Tiny Metal is an interesting first as it was developed by Area 35, but published by Sony Music Entertainment. It is, in fact, the first Sony game to be published on a Nintendo platform since the Super Nintendo days (remember Sony Imagesoft?). It's a slow-paced game, bright and colourful, and it fits perfectly on the Switch as a result. But what's it all about? Let's take a look.
The colonel of the Artemisian Empire, Luja Lindberg, has gone missing. In his absence second lieutenant Nathan steps in, then an evil empire called Zipang (that looks a lot like Japan) attacks Artemisia. After defending against the first wave, Nathan begins his own assault on Zipang territory. He gets help from a mercenary group called White Fang, led by a female warrior called Wolfram. In addition to combat, the characters have time to talk about their personal relationships. It's all very clichéd, so don't expect anything new and exciting here.
The story itself is not that remarkable, and there is too much of it. The plot moves forward solely via English text and Japanese voice acting. Some English voices are heard during the actual gameplay ("wham bam thank you ma'am"), because the units on the field speak English while performing their actions. So, it feels like the localisation process is a bit half baked; it's neither here nor there.
This impression of it being an unfinished game is enhanced by other game modes. Skirmish is a collection of separate missions - 56 of them in total - but you can only play them alone against an AI opponent. You need to be really motivated to play Tiny Metal in order to complete all 56 missions just for the heck of it. The main menu mentions multiplayer, but only to say it is "coming soon". The game itself is a bit like a turn-based board game, which begs for multiplayer. So maybe it would have been a good idea to wait until the game was complete.
The gameplay borrows a lot from the Advance Wars games. The map has been divided into squares, and you move your units in a classical turn-based fashion. These units probably only see a few meters ahead of them; even if you have already visited a certain place, the "fog of war" is way too thick. You can't see enemy units until they are literally in your face. This is extremely counterproductive for a strategy game as it is now mostly about reacting to enemy attacks instead of making your own tactical plans and then executing them. This also makes trial and error gameplay way too commonplace, because you usually can't predict what's going to happen in the very near future.
In Tiny Metal you don't build structures, you capture them. Land units are constructed in a building that looks like a warehouse, a distinct tower makes air units, and a structure that looks like an observatory gets you so-called hero units, which are more powerful versions of regular units. For some reason the player is not informed about the nature of different structure types, so the only way to initially know what happens is to just capture the building and see what happens. This, of course, adds to the sense of trial and error.
You can't destroy structures that are distributed around the map. You may, on the other hand, cripple your enemy's war effort by simply parking a unit on top of an important building without even capturing it. For example, parking your own tank on top of enemy's key structure makes it impossible for him to build new land units. Usually, the mission is a simple "destroy all enemy units", so inhibiting your opponent's ability to build new units is an essential tactic to victory. Naturally, the game itself doesn't tell you this. We stumbled it by accident while playing. A tactic like this creates a strong board game feel to Tiny Metal, but it's a bit silly in the context of warfare.