Given Mediatonic's previous PlayStation Minis titles involved chasing colossal monsters to the precipice of a monumental structure and engaging in courtroom drama, 1000 Tiny Claws is surprisingly unambitious. Worry not, this swashbuckling slasher is still packed with all the charm and giggles of Mediatonic's finest, but we've just come to expect that little bit more from the British indie studio's portfolio.
You play as Rana, a pretty pirate with crimson hair and the first mate of the appropriately idiotic Captain Bluebell. The plot goes that Rana and her crew have unearthed a magical sword, and with it released a mythical curse plaguing the world with nippy critters. With Bluebell's crew sentenced to the gallows, Rana has just 24-hours to reverse the spell and return the world to normal or the plunderous party will be no more.
What ensues is a whimsical little arena brawler that's part-Powerstone, part-Super Smash Bros, and mostly good fun. The game maintains that same knowing silliness that has defined Mediatonic's titles to date, with a selection of laugh-out-loud cut-scenes and a mischief laden Ship's Log providing welcome respite between the battling.
Brawls take place on confined islands spread across five unique visual styles. Each island is predominantly sparse, with no borders to conceal the action. This is key, because the game relies on your ability to swat enemies off the edge of the island, rather than whittle down their life-bar. The more hits an insect is dealt, the further it will be knocked back, giving you a greater probability of sending it into the great unknown below.
Conversely, the same mechanic applies to Rana. As you take damage from the nipping critters, you'll find yourself much more susceptible to being knocked off the edge of the island yourself, prompting an agonising 'game over' screen and the option to try again.
Your combative options are limited, but enough to get the job done. A simple swipe of the sword can be rolled into a damaging combination of three, while a dashing attack gives you the power to charge at your enemies and knock them for six. Defensively you can hop about the stage in order to avoid being burned, slashed or bruised by any variety of the critter's attacks, and once you've knocked enough foes off the stage you can unleash a charged attack which acts a little bit like a panic button.
While Rana's roster of capabilities are enough to get the job done in most circumstances, the character can feel agonisingly weak at times. Some enemies are dramatically over-powered, flinging the protagonist across the island with very little effort. During some of the game's concluding stages you'll find yourself helpless, unable to really do much of anything other than hope that a critter knocks you out of harm's way.
It's a shame that the game concludes with such a sense of frailty, because it feels the opposite at first. Here you'll find yourself swatting insects around the world without reserve. But that maniacal sense of accomplishment gets replaced by terror and frustration as the game trots towards its conclusion.
The game just doesn't give you enough options to escape when you're overwhelmed. The dodge button works, but is far too dangerous in tight spaces, with Rana always susceptible to bunny-hopping off the edge at her own accord. And even when you're given the opportunity to climb back onto the island by hammering the X button, the maneuver concludes in a time-consuming Hulk-smash, leaving you open to enemy attacks for a good second or two.
Thankfully none of the game's gameplay shortcomings detract from its wonderful presentation. Mediatonic's identifiable Saturday morning cartoon art-style is back in full flavour, with stunning animation making the on-screen action a real treat to watch. Unlockable extras come in the form of in-game trophies and a delightful Ship's Log that's packed with personality on every page.
There are also Survival and Challenge modes in addition to the game's two-three hour campaign that adds replayability to the experience if you enjoy the gameplay mechanics on offer.
1000 Tiny Claws doesn't quite live up to the pedigree of Mediatonic's previous PlayStation Minis, with the quality of the swordplay in the game's concluding third detracting from the experience. But issues aside, this is still a delightfully conceived piratical package with a great sense of humour, and thus entirely worthy of your time.