My friend Simon Darveau and I quit our jobs at AAA gaming studios in favour of a smaller, more experimental creative world: namely, independent game development. We wanted to create a new kind of game experience, and what better way to do so than to ride the wave of the new generation of consoles?
So with the help of Sony’s push for indies, we found our experiment in cooperation, Tiny Brains, coming to life on the shockingly high-res screens of the brand new PS4!
For some background, Tiny Brains is an upcoming action puzzle game that follows the adventures of four tiny (but super-powered!) lab animals that have been experimented on by a mad scientist. Each “tiny brain” has a unique physics-based ability and players must work together to combine their powers and escape the trick-ridden science experiment.
We made this game to truly be about co-op. Unlike some co-op games where the stronger players can complete the objectives while their less-experienced friends hang back and bumble about, in Tiny Brains, all the animals’ powers must work in tandem in order to progress. You and your fellow gamers can no longer just coexist, you must truly cooperate, and it’s easy for non-gamers to jump in and have fun.
Bringing Tiny Brains to the PS4, we of course took advantage of the awesome power of the console by having more physics-based objects, more destructibles, and more legions of evil baby chickens. Beyond the amped-up power of the whole system, the PS4 has some totally cool features that we got to work with. One of my favourites was the new tech in the Dualshock 4 controller.
Utilising the PS4 Dualshock light bar in Tiny Brains, you can tell which character you and your fellow lab rats are playing based on the corresponding controller colours. This comes in handy because each tiny superhero has a different power and you’ll need your friends’ help to cross boiling vats of acid, attract hard-to-reach batteries, and stop the pesky red ball from falling into the depths of the lab – just to name a few obstacles. Once you use your power, the light bar will turn white and will gradually return to your colour when your ability has recharged.
For example, Dax, the miniature bat, is purple. For Dax, echolocation is so last season – he can project a supersonic wave that can effectively force push objects away from him.
Stew is the rabbit with the green rubber suit. He’s electrically charged (his enormous ears are stuffed with a pair of high-powered batteries), and his power is to telekinetically pull objects towards him.
There’s also Minsc, a chubby blue hamster. He can create an ice block out of thin air and blow them up with a second block, propelling any objects (or tiny friends) on top of the ice high into the air.
Finally there’s Pad, the red-eyed mouse, whose brain is so big that it must be exposed under a protective glass cap. Pad can teleport by swapping position between himself and an object.
The controllers help you figure out which of your friends is controlling which animal, so you know to shout at the guy holding the blue controller (the Minsc man) when you need a block of ice to boost you over a fence, or the girl with the glowing red controller (Pad’s puppeteer) to teleport to an important switch.
In addition to the light bar, we’ve also made use of the Dualshock 4’s touchpad. The game features intuitive, easy-to-master controls but no matter how much gaming experience you have, you’ll need to communicate with your fellow tiny brains to solve each puzzle. To help facilitate this process, we’ve developed a feature where you can use the touchpad to bring down an arrow of your colour into the screen. Players can use this to point to specific locations in a puzzle where they may require someone with a different power to chip in – an especially helpful feature when playing in our online multiplayer mode.
We’re thrilled with the way Tiny Brains has turned out – as a joyously chaotic, intensely social game that can turn strangers into friends and friends into a team. We can’t think of a better medium for its gameplay than the brand new PS4.
Be sure to check out Tiny Brains on PlayStation Network and let us know in the comments your favourite feature of the Dualshock 4!