“The sacred gems have been stolen. Defeat the evil empire. You are our only hope.”
Tiny Alien’s no-nonsense story is the perfect introduction to a compact and refreshingly focused retro-styled platformer.
The eponymous extra-terrestrial is a sprightly hero: as it bounces along automatically, you must control the trajectory of its jump with left and right arrows. Meanwhile, an even tinier alien is along for the ride – this floating sentient drone will blast any enemies that come into view.
These range from leaping red nasties about your size to much larger opponents that take a good few seconds of direct fire to destroy. Your little helper sensibly prioritises threats, though you’ll want to hang back a bit when the game flings three enemies at you.
That’s because a single hit is enough to kill you, and with collapsing blocks, buzzsaw blades and indestructible turrets besides, simply making it to the next score marker is never easy.
But breaking the game into small chunks like this makes progress feel all the more achievable. The coins you earn from destroyed enemies can be used to continue from where you perished, too. And every so often you’ll find a power-up to give you a fighting chance, from a spread shot to missiles and a big laser – or, if you’re really lucky, a screen-shuddering explosive.
After clearing 20-odd sections you’ll face off against a boss, albeit with any special power-ups disabled. Defeat it and you’ll obtain one of the four gems – then it’s back to the start to get the rest.
Even once you’ve grabbed them all, it’s not game over; you’ll unlock an endless mode that invites you to get as far as you can.
Small in size but big in heart, Tiny Alien is single-minded arcade fun at its finest.