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TinyKeep (PC) Review

 
TinyKeep header
TinyKeep header
TinyKeep header

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC, Mac, Linux
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Final Score
4.0
4/ 10


User Rating
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We liked?


Wonderfully morbid sense of humor, cartoonish graphics

Not so much?


Repetitive gameplay, floaty physics, cheap deaths


Final Fiendish Findings?

    TinyKeep has a simple premise: You wake up in a cold dungeon cell somewhere, with a note from your fellow inmate telling you that she’s escaped and gone on ahead of you. You’re left to blunder through the dark corridors and fight off the guards all by your lonesome. TinyKeep has an appealingly […]

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Posted January 8, 2015 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

 

 

TinyKeep has a simple premise: You wake up in a cold dungeon cell somewhere, with a note from your fellow inmate telling you that she’s escaped and gone on ahead of you. You’re left to blunder through the dark corridors and fight off the guards all by your lonesome.

TinyKeep has an appealingly cartoonish graphic style, and a wonderfully dark sense of humor that’s maintained as you get killed horribly again and again. There isn’t much of a story to speak of – the point is to escape the dungeon, plain and simple.

The game has the randomized maps and punishing difficulty of a roguelike, but it plays more like a hack-and-slash game. Actually, the gameplay is a bit too simplistic for its own good.

Exploration and loot are one of the main draws of dungeon-crawling roguelikes, so it’s a bit disappointing that upgrades are so few and far between in TinyKeep. You have the same sword and shield throughout the game, but you can buy upgrades by offering some gold to glowing cauldrons in each level. There’s usually only one or two per floor, though, and even early on in the game they ask for anywhere from 15 to 100 gold. It takes a bit of grinding to earn that much, and then the random upgrade you receive might not save you from getting killed moments later. And, since this game has permadeath, you’ll have to go out and collect all that gold again.

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It would have been nice to have a few alternate attacks besides the sword and shield, or to be able to pick up different types of weapons to keep the action fresh. Combat typically feels like randomly flailing at the enemy, which looks pretty funny, but isn’t very satisfying.

Enemies also lack variety. You’ll fight against guards, thugs, and skeleton warriors, but they all feel effectively the same. Stage-end bosses are also just beefed-up versions of those same enemies with more health to chip away at.

Games with permadeath systems live and die by their replay value – after all, you’ll be restarting levels frequently in this game, and the main menu even keeps a running tally of how many times you’ve failed. But the gameplay just isn’t varied enough to keep me coming back to TinyKeep, and the randomly generated maps never felt different in any meaningful or interesting way.

Occasionally you’ll find other prisoners to be freed, who may join you as allies (a more appropriate term would be “meat shields”), but they are just as likely to attack you. Or cower in their cells helplessly.

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The best part about combat, when you get the opportunity, is the ability to exploit traps against your enemies. You can knock over a flaming brazier to set them alight, or have them chase you right into a spike pit. This adds a bit of strategy to the combat, though your chances to use it are limited on each floor.

This mechanic does allow the AI to show its weaknesses, though. Enemies will stumble directly into a trap or casually walk into a blazing fire.

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The floaty, unpredictable physics also present a problem. It seemed like I was just as likely to push over a torch onto myself as an enemy. Corpses and debris also stay in place, and after a while I was tripping over them. Add that to the sluggish timing of your sword swings, and you end up blundering into a lot of cheap deaths. Permanent deaths, of course.

Despite TinyKeep’s great sense of humor, the gameplay itself was too much of an unrewarding slog to keep me interested in trying to escape. Maybe rotting away in that cell instead isn’t such a bad idea.

TinyKeep is available on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux.


Jason Meek