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Tiny Metal review

Game formulas can occasionally be challenging to duplicate. For instance, take Intelligent Systems’ Advance Wars, a critically and commercially successful series that spurred four iterations in the first decade of the new millennium. But following the 2008 release of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the developer has shifted focused to other properties, leaving an ample opportunity for another developer to craft a series of similar faceoffs.

Efforts like Field Commander and Great Little Wargame have tried to capture the duplicate Advance Wars mechanics, with only Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars coming close to matching the mixture of accessibility and meditative turn-based strategy of Intelligent Systems’ franchise. And while the recent release of Area 35’s Tiny Metal won’t dethrone Advance Wars, it makes the absence of an actual sequel a bit more bearable. While the title has shipped without a multiplayer component, once that’s patched in, Tiny Metal has the potential to grow into a serious contender.

Tiny Metal shows progress over its peer when it comes to narrative. Most turn-based tactical games want to get down to business. But Area 35 isn’t afraid of creating context, with opening exposition explaining the contentious backdrop. Here, a downed diplomat is the impetus for quarrel, reigniting the tensions between the nations of Artemisia and Zipang. Our narrator through the conflict is Lieutenant Nathan Gries, an officer tasked with using his ingenuity to defeat his abundantly equipped rival.

Occasionally, Tiny Metal’s dialog can become a bit too loquacious, prompting impatient players to fast forward through the conversations. But bypassing these interchanges might prove to be an impediment. Not only are there some interesting moments, where Gries’ allegiances are challenged, but there’s the occasional bit of conversation that proves prudent on the battlefield. Gamers might try to skip the game’s opening cinematic, but even that imparts some foundational knowledge.

Watch the opening animation and Tiny Metal hints as the central strengths of weaknesses of each unit type. The introduction first showcases riflemen, who are capable of seizing cities, subsequently producing revenue able to expand your military force. However, they are susceptible to mobilized scouts, who can easy defeat a squadron with their mounted machine gun. The game’s eponymous Metals are mighty tanks capable of obliterating any lightly armored vehicles, but with their limited movement range and constrained vision are at risk of being hunted by an agile, rocket launcher-carrying Lancer.

While some might bemoan the lack of any naval fleets and the ability to merge two injured squads into a healthy new unit, Tiny Metal isn’t content with merely aping Advance Wars. Pleasing, it brings a number of divergent mechanics into battle, building an element of distinction. Focus Fire recalls the team attack of the Disgaea series, permitting a number of adjacent troops to combine their efforts into a formidable strike. Like Nippon Ichi’s SRPG, the maneuver requires a bit of planning, requiring multiple units to lock onto targets before issuing the attack order. But the extra planning reaps dividends, with combined forces easily destroying an especially irksome foe.

Entrenched enemies can often be exasperating for armchair strategists. Mercifully, Tiny Metal provides the option to Assault an imbedded opponent. The option isn’t without risk, opting to assault allows an adversary to fire first, which can whittle down your unit strength. But survive the ambush, and you might be able to push a unit back one space, allowing you to commandeer their position. Troop location, is unsurprisingly, something you’ll want to prioritize. Some spaces like Forests and Hills offer addition defensive protection for smaller troops. Urbanized spots like Cities, Factories, Airports, and Labs are also key captures, with most paying out currency on every turn and allowing the manufacture of associated units.

While the title extends a number of standalone skirmish missions to complement its twenty-hour campaign, currently the game lacks any multiplayer component. The absence of even local competition might initially seem a bit perplexing, but since Tiny Metal recovered from an unsuccessful crowdsourcing attempt, the approach is understandable, but still a bit disheartening considering the game’s twenty-five dollar price. On the upside, Area 35 pledges to amend the deficiency, but currently there’s no conclusive time frame.

Visually, Tiny Metal uses the Unreal Engine to offers on the sprite-based combatants of old. On the PC, the effect is especially effective, offering an attractive isometric view of the battlefield. On an undocked Nintendo Switch, the end result is almost as eye-pleasing, save for a bit of framerate woes during cinematics and a loss of responsiveness when unit numbers escalate.

But being that Metal is a turn-based affair, the transgression isn’t too serious, only effecting aesthetics. Fans of Japan art will undoubtedly appreciate the contributions of Koji Moriga, Go Takahashi, and Mutsumi Odax. While the trio might have a lot of name recognition in the West, their expertise working on titles like I am Setsuna and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is evident in the character design and unit modeling. Embarrassingly, I enjoy a strategy game that’s pleasing to the eye, and Tiny Metal’s output was able to keep the retinas charmed during the 45-minute stretches some missions took.

Like Advance Wars, Tiny Metal is a just as much as a puzzler as it is a strategy game. Each mission gives players a toolset, and tasking them to come up with a solution that involves seizing opportunity and limiting risk. Save for the lack of any multiplayer and a slightly constrained selection of units, Tiny Metal is a worthy successor, capable of engaging players who want to test their own mettle.

Tiny Metal was played on the PC with review code provided
by the publisher. A Switch copy was paid for by reviewer. 

Tiny Metal
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: Area 35
Publisher: Sony Music Entertainment Japan, UNTIES
Release date: December 21st, 2017
Price: $24.99 via digital download
Game formulas can occasionally be challenging to duplicate. For instance, take Intelligent Systems’ Advance Wars, a critically and commercially successful series that spurred four iterations in the first decade of the new millennium. But following the 2008 release of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the developer has shifted focused to other properties, leaving an ample opportunity for another developer to craft a series of similar faceoffs. Efforts like Field Commander and Great Little Wargame have tried to capture the duplicate Advance Wars mechanics, with only Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars coming close to matching the mixture of accessibility and…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 80%
Controls - 80%
Aesthetics - 85%
Content - 80%
Accessibility - 80%
Innovation - 75%

80%

VERY GOOD

Summary : Advance Wars aficionados will want to pick up Tiny Metal right away. Those who aren’t completely enamored by strategy/puzzlers might want to wait for a multiplayer patch and a price drop before enlisting.

