After your ship exploded, you’re trapped in an escape pod, barely scraping by, hoping for someone to pick you up soon… To do that, you need to keep the beacon up for as long as possible so that your signal actually goes out and reaches people but guess what? You picked the old barely functional escape pod that technically should have gotten inspected today… but ya know… the ship exploded and stuff. Tin Can at first gave me Escape Room vibes but eventually, I realised that it’s just hard and gritty survival that tries to simulate what it feels like to have no clue about what you’re doing. To quote the devs: “In space, tech support can’t hear you scream!”
Developer: Tin Can Studio Publisher: Tin Can Studio, IndieArk Genre: Indie, Simulation, Sci-Fi, 3D, First-Person, Survival Release Date: May 12th, 2022 Reviewed on: PC (has VR support but I just played the normal version) Available on: PC Copy was purchased but then, sadly, refunded.
And I would scream a lot if I was in this escape pod if it weren’t for the fact that the oxygen generator sometimes stops working or that oxygen is somewhat limited and that screaming would use up more than necessary… or that the reactor that is powering this thing may end up cooking you if the nitrogen-cooler stopped working for a moment. There are a lot of possible issues you can run into from electric nebulas to gas leaks to dirty filters and broken fuses as well as the air pressure not being good enough or there being too much oxygen or carbon dioxide in the air. It’s surprising that we lived up to this point, to be fair, given that humans are pretty… fragile.
The core gameplay loop consists of “you have X seconds to pick up as many spare parts as possible before you die” followed by “let’s try to survive in an escape pod with our friend Wilson” and “oh, no, this thing broke, let me look through the manual real quick”. The tutorial helps quite a bit and explains things well but there are still A LOT of things you can run into that aren’t exactly explained in it, which is a bummer because it gets quite repetitive and tedious real fast. Tin Can has an interesting premise but the execution seems somewhat lacklustre at the moment. You’re expected to die. Again. And again. And again. But the beginning sequence isn’t exactly new every time or interesting and it feels punishing in a way because you only have so much time to fiddle with the controls to get some items into your escape pod and if you’re lucky, you’ll need exactly those… and if you don’t, you’ll need another item but it’s not there… So, you take those parts out of some computer only to then run into an issue where the main computer is needed for the oxygen regulator. For whatever reason, the fuse is as important as the on/off switch. I don’t know why we can’t just use the on/off switch from another machine here but whatever. A fuse should be more important.
Anyway, that aside, I find it interesting in theory to simulate an environment where you’re surviving barely and just hanging on while you float in 0G but in practice, it’s incredibly boring… You don’t really have anything to do until something happens anyhow, apart from “shooting some loops” (aka letting a ball drop into a hoop) and looking outside into the emptiness of space. There isn’t anything out there either in terms of eye candy or whatnot… and it’s hard to get excited about another run because it’s so similar every time and because it just doesn’t feel like space or interesting or anything. The only variable that changes is often what you’re dealing with and what you bring with you into the pod before the ship explodes. It feels too similar and that honestly is a buzz killer. Also, the game has a few technical issues. Sometimes a run ends a bit too early and the game nearly crashes multiple times to process that… and then you start another run but the game takes super long for it to load up, delaying the start of your next survival attempt quite considerably, and when it finally loads up, it just throws you into the game, taking away precious seconds that you may spend walking and collecting parts.
That doesn’t mean that the game is impossible. It’s not. I survived for six minutes (barely) on my third or fourth run but it then just went on to “Now, try this for ten minutes!” while the main menu tries to make challenges look appealing as well. Another run that I won was ten minutes long and it was incredibly boring. For seven minutes nothing happened. Then, suddenly, the oxygen generator stopped working correctly, and before it failed completely, I was already rescued, meaning I won – not because of my skill but because of RNG and my aversion to just quitting the game out of boredom.
Frankly, Tin Can may just not be the game for me, which is fine, but I found a lot of these issues to be rather unappealing. I wouldn’t personally recommend this title to anyone really but that’s just because I personally didn’t like it. Tin Can has a lot of potential, and it may get patched a bunch with some quality of life changes and whatnot. The scenarios and challenges are interesting in a way but didn’t really do much for me. In one of them, titled “Open Window”, you’re tasked with figuring out why the oxygen meter is displaying an error but the constant beeping and buzzing is really killing the mood and turns a frustrating experience “designed to drive you mad” into a hell loop designed to make you want to refund this game as fast as possible.
Initially, I liked the humour a lot and thought this would be a light-hearted little simulation… but the core gameplay loop is just not for me. You can approach Tin Can like a puzzle of sorts where you troubleshoot an issue… and if you fail, you die because you need oxygen and you don’t wanna get cooked. At the same time, you may approach Tin Can like a survival game with a ticking timer annoying the shit out of you… and if you like those approaches, it might be worth checking out this game but just personally, I’m not a fan. I found some of the design choices a bit too repetitive and tedious for my taste – which is a bummer as I really wanted to like this game. I can’t recommend this game in its current state because of how incredibly annoying the experience gets. If I want to get frustrated, I’ll drive my parents to vacation for three days straight while they backseat me and tell me that I’m driving wrong even though I’m just following the law. That would still be a better experience overall, I reckon.