenario, it is. Rough edges, clouds that disappear and repeating patterned textures are just the beginning of the visual issues with the game. Playing as a square, single-coloured character may have worked for Super Meat Boy, but the visual design in that case is explained right in that game's title. In the character Orion's case, it just seems like the "easy route", and is poorly executed; the "enemy" that has stolen your headphones at the beginning of the game is just a black circle with a slight gradient.
Not everyone needs to be an artist, but the tools and resources out there can certainly make it easier for a game to be more visually appealing. It lacks polish overall, too; even the menu can be confusing, only because there is no visual feedback. After completing 6 levels of the 10 worlds, there is no indicator showing you what has been completed, while level select buttons look the same whether you've completed them or not. Even when you're tapping buttons on the screen (you are unable to use the controller's D-Pad to select), there's no indication the button you're after has been pressed.
If you're able to get through the wonky nausea-inducing camera work, Tiny Galaxy does at least offer plenty of content. The worlds on offer - which are visually different from each other - contain 10 levels, and each level is more different and unique than the last. Unfortunately, the game is hindered too much by its frustrating difficulty level, an assortment of glitches (our copy lost all progress at one point) and the instant onset of queasiness due to a constantly spinning camera. Due to this it's tough to recommend Tiny Galaxy for all but the most patient gamers with cast-iron stomachs.