Tiny Thor Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Tiny Thor from Asylum Square has been a long time coming. After one of its lead developers came up with a rough cut of its concept in a 48-hour game jam in 2012, its development proceeded in fits and starts for a little over a decade before it finally saw release this past June. Games that spend that long in development hell can be notoriously uneven, but we’re happy to report that Tiny Thor has proven to be worth the wait. This is a tough, gorgeous, and altogether great retro platformer that you ought to consider picking up.

The 16-bit-inspired game follows the adventures of the titular Asgardian warrior during a time long before he was the buff, long-haired hero you all know—the story here opens on his eighth birthday. As a present, Odin gifts him the legendary Mjolnir hammer, which Thor immediately takes to. While he’s out fooling around with his new toy, the boy is approached by a certain mischievous individual, who tricks him into destroying the anchor of the Bifrost, cutting off all of Asgard from Midgard. Joined by his father’s ravens, Tiny Thor thus sets out to repair the damage and prevent Ragnarök from causing the end of the world.

Tiny Thor Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Gameplay follows a straightforward 2D action-platforming template, wherein you travel between tough levels, collect a whole lot of goodies, and wreck house with your new magic hammer. Each level takes about 10 to 15 minutes to clear, featuring an assortment of platforming gauntlets and puzzles that you usually have to solve by somehow using Mjolnir. Holding down the right trigger will cause Thor to spin it up and, once thrown, the hammer will bounce off walls, ceilings, and the sides of the screen indefinitely until you either call it back or it makes its way back to you. It’s a simple, but effective mechanic, and Tiny Thor gets a lot of mileage out of creative ways to use it in both combat and puzzle scenarios.

Level designs are typically linear, with a smattering of secret rooms and side routes you can take here or there to collect gems. There are a few hundred blue gems and three red gems in each stage, with the latter placed in especially tough-to-reach places. If you take any damage along the way—and boy will you—Thor will die in one hit unless you recently touched a heart box. If you did so, a heart will leap out of his chest and bounce away from him as a timer ticks down, a bit like the health system from Yoshi’s Island. Fail to pick it up, and you’re on your own, but it can often be equally risky to chase after it when it goes careening over spike pits or behind enemy lines.

Overall, level designs feel quite solid, but they tend to be a little inconsistent with the difficulty curve. Sometimes you’ll be progressing just fine until a nasty section suddenly stops you in your tracks for several attempts, only to be followed by more easily passed areas. Or on the puzzling side of things, you’ll sometimes be faced with an environmental puzzle that expects you to apply a solution using a mechanic that you weren’t taught yet. Luckily, Tiny Thor gets enough right with its level design that it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable experience, just be prepared for it to be a little ‘stop and go’ in some places.

Tiny Thor Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Difficulty spikes aside, Tiny Thor still isn't for the faint of heart. It’s not quite at Super Meat Boy levels of pain, but this is definitely not a platformer that you can sleep through and find some challenge in the endgame. Even the earlier levels can put up more of a fight than you may expect, and things only get tougher as you beat bosses and unlock more movement abilities like a wall jump or a double jump. Sometimes you’ll get ganked by a horde of enemies and not be able to retrieve your heart before the rather short i-frame window ends. Sometimes you’ll be racing to outrun a rising flood and jump just a second too late, drowning Thor. In most cases, it feels like such deaths are the consequence of silly mistakes and slow reflexes, but there are nonetheless many times when it feels like the physics are at fault.

For example, one common early-level gimmick is a vine that quickly swings back and forth, which Thor should grab onto automatically once you’re within range. Yet in our experience, there were many times where we made a leap of faith only to watch him happily sail right through the vine and to his early death. A wall jump has to be initiated by first holding the stick away from the wall you’re clinging to and then quickly pressing the jump button. Even after getting the feel for it, there were still many instances where Thor would just fall off the wall and die. We’ll concede that many of the mistakes we experienced could feasibly be chalked up to a ‘skill issue’, but Tiny Thor nonetheless feels like its controls sometimes fail you, which can be damning given how much precision the level designs demand.

Tiny Thor Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Though there aren’t any difficulty mode options, you can take the edge off by spending blue gems in an upgrade shop, netting you boons like a faster recall for Mjolnir or a slower countdown when your heart leaps out. None of these are a replacement for simple skill, but they certainly do help tone down the difficulty, especially if you’re a completionist. Going for 100% completion on each level is no joke, and this goes double for the side levels you unlock with red gems, which offer devastating, no-checkpoint gauntlets demanding nothing short of perfection.

As for its visuals, Tiny Thor features some of the finest 16-bit spritework available on the Switch, courtesy of Henk Nieborg. Animations are smooth and colour palettes are widely varied, making every minute of this experience a visual treat. Whether you're sliding down the grassy slope of a mountain, slaying a mighty kraken, or exploring the chilly halls of a frost giant fortress, each locale is realized in impressive detail and all of it runs at an unbroken frame rate. It’s the little things like tiny mice scurrying around the floors of caves that really sell Tiny Thor as such a visual marvel, and while it may be that an actual 16-bit console could’ve never hoped to hit this level of fidelity, it’s satisfying to see what pixel artists can do when they’re let loose on hardware that can comfortably deliver their full vision.

Tiny Thor Review - Screenshot 5 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

These visuals are then matched by an equally excellent soundtrack by Fabian Del Priore and Chris Hülsbeck, delivering catchy chiptunes that perfectly match the generally lighthearted tone. We would have appreciated a little more variety—it feels like some tracks get recycled a little too much—but it’s nearly impossible to complain about the quality of the music here.


Tiny Thor is a well-crafted retro platforming adventure that no fan of 16-bit gaming will want to miss. Though its controls can be a tad frustrating and its difficulty can be occasionally inconsistent, there’s no denying that this a thoroughly enjoyable experience from stem to stern, especially for those who enjoy a fittingly old-school challenge. We’d give this a strong recommendation to anyone looking for another solidly built neo-retro platformer to add to their collection, though we’ll caution anyone with slower reflexes to brace yourselves for a rough time. In all the best of ways, Tiny Thor feels like a lost Sega Genesis game, easily worth your time and money.