The words “tiny” and “Thor” are probably two that you never thought would go together, considering how muscular and powerful he’s portrayed to be in Norse mythology and the Marvel films. But what about in his younger years, before he became the mighty god that we know him as today? Indie developer Asylum Square seeks to tell the story of Thor in his formative years whilst capturing the spirit of retro gaming in this deceivingly cute puzzle platformer. While Tiny Thor showcases its potential and charm in its art direction and level design, it does fall short due to unexpectedly frustrating difficulty spikes.
You probably already guessed it: you play as the God of Thunder himself in this homage to old school platformers. The catch here is that Thor is not only small, but also young, as it’s his 10th birthday, and his father finally gifts him his iconic hammer, Mjölnir. Things unexpectedly go awry and our tiny god is thrust on an adventure to save the realms. Those who are familiar with Norse mythology will surely have a great time with the many references, but the overall storyline as a whole doesn’t break any new grounds. Instead, it serves as a serviceable backdrop for some challenging platforming and puzzle solving.
At first glance, gameplay can be boiled down to any generic platformer, where you must traverse through handcrafted levels that require you to avoid traps and environmental hazards while battling enemies. You’ll unlock new abilities as you progress such as a double jump, wall jump, and air dash. Sapphires are scattered across each level that can then be used to purchase and upgrade abilities in the shop. Rubies, on the other hand, are a much rarer collectible that require some going off the beaten path to collect, and unlock bonus challenge levels. Every so often you’ll engage in a boss encounter, each of which features special mechanics that require you to be strategic and meticulous with your approach.
Using Mjölnir is where things get interesting, as his signature hammer is needed to solve many of the puzzles and defeat certain enemies. Mjölnir can be aimed and thrown at a variety of objects found in the overworld, including switches, boxes, and enemies. The developers have found a fun and mostly intuitive way to integrate a key part of Thor’s character with Tiny Thor’s core mechanics. That being said, aiming the hammer can be a bit awkward considering a miscalculated aim can result in failing to solve a puzzle, or even worse, death.
Tiny Thor also takes an interesting approach on health, because Thor’s literal heart pops out of his body when he is hit. The number of lives remaining is shown on the heart and slowly starts to decrease the longer your heart is out of your body. So, it’s in your best interest to get your heart back! Hearts are rare to come by, especially as you push further on into the game, so you should be extra careful about not getting hit, but that’s easier said than done.
How responsive the controls are is one of the most important questions for a platforming game, and I’m glad to say that the ones in Tiny Thor are mostly that. Yes, the controls are indeed tight, but platforming sometimes feels imprecise and lacks the fluidity expected in a well-polished platformer. Jumping feels a bit floaty and inconsistent, leading to unnecessary deaths. It doesn’t help that save points and checkpoints are way too far apart and not as frequent as I would have liked, forcing me to retry certain segments over and over.
Moreso, the difficulty curve is also a bit poorly balanced, as some sections present steep spikes in difficulty without adequate build-up or warning. This is notably accentuated during the last few hours of the game, where certain segments felt more frustrating than genuinely challenging. Considering Tiny Thor starts off extremely easy and simple, the ramp up is quite unexpected and can even be considered mascore, especially when the game punishes you for missing a jump by even a fraction of an inch.
The visual and audio designs of Tiny Thor are a pleasant treat. The undoubtedly appealing pixel art graphics evoke a feeling of nostalgia that harken back to the 16-bit era of gaming. I appreciated how every level features a distinctive theme that ultimately adds to the overall world building. Additionally, the catchy soundtrack perfectly complements the retro visuals, as it is both punchy and satisfying to listen to whilst you push through the game’s 30 something levels.
Tiny Thor successfully captures the spirit of retro puzzle platformers while injecting its own unique twist, but it’s a classic example of a game that is easy to pick up but hard to master. Don’t be fooled by the deceptively light hearted and whimsical looks because the game is way more hardcore and challenging than it needs to be. You’ll have to master some tight platforming maneuvers and aim the mighty Mjölnir with extreme precision if you wish to save Asgard.
Lewis played Tiny Thor on PC with his own bought copy. Tiny Thor is coming later this summer to the Nintendo Switch.