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TinyKeep: Survive, Thrive or Die

The buzz on TinyKeep started just about two years ago on Kickstarter when a small group of developers proposed a dungeon crawler with some unique elements. The game was funded and was available on all major desktop platforms by the end of 2014. What was promised to backers was delivered and now the rest of us get a chance to check out the goods. Our overall impression was great and TinyKeep will no doubt continue to be refined and hopefully extended, at least through future campaigns from developer Phigames. There are many things here youíve seen before, but not in quite this configuration.

Starting with the basics, TinyKeep has full controller support available, which is great because the keyboard controls often felt quirky. Our sense was that youíll be much happier playing with a controller and may be tempted to judge TinyKeep too harshly if you try and slog through on keyboard only. At the very least, youíre going to have a much harder time of it without the controller, the simplest reason being that this is an action game. From the first few minutes, youíll find yourself staggering without weapon or armor through a dungeon that is completely unknown, being chased by your captors.

Thereís never a lot of context in TinyKeep, but itís not really necessary. Know that your goal is to escape and that there are many ways you can succeed, but more ways to fail. Grabbing weapons and money is essential, because youíll eventually die. When your character dies, thereís no quick restart or respawn point, only the beginning of the level and any abilities youíve managed to save up for that supercharge your character. Each level is randomly generated, making it impossible to really plan a strategy for escape. There are some common features in almost every level you can work to your advantage, however.

Levels are chock full of enemies, but can sometimes provide sustenance, healing, and allies. You get some points for rescuing others imprisoned in the dungeon, which may influence which of several endings you earn by the end of your escape. Controls are simple enough and are limited to jumping and swinging your weapon as you move around each level. The feeling of powerlessness is really strong in TinyKeep, making it a game that never quite gives you that powerful feeling. The creative direction leans toward cute, but the actual experience is more like a survival horror game. Youíre constantly jumping in surprise and running madly for your life, and even the top-down perspective doesnít make it any less dramatic.

Thereís not a lot of variety here, but the basic premise is lots of fun. If roguelike hack-and-slash games are your thing, TinyKeep is well worth checking out. Most of the games in this genre are taking a pixel-graphics, 2D approach, so itís refreshing to see a full 3D experience done with this skin-of-the-teeth style gameplay. Survive, thrive, or die.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock
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