Tiny Brains will frustrate you. Seriously

Spearhead Games’ Tiny Brains is your next favourite co-op puzzle game.

Tiny Brains

Even though it’s not quite Christmas yet, at Plateau/Mile End indie studio Spearhead Games, the walls are already decorated in festive colours.

Instead of tinsel and lights, the place is adorned with blue, pink, green and purple post-it notes, and they’re not so much ornaments as they are badges of honour.

“Each one has a specific task,” explains studio co-founder Atul Mehra. “It lets people know what needs to be done. And when they complete it, they can stick it on the wall.”

The sorts of jobs range from minor bugs to seismic undertakings, and are colour-coordinated: art is blue, level design is pink, engineering is green and the rest, like sound and animation, are purple.

“The system worked surprisingly well,” adds co-founder Malik Boukhira. “It’s more fun to have that physical thing to remove. It’s more satisfying.”

Although the post-it note system sounds like a game unto itself, the Spearhead team have been working towards a much larger goal this whole time. Their first game—released just over a year after founding the studio last October—is Tiny Brains, a co-op puzzler for PC and the brand new PlayStation 4.

tiny2Even though Tiny Brains is one of the first titles for Sony’s next-gen console, the game is actually rooted in an old idea that has fallen out of favour as technology has evolved: a four-player co-op experience meant to be played on a couch with three buddies.

“My friends and I used to get together, have a bunch of drinks and food and play these sorts of games,” says Boukhira. “There are a lot of people who are waiting for this kind of game to happen.”

Tiny Brains can be played online—its release has been slightly delayed as the team perfects the transition process between single and multiplayer—but there’s something more satisfying about yelling orders to your teammates when they’re in the same room.

Each of the four players is a cartoonish mutant rodent with its own unique power, tasked with getting through a series of lab experiments. Dax is a bat who can push objects using a sonic boom. Stew is an electro-charged rabbit who can pull things towards him. Minsc the hamster can create explosive ice blocks, and Pad is a mouse that can swap positions with any object. Solving every puzzle involves a combination of all four abilities.

To make sure the puzzles were easy enough that anyone in the house could join in, but deep enough for hardcore players, Spearhead did weekly playtesting sessions at their office, even during the early prototype phase. It allowed them to witness the players’ joys and frustrations first-hand.

“Anyone who worked in the office building who was inclined to play games, we invited them,” says Mehra.

“We tried to stay as broad as possible,” adds Boukhira. “We mixed experienced players with people who rarely pick up a controller. It’s hard to find that game that everyone can play, and we wanted something that was accessible yet deep, as well as truly cooperative.”

Tiny Brains is available now for PS4 and Steam

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