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Space. The final frontier. The big empty. It’s both intriguing, and genuinely terrifying. This is why derelict space stations have been one of the primary locations for modern horror games, because, in space, no one can hear you scream. You know, except the monsters. Titles like Dead Space, Alien: Isolation, and The Callisto Protocol have found a lot of joy in the horror department by using the vacuum of space to their advantage.
However, even when you strip away the alien creatures, and the dark, claustrophobic corridors, space as it exists in reality, still has all the attributes to make for a truly discomforting setting. This is something that Tin Can showcases as your interplanetary survival skills are put to the test.
Tin Can sees the player thrust into a situation where they must use the ship’s escape pod when evacuating, and as you would imagine, an escape pod is not a long-term solution. You see, these pods are flimsy, have temperamental systems, and don’t have enough resources on board to keep you alive for any reasonable length of time.
Your best bet is to jury rig the pod to stay alive, and if you do that long enough, someone just might come and save you. It sounds easy to sit around and wait, but it turns out those guys at NASA really need to know their stuff before they head up amongst the stars, because things go wrong fast.
That being said, through this need to learn, improvise and take risks, this game promises to be a unique and engaging space survival simulator. However, you may wonder if this game does this fun, niche concept justice. Well, press the eject button and join me. This is Ready Game Survive’s Tin Can Review, conducted on PS5.
Let’s briefly talk about the visuals in this game, and I say briefly because I don’t have much to say about them. On the positive side, the visuals are good enough to deliver a convincing intergalactic setting. That being said, the setting is about the size of a broom closet, so don’t mistake that for high praise.
Plus, each asset you’ll need for repairs and maintenance is distinct, meaning you won’t be mistaking a Data Connector for an Air Filter. However, that is about as positive as I can be, as the visuals as a whole feel a generation behind.
This isn’t too much of an issue, though, because, as I said, the game’s visuals are serviceable enough, as gameplay is the real headline act. However, one thing I did feel was a bit of a bummer was the amount of time you’ll be forced to work in darkness when the power goes out, or that you’ll eventually realize that working in the red hue of the emergency lights is a safer option and do this by default.
I suppose this leads to a somewhat more frantic and authentic escape pod maintenance experience, but if you are coming to this game expecting top-tier visuals, you might want an escape pod of your own to get away from this title.
Trained for Adversity
Before we get into the core survival gameplay, we need to discuss the game’s tutorial, which is a masterstroke is giving the player just enough to get going. I’ve always been a fan of games that encourage player discovery and allow players to have autonomy over their experience, and Tin Can is one of those titles. I’ll concede, the game could onboard players a little better by highlighting the importance of the tutorial.
However, once you find it, you’ll be inducted into the world of escape pod maintenance. This mainly consists of pointing out the life support systems that control heat and breathability, pointing out the Pod Maintainance Manual, and explaining how to repair equipment. Then you are on your own.
After that, each escape is a new challenge with its own quirks and problems to solve, and it’s completely down to the player to find the solution that leads to your eventual rescue. The game trusts the player, doesn’t insult their intelligence, and gives you the breathing room to experiment and problem-solve. It’s not a format that suits everyone, and it’s a corporate video game company’s worst nightmare, but I love this approach.
So, you took your very brief intro to Pod Maintenance, huh? Well, it seems the ship is on fire, so it’s time to evacuate. This brings me to the first part of your Rescue attempt, the initial escape. This is like an intergalactic version of Supermarket Sweep, where you must raid the storage rooms, grabbing as many components as you can before you eject to relative safety.
Due to the RNG employed on the pod, you’ll only have a random assortment of components, and this 60-second dash is your chance to bolster your resources and prepare for the survival attempt. It immediately thrusts you into the chaotic and frantic nature of the gameplay, and aside from the fact that crouch running is faster than running for some reason, it’s perfectly implemented.
Then you have the core survival when in your pod, and again, it’s very cleverly done. This is primarily down to the intricate systems in play, which have a laundry list of potential issues to solve, which forces you to become very familiar with the Maintainance Manual.
You’ll know Maintainance Codes better than your friend’s birthdays by the time you’ve ejected a few times, and that’s a testament to this freedom the game offers. The freedom will initially be frustrating, as the lack of direction and the harsh environment of space will lead to you running out of oxygen or freezing to death pretty fast.
However, as you begin to understand how the electrical equipment works, how collisions with asteroids or Electrical Nebulas affect your pod, and what code means what, you’ll become a savant in escape pod travel. Through trial and error, you will begin to master everything, and even when it all goes to hell, the game offers some risky moves that can help in a pinch, like opening O2 canisters, or opening the airlock, for example.
It’s a tough experience with no easy path to success. You need to know your stuff to survive. But the joy and the satisfaction of successfully troubleshooting or jury-rigging a machine is worth the hassle. Tin Can is a lesson to game designers on how to make an engaging and detailed game that takes place in a tiny, enclosed environment, and while it will only serve to irritate those who like to be led by the hand, it’s a little gem in terms of gameplay for the most part.
