1000 Tiny Claws Review—Yar, Thar Be Lots of Insects
I have always thought that Mediatonic is somewhat wasted creating games. While they have created some excellent titles with fun gameplay (most notably Who’s that Flying?!) their creations’ main appeal is the presentation and humor, as well as the quirky characters, which contain more charm and laughs than any given season of The Simpsons in the last 10 years. In this regard, their latest game, 1000 Tiny Claws, is their best title yet. And yet, you can also see them improving as game designers as well.
The protagonists of the game are the crew of a ship of sky pirates. They have inadvertently unleashed a horde of bug-like monsters named “The Swarm” upon the world. They must rectify this by becoming exterminators, clearing sky islands of these insects by dropping the first mate of the ship, a redheaded pirate lass by the name of Rana, onto the ground and having her knock off all the bugs with her sword.
It’s very much like some of the early shoot ‘em ups we’ve seen, particularly Age of Zombies. Only in this case, you are moving Rana around the level whacking things instead of shooting them. The big difference is how you and the bugs “die.” Instead of having a health meter or hit points or something along those lines, you or the bugs simply get knocked off the sky island. This seems simple at first, but the more you play the more you realize just how ingenious it is.
Specifically, it adds a lot of strategy as to how you play. Certain parts of the map you can’t really be knocked off of. Once you figure out where these spots on the level are, it becomes much easier to do. When I first started playing, I really didn’t pay any attention to this and kept getting stuck. But then a light bulb appeared above my head, and I got it.
Each world (of which there are 5) has 5 stages, the last generally being a boss fight. As in Mediatonic’s past games, the boss fights are something of a puzzle; you need to figure out how to defeat them. Usually this just involves a simple QTE (Quick Time Event), or in other words, pressing a button (which gets displayed on screen) rapidly. Simple because it’s just X. But, figuring out what triggers it is the puzzle.
With that said, it does get a bit repetitive. I could only stand doing two or three stages in a row before wanting to move on. They only last a few minutes, but sometimes it can take two or three tries. Regardless, some other type of gameplay would have been welcome once in a while, just as a change of pace.
It would also have been nice to see some improvement in Rana’s abilities. While there are puzzle elements, as I mentioned, they just aren’t strong enough to offset the lack of progression in gameplay. Some similar games, like Dracula – Undead Awakening or Twin Blades, offer periodic upgrades that let your guy move faster or kill better or give special powers. 1000 Tiny Claws doesn’t even offer any power-ups, except once or twice being able to restore your defense (basically how far you get thrown through the air when attacked).
Besides Story Mode, there are Challenge and Survival. Survival Mode gets unlocked after beating the first level, while Challenge needs to have Story Mode beaten. Survival is just like it sounds, where you simply try to survive as long as you can, racking up the highest score possible. Challenge essentially has you replay the levels in Story Mode, but this time for scoring to get ranked (silver, bronze, gold), rather than to progress in the story.
There’s quite a bit to unlock besides those two modes and the cutscenes between each level. Lots and lots of medals or trophies (but not in the PSN sense), which you can see in the Treasure Room. A lot of times, this just gets tacked on, but here the backdrop really is a trophy room of a ship. There’s also the Ship’s Log which contains humorous entries, although one does seem to be somewhat un-nautical in calling a ship a “boat.”
The graphics are excellent, both the cutscenes (which have improved in quality over Who’s That Flying?!) as well as the detail in-game, in terms of the artwork itself and the animations. Like when you get knocked against a wall, you’ll see some dust get knocked from it.
The sound is also very good, and I really got a kick out of the song in the credits menu. You are treated to a song sung by the Captain which tells the plot of the game. If this were 35-40 years ago when sea shanties like “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and “Sloop John B” were still charting, it could be a hit. It’s really that good and probably the best reward for viewing the credits I’ve ever experienced in a game.
The cutscenes are also voiced, but with gibberish. Mostly gibberish; the names of characters are pronounced, and it’s hilarious when they go from being incoherent to saying the character’s name with a perfect English accent.
At first, I thought 1000 Tiny Claws was like Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, a game that I found charming but didn’t really enjoy the gameplay of because it was somewhat shallow. But, the more I played 1000 Tiny Claws, the more I realized how clever it was, and how well designed. Once I “got” the game, I really did enjoy it for itself, and not just for the funny cutscenes.
Still, the game is a bit repetitive. There’s a lot of enemy variety, as well as a slight puzzle element in figuring out the best strategy on the map, but you basically do just hit the X button over and over and over. While that’s also true in shooters, you feel it more in a beat ‘em up-style game where usually there are other buttons to press.