It would be difficult to review Tiny Metal without referencing the Advance Wars games from Intelligent Systems. Perhaps “difficult” is an understatement. The Japanese developer Area 35 has stated that the new strategy title was ‘inspired’ by the series. They wanted to make the game they desired to play, but not clone it. Honestly though, for all intents and purposes, this is fundamentally a carbon copy.
Tiny Metal Review: Black Hole Rising
Now, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad game, does it? A great developer will observe others around them, use the best ideas and then create something from that for themselves. Unfortunately, Tiny Metal fails to achieve the latter part, adding little to the magic formula on its own. Ergo, it stops short of being anything truly special, even if Advance Wars has been strangely absent for so many years.
From the way the battlefield view and individual battle scenes are presented, to how the units look and behave, to the way the characters debate the existentialism of war, almost everything in Tiny Metal has been taken from Advance Wars. It’s brazen, and yet somehow respectful of the series, but without the precision.
With all that being said, both Advance Wars fans and newcomers to turn-based tactical strategy games will find something to enjoy in Tiny Metal.
Grid-Based Strategy Goodness
The single-player campaign in Tiny Metal is meaty, with 14 main missions to complete, and supplementary ones to unlock along the way. Although I didn’t find it to be of the same challenge as Intelligent System’s classic campaign offerings. The game runs smoothly in 4K, 60fps on PS4 Pro, with clean visuals and catchy tunes. There is a multiplayer mode, or will be – it’s coming later and is not available at launch – which is a bit odd.
The story, presented through slightly bloated dialogue scenes, regularly challenges and questions the mistakes of humanity. Living by your own code, not asserting your views on others, the implied fickle nature of us all – there are some surprisingly deep and meaningful discussions to be found within.
While not offering groundbreaking additions to the formula, I still enjoyed the small differences from Advance Wars as well. Yes, there are a few reader! Additions like the fact units rank up the more you battle with them, making them harder to take down. Or the option to call in special named-units with added perks and abilities – William Bishop is a fighter pilot who really excels in the air, with more expertise than standard units, for example. There’s also a “Focus Fire” command on the grid which combines the attacks of your units for bonus damage – something to consider when pushing forward.
I even got some pleasure from finding the hidden labs which unlock the aforementioned “MX” missions and extra dialogue. Although taking the time to find these can hurt your mission score, so it’s a little incongruent with the ‘finish in as few moves as possible’ central premise.
It’s a shame that Area 35 didn’t really leave their own mark on the established Advance Wars series with Tiny Metal then. A decent campaign and story, along with minor changes, aren’t enough to make this essential, but make for a solid experience nevertheless.
While Tiny Metal helps to hold off the starvation perpetuated by Intelligent Systems and Nintendo’s apparent refusal to make a new game, at the same time, it can’t help but make you wonder where the real deal is.