Tiny Lands (2021)
Hyper Three Studio | Reviewed on PC
Does anyone remember the I, Spy books from back in the day? A glossy picture book full of carefully cultivated scenes, designed to challenge your ability to find certain objects within the clutter. As a kid, I always loved these puzzle books – they were a fantastic way to while away a couple of hours, and you could even search alongside your friends (whether in competition or co-operation). When I saw an article announcing Tiny Lands, a 3D puzzle game involving adorable little dioramas from which to play “spot the difference,” I was immediately interested. Tiny Lands is exactly what I needed from a hide-and-seek puzzle game, with the bonus of giving me nostalgia flashbacks to the kinds of puzzle games I loved so much when I was young.
The premise of Tiny Lands is simple: you’re presented with 2 dioramas, side by side, and you’re to find the 5 differences between them. These dioramas are gorgeously rendered, with a cute low-poly style, and based around a couple of different themes (my favourites were the ocean area, and the Japanese-inspired one). You’re able to spin the screen, while zooming and un-zooming, in order to spot these subtle differences. Most of the dioramas include a mixture of people, animals, and flora, and you’ll have to examine them all. If I had to criticize anything, it might be the limited camera movement – I did occasionally wish that my viewing options had been a little less restrictive.
Tiny Lands makes the most of its 3D scapes, as sometimes, getting just the right angle is crucial to spotting something you may have otherwise missed (pay attention to those shadows!) These little differences can vary from being quite obvious, to genuinely tough to catch; some objects may be a different colour, or in a slightly different position, while others are missing a certain feature, or maybe even vary in size. It pays to scrutinize every little detail thoroughly – though I got quite stuck on more than one occasion. I’m not going to pretend that this game is a massive challenge, but it hit the mark for me in terms of its “difficulty.”
The way in which Tiny Lands unfolds was also a positive for me; it has quite a bit of content for such a small game – there are about 6 different thematic areas, with 10 or so dioramas to explore in each one. New areas are locked behind a certain amount of stars, which you collect by completing each of the little models (spot 5 differences, get 5 stars, capiche?) Once you’ve collected some stars, you’re free to choose which area you’d like to tackle next. This both incentivizes the player to find every difference in a particular diorama before moving on, while also rewarding your careful sleuthing.
In case it wasn’t obvious, I absolutely adored Tiny Lands. For me, this was the perfect relaxing game to spend some time with – it’s cute and colourful, with a lovely accompanying piano soundtrack (along with some ASMR ambient noises, like ocean waves, or birds chirping). Each lovely setting is stylized and executed to perfection – I almost wanted to spend more time combing through these small, dollhouse-esque models. This is a fantastic game for a rainy day, or even as a reprieve from all the sword-fighty, looty-shooty games that demand so much attention. Based on the end credits, it looks like there is more content coming to Tiny Lands in future, and for the equally tiny price tag (less than 10 dollars) I can’t recommend this game enough.