Create. Destroy. Repeat.
Two years ago, I was the first person to preview Ghost Time Games’ delightful kaiju hit, Jettomero: Hero Of The Universe, so I really hope I’m continuing my streak here by being the first to preview the solo indie dev’s newest title, Test Tube Titans. Still in development with limited access available on Itch.io, Test Tube Titans brings back the charming giant monster gameplay I came to know and love from Jettomero with a more intuitive twist — instead of saving the universe, you destroy it with procedurally-generated giant monsters with retro-Katamari vibes.
If it sounds awesome, it’s because it is.
As it’s currently still in development, certain pieces of the game, like major storyline, are still missing, but the overall core mechanic is absolutely solid. The game kicks off in a lab setting, where your first procedurally-generated monster is ready and waiting for you. From here, you can choose a couple things, but my first instinct was to immediately begin mutating my kaiju.
The mutation levels locked at the beginning for the time being, the mutation portion is pretty simple — you’ll be presented with three new monsters generated based off your existing one. Each new monster will have new stats, such as health differences, stamina differences, or certain resistances. It’s random, but the goal is to try to get as many of the categories in the positive as possible.
In addition to stats, the overall look of the monster will change too — the body shape may become wider, the arms longer, the legs chubbier, etc. Since it’s all procedurally-generated, there are a vast range of possibilities (and trust me when I say these physical differences will come in handy later).
After you’re satisfied with your monster (I was pretty partial to my lil babby Gerald), it’s off to the missions section, where the primary goal is to wreak as much havoc as possible before running out of health and stamina. The controls are simple in premise but difficult to master — the “Q” button handles the left leg, and the “P” button takes care of the right. “W” controls the left arm, and “O” is over the left arm. Players who are familiar with QWOP or Octodad will either squeal with delight or groan with frustration upon hearing this, but hear me out — as someone who avidly played-yet-hated both of those games, this one’s different. It’s nowhere near as aggravating as QWOP, and it’s a dramatic improvement over Octodad.
QWOP was a linear joke where the control scheme was the point — it could have been any character, but the devs settled on a runner, because why not? And although Octodad was similar to QWOP in its core mechanic, it created a reason for the control scheme to be clunky: an octopus disguised as a human would definitely struggle in an everyday dad setting. Test Tube Titans, in my opinion, is the superior of the three when it comes to the clunky mechanic, because it focuses on gross motor skills, like punching buildings or stomping homes to smithereens, instead of Octodad‘s tendency to focus on fine motor skills, like picking up milk or putting on a tie. Where I experienced pure frustration with Octodad, I found immense satisfaction with Test Tube Titans; finally, someone got this awkward, underutilized mechanic to work!
The missions are pretty straightforward — deal damage, gain money. You’ll need money to buy upgrades for your lab to mutate even more monsters, so wreak as much havoc as kaiju-ly possible before expiring. Your personal best will be monitored and you’ll earn money even if you don’t meet the mission goals, so feel free to keep doing damage until your heart’s content.
Once back at the lab with money to spend, you’ll find that you’ll need all sorts of upgrades, such as bigger cages, higher levels of mutation, and the ability to mutate only certain parts of your kaiju, such as their arms or legs. You can also mate monsters, whose offspring will share similar traits to their parents. You’ll soon find yourself mating, mutating, and setting loose your beloved experiments, easily losing track of time in this fantastic loop of creation and destruction.
Of course, there’s more to just destruction in this kaiju game (although that’s what I spent most of my time doing), as there are also different kinds of goal levels, such as getting from point A to point B within a certain time frame. This is where specific mutation really comes in handy — I tried one of the first levels of that type with my current favorite monster, who unfortunately expired before the time ran out, as his stamina levels weren’t high enough and his legs weren’t long enough to traverse rivers. I then had to go back to the lab to mutate my kaiju baby to meet the conditions necessary, but by that point I had doused him with so much radiation that his limbs became too brittle and broke easily. This aspect just took the game up so many notches from what appeared to be a simple “Godzilla smash” game to something with strategy and thought. It was absolutely a welcome surprise.
What’s really exiting about Test Tube Titans is, at this state, I’ve only scratched the surface of this fantastic title. The dev has stated that a story mode is in the works, and on the menu there’s a multiplayer option, which, if you think about it for literally a nanosecond, should totally get you pumped. A multiplayer kaiju game where you and a friend can duke it out as giant, bumbling monsters?! S I G N M E U P !
Everything about Test Tube Titans is satisfying — from the retro boot-up sound when opening the game to the rumbling your screen makes every time a monster takes a step, there are just too many delightful details that make this the ultimate kaiju experience. It’s relaxing yet thrilling, simple yet challenging, and overall an absolute blast. If you absolutely can’t wait to play, consider supporting the developer on itch.io (or at least follow Ghost Time Games on Twitter); for a unique game like Test Tube Titans, it’s money well spent.