Gamers are arguably experienced with weaponry. Guns, missiles, crowbars, crossbows – projectile or melee, gamers have had their hands on everything from sticks to nuclear weapons for years. It’s an integral part of what draws people in to the experience, wanton destruction within a safe environment. However we have reached a point where commercial titles are possibly too reliant on these tried and tested mechanics, after all, the most popular genres by an order of magnitude are First Person Shooters, Third Person Shooters, Online Shooters, Space Shooters, Shooter Shooters and Shooter Shooter Shooters. Shooters.
Weapons sell, clearly. Yet evidence from the success of titles like Mojang’s Indie behemoth Minecraft shows the commercial software giants that incredible experiences – and more importantly to them, sales – can be had without the focus on death dealing. If you were to only ever see Minecraft screenshots, you’d imagine it to be an FPS; however the simple but rich game mechanics make it so much more. The familiar perspective is made fresh by the switch of focus from weapons, to tools.
Tiny and Big- Grandpa’s Leftovers takes the tools concept and tries something that commercial titles are all too often afraid to give the player - freedom . Taking control of the titular Tiny, players are quickly introduced to the key elements of the game. First up, Tiny has access to a grappling hook, but rather than using it to manoeuvre himself around the environment a la Arkham City, the grappling hook allows Tiny to harness objects and drag them around the level. Neat. Not only this but Tiny has a rather marvellous laser cutter. This frankly awesome bit of kit allows tiny to slice up essentially anything in the environment, provided it can fit in the players current view. Simply draw out the line you wish and the laser does it’s job, leaving two neatly cut parts. This opens up an incredible amount of that wanton destruction we all love so much – you can literally slice up the level to the point of uselessness, where there is nowhere to go except a quick suicide and try again. Finally comes the fun, but least used, ‘Rocketizer’. This allows Tiny to attach a rocket to objects which he can then apply thrust to in order to send said objects rolling over, or in some cases, flying off into the distance. Garry’s Mod players will be at home here.
So, that’s Tiny’s toolkit, and with it he (and you) are in hot pursuit of the nefarious Big, who has possession the late Grandpa’s underpants. These pants have granted Big some incredible power and he remains out of your reach for most of the game as you scale and decline the towering world in your quest to rightfully claim back the pants for yourself. Using your tools to slice, drag and er… rocketize the chunky world around you, you can manipulate the levels to find your own way to hunt down Big. The freedom offered is potentially overwhelming, but never strays from actually being fun.
Visually, Tiny and Big has a semi cel-shaded feel to it, with the stark textures and pen-and-ink effects working well with the core mechanics. Whilst a AAA-title level of graphic polish would be amazing given the physics occurring, the art direction displayed by Tiny and Big really suits the overall package, with slick stylistic menus, minimalist sound production and a soundtrack consisting of fairly hippy tunes. It’s pleasant and enjoyable. The visuals aren’t without issue though, as the gameplay moves between external and internal levels, the internal levels appear too dark and confusing, a touch more ambient light or thought given to shadows and highlights would have made these much more engaging.
The hunt for Big is interspersed with a few confrontations with the man himself. These involve Big heaving down huge rocks upon Tiny as you try desperately to do your thing and laser cut the ground from beneath him. The constant barrage can prove frustrating and will be the source of many deaths however the satisfaction of laser slicing a massive boulder in half just before it smashes into you is something to behold.
Talking of deaths, there will be many as you and Tiny use a certain amount of trial and error with the tools on offer and often a wrong step or misplaced jump ends in an impressively high fall to the death. The quick drop back into the action is welcome, however some checkpoints are irritatingly placed meaning players will often have to repeat straightforward sections which lead to a complex part which causes repeated downfalls. This is somewhat unforgivable as it could have been ironed out prior to release with some competent playtesting.
The bottom-line is that Tiny and Big is rather a unique experience, if a little short, with the whole thing tied up within 2-3 hours (and that’s with a significant amount of deaths and cursing) but consistently fun. I’ve played many 6-8 hour games with less ‘fun time’ than that.
So often the price of games is compared to other types of modern entertainment like Cinema. This comparison is closer than most with Tiny and Big as the length of the game is the same as some epic movies; however the price is less than an Adult cinema ticket, in the UK at least.
The game is endearing, the tools are never anything less than a pleasure to use and you will catch yourself smiling and swearing at the game in equal measure. This is why Indie games are so big right now, they simply offer experiences and ideas that big publishers are too scared to attempt. There’s only one way that will change and it’s to show them that these ideas do work, that they can make money and that they are what people want. Tiny and Big – Grandpa’s Leftovers is recommended, some playtesting would’ve rounded off the experience more, however as with all the best games, the core mechanics are worth the price alone.
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