A cute 2D side-scroller, Tiny Thor blends a nostalgic approach to game construction with influences taken from Norse mythology. You play as the titular young Thor, aged eight. Your father Odin gifts you the iconic hammer Mjölnir for your birthday and you are encouraged to go play in the woods with it before your party.
In the woods, you encounter a mysterious stranger who tells you that an evil bee queen is plotting to attack your village. The first section of the game sees you traverse her lair to hunt her down and defeat her as the first of a number of bosses. Once she is defeated, you learn that the stranger was the trickster Loki and that your actions have shattered the bridge leading to Asgard. The rest of the game sees you travel through various regions of the map on a MacGuffin hunt for the four runes that will restore the Bifröst.
The first few levels are fairly intuitive, with controls that are easy to learn. The first time a new action is available, instructions noting the button or combo appear in the corner of the screen. Once you’ve performed a move once, the game doesn’t hold your hand every time. But it’s easy enough to guess when a wall might be collapsible or a creature might be an enemy you need to attack.
The level design evokes a real sense of nostalgia, with bold, bright colors in a 16-bit style. You have to watch out for enemies, jump over obstacles or destroy them by throwing Mjölnir, and collect gems along the way. Blue gems are fairly common and can be exchanged for power-ups. Red gems are rare, often hidden in secret locations, and unlock bonus levels that challenge your skills.
As you get closer to the boss of each section, there are fairly well laid clues about which skills will be required to win. The bosses themselves have interesting designs and distinct fighting styles, which fit the formulaic nature of old school bosses. Each time you defeat a boss, you retrieve one of the missing runes and unlock a new skill.
These skills aren’t terribly original. With Norse mythology as the game’s premise, there is a lot of scope here for cool, unusual mechanics. Instead, you learn to double jump and climb walls and other fairly common side-scrolling mechanics. These all easily could’ve been introduced on the way to the first boss, which would have left room to establish more fantastical and magnificent abilities that are more befitting the God of Thunder coming of age.
The Mjölnir mechanic is perhaps the most unique element of the game, but is still a fairly standard projectile weapon. You control the angle at which you throw it, but otherwise the only control you have over it is to summon it back. Certainly Odin’s description of Mjolnir as “the hammer that never misses its target” will only apply to the most skilled players. It’s definitely an interesting choice that it bounces off the corner of the screen, which makes for some cool ways of solving particular problems.
Even then, it can be frustrating due to the awkward controls. There are lots of obstacles that require a level of precision that the controls are not particularly suited to. It doesn’t help that mechanics that make other platformers a bit more fluid – such as being able to grab onto ledges – aren’t present in Tiny Thor. The grab function for swinging vines that does exist is still clunky. You can’t control when the grab happens and there’s only a small window where Thor won’t sail straight past despite seemingly being close enough to grab. There are also some minor glitches that cause Thor to suddenly appear past an obstacle and end up trapped on the edge of the screen.
These aren’t game-breaking issues, but they are annoying. Overall, the game is decent. The design is lovely and it embraces nostalgia really effectively. With the right mindset, even the awkward controls can feel like a tribute to early games. However, it does feel like Tiny Thor suffers from missed potential when it comes to the action that could have made it feel more like you’re truly at the core of the Norse pantheon.