In Tin Can you play as Jerry the janitor, and you are asked by a repair tech guy (who's having his own problems fixing the ship's main reactor) to help him out, checking the systems on a faulty Medusa escape pod. What could possibly go wrong? Beware! Survival aboard the Tin Can escape pod is NOT GOING TO BE EASY!
Tin Can plays in first person with a standard basic control setup and a clever system that allows you to hold/push/pull things with either or both hands (press either trigger to hold or pick up an object). On the Xbox Series X the movement could definitely have been a bit more subtle and I adjusted the turn speed down a notch and the field of view up one (so I could select objects easier and see more.) The game is really all about worst case scenarios that keep getting worse. Minor malfunctions on my phone, Xbox or PS5 are traumatic enough, so I have no idea how I'd handle a spaceship that's on fire and an escape pod that appears to be trying to kill me. The pod's systems will systematically fail one after the other, or eventually all at once–not even Apollo 13 had problems like this!
Staying alive as long as possible is the name of the game, which is broken up into several modes; Rescue, Challenges, Ranking, Sandbox and a welcome Tutorial. And yeah, you're gonna die–a lot. Weirdly it has no progressive story mode as such, which to my mind is a real mistake. I wanted to see Jerry escape the burning ship safely, get back to civilization, meet a nice girl, marry, have lots of little Jerry's and live happily ever after, not just beat a series of increasingly difficult and stressful challenges.
In the simplest of levels, the escape pod will spring a leak, the fix being a relatively simple job of grabbing a sealing canister foam gun and sealing the hole before all the oxygen (and air pressure) escapes. At the other end of the scale you have to carefully read the maintenance manual to figure out how to fix a problem, sometimes having to get an error code from a particular system's monitor and finding the relevant error code in the manual in order to fix the problem–and this is obviously all against the clock!
Problems of all sorts crop up, filters clogging, fuses going bang, monitors failing, batteries going flat. Some components can be cannibalised from other less vital systems (such as the gravity generator) and some can be repaired in the repair station (which looks like a magic microwave). Turning the gravity generator off in order to use it for spares means you're in weightlessness, so manoeuvring around the capsule becomes trickier but still possible because you can use the numerous grab handles with one hand while manipulating objects or switches with the other.
Tin Can's visuals do the job, it's obviously claustrophobic and relatively undemanding, but the complex design of the pod made my head spin at times–maybe I shouldn't have turned around so quickly, or maybe it's the zero G that's making me dizzy, or a lack of oxygen, or the carbon dioxide level getting too high… (the effects of hypoxia, failing air pressure and carbon dioxide poisoning are simulated.)
You'll probably find that, like me, after you've died a few times, taking the time to read the pod technical manual is highly recommended, as you may well not have the foggiest idea what you're supposed to be doing without a basic understanding of the various systems.
Tin Can certainly takes a break from the typical spaceship-related game and gets a big thumbs up for originality and detail. There's no dogfights, no docking, no trading, no space marines and no acid-blooded multi-jawed xenomorphs trying to chew your face off, It's just you and a set of extremely fallible life support systems, and that tech support guy? Well he's about as much help as... a fart in a spacesuit? More interactivity and help from him would have been more realistic, and more fun.
I think it's important to mention that the game runs smoothly in 4K on the Series X but the controls lack subtlety, Tin Can's VR and PC origins are obvious, and it'd undoubtedly be easier to play in VR or with a mouse, but this is not an easy game and it's not meant to be, it's a survival game. Also I felt that it could have been more fun to play, and a bit of gallows humour, Red Dwarf-style may have helped make the game less stressful, and a proper story may have made it more appealing. But make no mistake, for a small development team this is a very polished, clever and complex title, and it’s priced at only Tin Can is priced at only £16.74. So if you like sweaty palms and that panicky feeling of working under pressure and against time then this is undoubtedly the game for you. Always remember though: In space, nobody can hear you scream "HELP! I'm just the flippin' cleaning guy!"