Every now and then there’s a game that comes along that just gets you. You deep dive it and nobody sees you for a week, and then you go out to share your experience with everyone only to find out it’s not a great game.
“It’s too short!” they say. “Those controls are terrible!” they moan. “There’s hardly a story at all!” they cry.
Well I’m undeterred. I’m still going to recommend this game.
Tiny & Big: Grampa’s Leftovers is pure gold. No matter what you say.
You play as Tiny, the oddly shaped inventor, armed with his three trusty tools: Laser, Rocket, and Hook. Big, the other titular character, is a bully who stole your inheritance from your gramps: magic underpants.
All of that doesn’t really matter, though, because the point of the game isn’t to advance the story. Though the cutscenes are amusing and the intelligible grunts of the two main characters are worth a few chuckles, this game is, at it’s heart an puzzle/action game.
The “puzzles” of the game aren’t puzzles so much as they are areas that are difficult to traverse. In order to make it easier, you have to rely on Laser (which cuts through things), Rocket (which pushes things away), and Hook (which pulls things).
There are collectibles in the game, secret rooms to find, and above all a fabulous soundtrack. The developers worked with a handful of independent bands to create a fun and unique soundtrack that you can customize as you play. One of the collectibles is new tracks for your radio to play while you solve puzzles, so finding these little floating tapes becomes even more interesting than getting to the next area after a while. Because you only start off the game with one song, by the end of the time you get the last level, you’ll probably be kinda burned out on that one, as well as the first few tracks you find.
The game is done in a cel shaded art style, evoking a comic-book feel which is accentuated by the fact that most of the game sound effects are accompanied by onomatopoeia words the flash up next to the source of the sound. “POK!” flashes up when your hook sinks into a rock, and “BZZZT!” or “ZORT!” will show when your laser activates. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s seamlessly integrated and adds both character and charm.
I’ll have to admit here that the art style and the soundtrack are both unparalleled in their greatness – but they’re the best part of the game. There are places in the game where having such awesome style makes the game’s flaws stick out a bit. The really cool cel shading feels a little underutilized when there are only two characters and really only three environments in the whole game: desert, pyramid interior, and a virtual game-within-a-game world. There are also places where the artistic awesomeness makes me willing to ignore even the most grievous of gameplay flaws, so you take the good with the bad I suppose.
When I really step back and think about it, I have to tell you that Tiny & Big feels a bit like it’s somewhere between a game prototype and a full game. It is a bit too short and it could have benefitted with a bit more fleshing out. Sigh. Truth hurts.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m still recommending it! Even with it’s flaws, it’s still fun to play and if you buy the version of the game that includes the soundtrack ($15; the game by itself is $10) it’s a very worthy purchase.