In this week’s Breaking Down the Backlog, I tried to get my Grandpa’s pants back and inadvertently uncovered a terrible secret involving and evil god and mole people.
What a strange game Tiny and Big is. I didn’t necessarily have a fun time playing it, but it was certainly interesting. The core mechanics were sound and I really liked the way it was presented, there was just something about it that didn’t wholly engage me (much like Sniper Elite 2).
The central plot of the game is this: Big has stolen Grandpa’s Pants and Tiny – with help from his trusty radio – has go stop Big by getting those pants back. It turns out, those Pants make the wearer ultra powerful and Big wants to use that power to rule the world. It’s a fun, light story that has some surprising depth to it thanks to a rather dark twist near the end of the game. Also, there is some cool environmental storytelling scattered throughout that flesh out the world a bit more. There are statues to ancient gods, cave paintings and monuments that your radio fills you in on or – in a couple of instances – attempts to avoid talking about for some unknown reason. Kudos to the developers for giving the lifeless levels some flavour.
Tiny and Big looks very unique. It has a cell-shaded comic book-y look to it that I enjoyed a great deal and the earthy colours really set it aside from other games that also use that style (Okami and Jet Set Radio Future, for example). There isn’t a lot of variety, but being set in a desolate desert, a lack of variety is to be expected. I also appreciated the onomatopoeia that appears, like a comic book, when something exciting happens. Seeing “SPAK” or “ZOINK” always raised a smile. The game also does scale very well. Each of the main levels, bar one, requires you to clamber up to the top of a building or something along those lines. The building looks appropriately enormous and when you reach the top you can see for miles around. Yes, you do just see more desert, but the sense of scale is certainly there.
So it looks good and the story is cool, but how does Tiny and Big play? Well that is where the game kind of falters. The best part about the game is the physics. You are given a laser gun, a gun that fires rockets and a grappling hook. Instead of using these weapons to kill things, you use them to slice and move the environment in any way you choose. Your laser can cut through just about anything and into as many pieces as the game engine can sustain, whilst the rocket gun propels what you have sliced up forwards and the hook is used for pulling. It is genuinely a ton of fun slicing and dicing the scenery. One time I accidentally sliced through a humongous wall, so I decided to see if I could pull it down. Turns out I totally could, and this is when that sense of scale kicks in, I was shocked at how huge the wall was. It was actually thicker than Tiny’s height and it almost killed me when it fell down. That part of the game was always loads of fun to mess about with.
Where it lost me, however, was when it turned into more of a game. If it remained more of a physics experiment with a story attached to it, I think I would have enjoyed Tiny and Big a lot more than I did. The movement and the jumping, for instance, felt very still and unwieldy. I never felt properly in control of my character, and for a Platformer that is a big problem. Something else that annoyed me was that there were frequent holes in the level design that you just couldn’t see until you fall into them and die…repeatedly. I also didn’t like when the game made cutting up the environment a puzzle. The physics weren’t accurate (or perhaps too accurate) for it to consistently work. For example, at one point it was obvious that you had to cut down a strut that was overhead in order to continue. I did so only for the strut to fall down, bounce a bit and then fall down the hole you have to cross. So I had to slice my way through the environment to continue the game. Now that sort of free-form puzzle-solving is cool, if what the game actually wanted you to do actually worked. I shouldn’t have to think of my own solution because Tiny and Big’s own solution failed. Oh, and to top it all off the boss battle(s) were so one note – top tip cut up where Big lands to win – that they immediately became boring.
Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers is a small game. There are about six levels and it took me three or so hours to finish. But I had trouble really enjoying myself. I get that not every game, especially one so small, has to be some great transcendental experience. A game can just be a fun distraction or a light appetizer, but some part of it has to as close to flawless as humanly possible and I am afraid Tiny and Big just didn’t have that. Buy it and mess about in the first level or so and then quit.
Next time on Breaking Down the Backlog: Iron Brigade