A Few Spots of Rust
Much like the Escape Pod you eject from at the beginning of each run, Tin Can also has flaws that make the overall user experience somewhat of a challenge. I begin my attack on Tin Can with the ZeroG settings. I understand that these were meant to be clunky and hard to navigate with, as this adds to the panic and chaos.
However, the player still needs a reasonable amount of control, and I don’t believe that the hand holds to move around the ship are an effective way to move around. I found myself clipping through open drawers, floating aimlessly in areas without holds to propel myself, and when there are multiple machines blinking their red malfunction lights at you, it’s the last thing you need.
Second, I also had an issue with some of the UI. Mainly the fact that you can’t enlarge the text onscreen, which I feel is a basic accessibility feature all games should employ. Then there were also issues that existed when selecting assets like buttons. They are so tiny, and even the slightest movement can lead to you interacting with something else or missing the buttons in time-critical situations.
Then, on a more personal note, I just felt that the game lacked whimsy. It’s a game that takes itself very seriously, which works fantastically when creating cohesive and believable survival mechanics. However, unlike games like Subnautica, for example, there just isn’t any unadulterated fun to be had here. Sure, there is a basketball hoop in the pod, but it’s almost like putting a car air freshener in a flaming wreck of a car. It’s a little more pleasant, but it doesn’t solve the problem.
Endless Escape Pods
Then lastly, let’s talk replayability, because, to Tin Can’s credit, the game is very replayable. The main mode is the Rescue mode, where you have to survive for X amount of minutes. However, when these run out, you have two options that make this game an endless survival experience. One is the Sandbox Mode which allows you to pop into a fully functional pod and create scenarios for yourself to endure. However, you only get as much out of this as you put in.
The same cannot be said of the Ranked Mode, which allows players to drop into a ranked version of the title which urges players to survive for as long as they possibly can, all in the hope of topping the global leaderboard and being crowned the best Escape Pod Maintainance operator around.
Again, your motivation to be the best will determine how much joy you squeeze out of this mode, but overall, if you like the game, and want to keep the party going, these modes give you that option.
I’ll concede, there isn’t much that will completely match the experience offered in Tin Can, but if you want something that at least somewhat mimics the Tin Can experience, then these games might be up your alley:
- Space Mechanic Simulator
- Space Station Manager
- Rings of Saturn
- FTL: Faster Than Light
- PC Builder Simulator
Overall, I think that Tin Can succeeds in offering the hyper-focused space simulator that it sets out to create. It would have been very easy for this game to fall flat due to the tiny, repetitive setting that players occupy for practically the entire game. Yet, thanks to the intricate mechanics and their cohesive nature, players always feel like there is a problem to solve, or a fire to put out (sometimes literally). This constant chaos is what makes this game so engaging, and when the player solves an issue, it genuinely makes you feel like a goddamn rocket scientist. At least, until the next buzzer starts beeping.
The survival mechanics are about as refined as they could be, with just the right amount of things to juggle without overwhelming players, and the tutorial does a great job of offering enough info without holding players’ hands. You really feel as if you are on your own, and it works a treat.
The main issue I have is that the game looks pretty bog standard visually, and you often spend your time in the dark or with red emergency lights on. The game does keep things very real, and that can sometimes be in lieu of actual fun. Plus, the ZeroG, in my opinion, was too hard to get to grips with.
All in all, it’s not pristine, and it has its limitations, but I can see this becoming a bit of a cult classic. I’ll close off with this.
Can a matchbox?
No, but a Tin Can!
- Outstanding, cohesive space management survival mechanics
- Gives the player complete freedom to learn for themselves
- Plenty of replay value
- Fun opening sequence
- The game looks pretty average, and you spend most of the time in the dark
- Casual players will not appreciate the lack of direction
- ZeroG mechanics are clunky and awkward
- Some UI Issues
Question: Is Tin Can A Re-Release?
Answer: It’s not a re-release, but it is a new console release. Tin Can was released in May 2022 for PC. However, the game has been adapted for modern consoles.
Question: Is Tin Can A Horror Game?
Answer: No, not really. The situations you find yourself in can be claustrophobic, frantic, and scary, but this game is more of a traditional survival title than a survival horror.
Question: What Should I Grab Before Ejecting?
Answer: It really depends on the scenario you are facing, but in a general run with complete RNG, I found that Batteries were essential, Monitors were great to have, and a few spare fuses don’t go amiss either.
Callum played Tin Can for a total of eight hours, managing to survive for up to 25 minutes in his pod and solving some truly terrifying scenarios through some very risky maneuvers. To be honest, he doubts he will ever return to this one, but it was a fun little experience while it lasted.