REVIEW | “Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers”
Tiny and Big has a damn good elevator pitch. You’re presented with one of the more ugly protagonists to bless a video game and asked to slice things with a laser and launch those pieces with one-use rockets or yank the chunks towards you with a grappling hook.
We end up with several physics-based game mechanics people love already. Nerds love grappling hooks, grappling hooks and anything with potential for a grappling hook effect. It’s the fantasy of combining the fun of a tire swing with transportation. If Tiny could use his grappling powers to swing, this game would have sold a million copies by now.
Tiny has driven out to the desert to retrieve “pants” stolen by Big, who wears them on his head and seems to derive powers from them in full Akira fashion. It’s wacky because it’s a pair of underwear they’re fighting over. They’re English, you see, and that’s how they roll with their silly humor.
The constant references to underwear throughout the game gave me the impression that it’s all supposed to come off as the height of hilarity. Somehow it failed to bring that Monty Python level of absurd humor that the creators probably hoped for.
Fortunately, plot seldom defines a game unless the creators decide to make overbearing design choices. More scripted segments and cut scenes don’t make a strong narrative, they just interrupt the user experience. Most of the time, Tiny and Big steps aside and leaves you to the meat of the matter: Cutting the shit out of some attractive level design.
Most games with destructible environments either cheat by limiting the destruction to sandboxes around the important landmarks, or by making the entire world as flimsy as a sand castle. Tiny and Big actually finds the sweet spot, with huge chunks of rock striking into the ground with a substantial slam. Few moments in gaming equal the satisfaction of slicing a boulder in half as it’s flying towards you, hearing the chunks hit the ground in stereo.
Unlike many titles with a larger budget, Tiny and Big seems to actually trust you to solve problems in an organic fashion. It never felt like there was a singular, precise place I needed to cut or drag to solve a problem, even if I was shepherded toward a particular answer. Sometimes this would create situations where I’d screw myself over, but the reset usually cost very little, making it easier to indulge in cutting the shit out of everything in sight, which is as it should be. If all your promotional videos show destructive mayhem, it’s best to keep it straightforward.
While I admired the design for the most part, all the things I hate in this sort of game came together during a section within a temple, an eye-bleeding combination of black and bright green with block dragging. Why must every adventure inevitably dissolve into the dragging of a cube from one point to another? Having the blocks shaped like underwear didn’t help.
Most of the other problems are nitpicky and feel a bit rude to dwell on them with a development team of six people. Occasionally time doesn’t slow properly when you prepare to slice a boulder that’s about to smash into you. Sometimes the jumping is imprecise. Sometimes things don’t run smoothly, but nothing really broke the mood.
People are going to quibble over the length, which is roughly two to four hours depending on your skill level and completionist tendencies. I don’t really grasp the issue with a short game without virtually any filler selling for roughly the price of a movie ticket. It’s more entertainment, immediately replayable, and you can support a small studio. I paid twice that for Dear Esther, a game that involves nothing other than walking through pretty environments for a half hour.
I recommend you buy it. It’s on Steam, so if it’s not on sale now you can wait five minutes for the next one to roll by.