User Rating: 4.41 ( 8 votes)

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

12 comments

  1. So this didn’t go on sale yet? It held onto $24.99 during the Steam sale I see.

  2. I don’t need polygons. I would have liked a Vita version with sprites @ 60 fps.

  3. So can someone provide a link to the controversy? I hear something about the devs used money that was supposed to go to another game.

    I don’t want to reward bad behavior.

    • I think its a bitter ex-employee making up stories. Nothing has been substantiated

    • Basically:

      Game developer Tariq Lacy has accused director Hiroaki Yura of stealing money from a Kickstarter called Project Phoenix to fund his latest game, Tiny Metal. Yura has fired back with his own allegations, accusing Lacy of sexual harassment, which Lacy denies. It’s a back-and-forth mudslinging fight and yet another piece of drama surrounding Yura’s disastrous $1 million Kickstarter project.

      Rumors have been swirling about Project Phoenix since it first popped up in 2013, and among independent game developers in Japan, the million-dollar Kickstarter campaign has long been a source of consternation. Promising to “set a new standard of excellence for the Japanese gaming industry,” Project Phoenix raised $1,014,600 from 15,802 backers before failing to meet its deadlines. In 2015, Yura said the game would be delayed an additional three years. And in April 2017, Yura told backers that he planned to release a different game first, explaining that he’d found some investors who would be willing to help back Project Phoenix if this new game succeeded.

      That new game is Tiny Metal, which was planned for release tomorrow before it received a last-minute delay to December 21. And Lacy, who worked as a marketing and PR manager on Tiny Metal, took to the Project Phoenix Facebook account to accuse Yura’s company of running a scam.

      Here’s what he wrote:

      Two months after I was hired at AREA 35, I had learned that the company funded this project by running a scam through Kickstarter. They gathered several famous creators and ran a campaign known as “Project Phoenix”, then used the $1,000,000 received from the campaign to fund the “TINY METAL” project.

      Here’s how it happened: after they received the Kickstarter money for Project Phoenix, they subsequently shut down their original company (Creative Intelligence Arts, or “CIA”), then used that same money to establish AREA 35 and pay for staff, equipment, and an office to make TINY METAL.

      The company’s CEO, Hiroaki Yura, asked me to deflect any accusations that this money was from anyone other than private investors; in actuality, Hiroaki only dipped into his own funds and asked for money from private investors after the funding that he had secured for TINY METAL was running low. I refused this request to fabricate and minimize the truth for the purpose of misleading others, then told Hiroaki to remove me from all matters regarding Project Phoenix so that I would not be implicated in this affair.

      You will notice progress reports on the Project Phoenix Kickstarter blog, as well as their official Project Phoenix blog. These were written periodically by Hiroaki Yura himself in order to squander doubts that the project was dead. The nature of these blog entries, through their infrequency and intentional ambiguity, reveals to us that the project never was meant to be released. To Hiroaki, this ruse under the guise of a campaign and blog was merely an effective means to receive funding while removing any obligations to investors.

      Although the people behind Project Phoenix quickly deleted these posts, they spread quickly amongst backers and observers who have long been frustrated by Yura’s long-delayed project. (I received nearly a dozen emails when it happened.)

      When I reached out to Yura for comment, he fired back with his own allegations about Lacy. “The post was posted by a staff whose contract has been bought out due to him being a toxic employee who has sexually harassed our female staff amongst many other problems,” Yura said in an e-mail. “The post is factually incorrect and thus was deleted from our account. That’s all we have to say for now, we’re looking into releasing legal documents and other proofs after discussing this with our lawyer.” Yura added that he couldn’t offer more details but said there were “three witnesses to that happening during that time.”

      Lacy denied these accusations, saying in an e-mail, “No, Hiroaki’s statement about me being toxic and sexually harassing a staff member is not true. He is reacting to my statement with libel.” He also sent over a few hundred logs from the company’s Slack chat channel, although upon review, few if any of those logs appear to be relevant to either claim.

      Yura said the Project Phoenix Kickstarter money went into the creation of the alpha build, which was poorly received by fans. He added that he’d also invested money he received from other jobs, like his work on the Square Enix game I Am Setsuna. “So in effect, not only did we use up the Kickstarter money and we have the assets to show for it, we also pitched in quite a bit of funds ourselves as apparent through all the videos, concepts, assets, gameplay that we have shown over the years,” Yura said in an e-mail. “Tiny Metal[‘s] initial investment came from a group of investors from Australia. This wasn’t enough however, to finish the development so the rest came through a deal with Sony Music Entertainment.”

      This all makes for an ugly, public battle that will no doubt hang over the release of Tiny Metal, and it’s yet another blemish on a Kickstarter project that many backers suspect will never happen.

  4. Good review. I might have to grab it. I loved AW when I was younger. Played through every game, every mission.

  5. I hope the soundtrack is METAL.

  6. I don’t know why any kind of assumed financial things would prohibit people from buying and playing a game. You think all those Genesis and Super NES games we played as a kid were free of controversy? There are tons of developers who have talked about being underpaid or exploited. We didn’t have the internet or game journalists back then but I’m sure as hell some shady stuff went down.

  7. I can’t wait to play Wargroove. Check that game out if you haven’t already.

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