Titanic smash hit!
A good, new Kaiju movie comes once in a blue moon, and it feels like Kaiju games are even more scarce. It seems like, in a medium where anything is possible, situations where you play as a giant monster painting the town dead just… aren’t. Not because developers try and fail, mind you, but it just feels like no one makes Kaiju games at all.
Except Ghost Time Games, of course, and, as the solo indie developer proved with Jettomero: Hero of the Universe, his Kaiju games are damn good, nailing not only the clunky mechanics that giant monsters would conceivably have, but their straightforward heart and brusque soul as well. This time, Ghost Time Games is back with Test Tube Titans, taking the Kaiju factor up to max level as players create, mutate, and destroy the town until their titans disintegrate. You know, for science.
Players take on the role of a newly hired employee of a lab facility that genetically engineer gigantic monsters (hence, Test Tube Titans). Why would anyone want such a creature let loose on the world? No worries, some just does. And who pays for this “service”? Just some guy, forget about it. Those aren’t the kind of details you need to fuss over, so just get to your station and begin the mutations.
After choosing from a handful of different mutations and selecting the best of the best, players will then take on the role of their choice titan themselves. It’s then off to the mission selection screen, where titans will try their best to fulfill the goals, such as destroying a certain dollar amount, in the allotted time. Sounds simple, right?
Right, about that — remember QWOP? How about Octodad? If you’ve played either of those, you already know what you’re about to experience. For everyone else, well… let’s just say Test Tube Titans literally redefines the phrase “a walk in the park”, as even the smallest of steps provides the biggest of challenges.
Controls are both keyboard and controller supported, but there’s something to be said for the keyboard optimization. I’ve played Test Tube Titans since the alpha; initially, I struggled to get a hang of the keyboard controls but it was all part of the fun, right? I played again a few months later and loved the fluidity of the controller controls. After playing again a third time, I’m happy to report the keyboard controls got even better — if you’re struggling with the literal QWOP configuration on the keyboard, simply switch over to the arrow keys to zoom over to buildings that need busting. I was surprised at this quality of life update — never saw it coming — and I’m happy to report it’s a game-changer in the best way possible.
As an avid fan of Katamari-style games where you just wreak absolute havoc within a certain time-frame, Test Tube Titans fit perfectly. Choose a level, destroy everything in sight, upgrade your titans. Lather, rinse, repeat! That core loop is so, so fun, and more areas are unlocked, bigger buildings and sprawling cities become available, and the thrill of smashing everything in sight really begins. Of course, it’s important to keep mutating your titans, too — with health upgrades, stronger limbs, and other important features, you can mutate your titans over and over again until they’re the biggest, strongest monsters out there. Just be careful not to mutate them too often, as the radiation can fry them to the point where their bones become so brittle that their limbs break off (yep, that’s a thing that can happen). Watch those radiation levels!
One of my favorite aspects of Test Tube Titans was definitely the photo mode. In Jettomero: Hero of the Universe, Ghost Time Games implemented a fantastic photo mode with a plethora of filters, which enabled players to really get creative with their would-be hero as they discovered the universe. In Test Tube Titans, that photo mode is back, and, honestly, better than before. With more filters than any one human will ever be able to fully master and tons of fun photo ops, this game proves yet again that game photography is its own art form. It’s honestly really easy to get lost in the photo mode after a long day of stomping, spending tons of time just snapping photos, swapping filters, and posing the day away.
After following the development of Test Tube Titans closely, I know that the developer reached out to the community for their assistance in creating content for the game. This shows up as individually designed billboards in the cities and as soundbites in between missions. While I found the billboards absolutely charming, I was mildly — mildly — confused by the discussion between the player and the other employees. You see, those soundbites are actually really deep — in fact, some of them incredibly timely considering current events — but I had a hard time linking that back to the missions with the titans. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s absolutely fair to discuss wealth disparity and being open with those around you, but the transition from introspective topics to destroying buildings was as forceful as a Kaiju in a bustling metropolis. I loved it — just wish it connected better.
If that sounds nitpicky, I say it only because it’s my one and only complaint about the game. Everything else — from the controls to the art, the lo-fi music to the gameplay, the loop to the photo mode — is great. This is a game you can get lost in and let the world drift away as you stomp civilization into oblivion. And, considering current events, it’s honestly not a bad time to consider picking up this delightful indie title.
Test Tube Titans is like nothing else out there. With a mindless core loop that allows you to play the day away without realizing how many hours have flown by and a fantastic photo mode that keeps you engaged while still providing a bit of a break, Test Tube Titans is high on my list of favorite indie gems for 2020. It’s the kind of game that blossoms over time — the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it — and really allows your creativity to run as wild as a giant monster among skyscrapers. If you’re looking for something to get lost in but don’t want to break the bank, Test Tube Titans needs to be in your PC library. Happy terrorizing!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Ghost Time Games; Developer: Ghost Time Games; Players: 1; Released: March 6, 2020; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Test Tube Titans given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.