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Tin & Kuna review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Black River Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E

Tin & Kuna is a 3D platformer in which you play as the eponymous Kuna, a little armadillo/pill bug-type creature who squishes itself into a little ball and rolls from place to place. To escape each level, you need to roll a ball into a hole, golf-style.

It’s not very good, and if you read that first paragraph even somewhat closely, you’ll probably be able to figure out why. The game’s core mechanic is that you’re using one ball to roll another ball around. In fact, it doesn’t take very long before the game is asking you to use Kuna to roll the balls across bridges, around enemies, and onto moving platforms.

Consider the physics of that. Think about how much harder it would be to kick a soccer ball with any kind of precision if the object striking it was also a perfectly round ball. Or to use the golf comparison I used up top, think about how much harder it would be to golf with any kind of accuracy of golf clubs were as round as the ball itself. Or even think about baseball, and the famous quote about how the hardest thing to do in all of sports is to use a round bat to hit a round ball squarely.

What I’m trying to get at is that Tin & Kuna is incredibly frustrating, and it’s that way by design. It’s certainly not impossible to use Kuna to slowly, gradually, maddeningly roll glowing balls around levels — whether it’s across bridges, or platforms, or whatever — but it does require a level of patience that far exceeds what the game has any right to ask of players.

On top of that, Tin & Kuna gradually adds in more and more tweaks to the basic formula — which would be fine if the game worked, but since the basic premise is questionable to begin with, it essentially means you’re just making the whole “roll one ball with another ball” gimmick even worse. You soon realize that as bad as that basic gameplay is, it’s even more frustrating when you have to power up your jumps using power-ups that last only a few seconds, or when you gain the ability to jump with a ball…but again, for only a few seconds. Even when it works — to the extent it works — it still means you’re just going back and forth and back and forth, powering up the new moves so you can move the ball a little bit further. It’s not fun.

To round it all out, the game also gives you a target speed time for each level, which seems to exist only to add on to the frustration. It feels like Tin & Kuna wants you to approach it with precision and speed, and then it gives you exactly zero of the tools you need to accomplish anything.

What makes all of this especially strange is that you get the sense Tin & Kuna could’ve been a fun game if it had stayed out of its own way. It’s a bright, colourful world filled with fun-looking characters, and the level-based gameplay means it’s the sort of platformer you can drop into and out of easily. What’s more, the levels are a good size and feature a good amount of variety in their island landscapes, so under different circumstances, I could totally imagine wanting to explore every bit of the game’s little world. If it had been less ambitious — or even just made it so that you weren’t expected to roll one ball with another ball — it’s easy to imagine how the game’s charm could have made it a sleeper hit.

But instead, Tin & Kuna is built around the most frustrating mechanic imaginable, and it’s impossible to enjoy as a result. It may look like a happy 3D platformer, but dig just below the surface, and you’ll see that it’s nowhere near as fun as it could be.

Aksys Games provided us with a Tin & Kuna Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C+