Is it possible for something to be original and derivative at the same time? Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers, a new puzzler/platformer from Black Pants, is a game of contradictions that alternately presents a broad yet shallow world with inventive yet unnecessary gameplay mechanics. On one hand, this is a unique, colorful, and funny concept while on the other, it is an amalgamation of very distinctive aspects ripped from some very popular games from the past few years. From the main character who looks like he’s cosplaying as Raz from Psychonauts to the cel-shaded desert environment that looks like a lost corner of Borderlands, Tiny & Big is not shy about showing its influences. The question however is “Does the game provide enough unique gameplay and thrills to stand on its own despite its ‘something borrowed’ approach to its design? Well, the answer to that question (in keeping with everything else about it) is yes….and no.
There are three main mechanics to Tiny & Big: Laser slicing (the ability to cut any object in two), grappling and pulling objects of all sizes and shapes, and missile launching. Throughout, Tiny (the game’s protagonist) uses these abilities to clear or create a path, remove debris, or even avoid hazards. The game has a nice, quick tutorial which demonstrates how to play, and literally within a few minutes you are completely ready to tackle it. Laser slicing definitely makes up the lion’s share of gameplay here. Grappling comes in handy from time to time, and missile launching (used for knocking things out of the way) is pretty much never needed during the game. The latter mechanic feels like a missed opportunity, particularly in such a large and open-ended environment.
The biggest and most critical mechanic in this game world is the in-game physics. The vast majority, if not the entirety, of the gameplay involves manipulating objects of various sizes and shapes. Depending on how you cut, push, pull, or blast and item will affect how and where it ends up. Sometimes the physics can be a little touchy – there are certain points in which I tried to pull down a ‘ramp’ only for it to go rolling off the side. It’s not a fault of the game necessarily, but it can be frustrating to have to reload as a result of pulling a little too far to one side. Further to this, as you have total freedom to rip the environment apart, it is very easy to find yourself in a situation where you are boxed into a space or stuck below a ledge with no way through. Thankfully the game has a contingency in place to deal with it. Just hit the ‘O’ button and it will take you back to the previous checkpoint. It does a pretty good job of spacing the checkpoints out so you don’t lose much progress but also don’t get impossibly stuck. I’ve definitely gotten myself all screwed up, and reverting has never caused me any major headaches.
As Tiny gets closer to confronting Big (the game’s villain), there are some sections in which you need to do your usual climbing, pushing, pulling, and cutting but with an added twist: He is also throwing giant boulders at you which will cause instant death if they hit you. It’s annoying in the same way that the rockets firing from off-screen in Ninja Gaiden 2 are annoying — It’s not so much difficult as cheap, and that kind of thing wears out its welcome quickly. Thankfully, the controls for this game are pretty receptive and fluid. As is often the case with 3rd person platforming games, the camera can at times go haywire. At a couple of points near the end, I tried to use my laser cutter to split an incoming boulder only to find myself staring at the floor. It certainly wasn’t game-breaking and it’s no worse than many other games of its type, but there is a degree of unnecessary frustration that comes from a bad camera when trying to focus on things that can kill you in one hit.
[+Nice clear tutorial] [+Open ended environments with many play options] [+Fluid and receptive controls] [+Realistic physics are a blast] [*Missiles are unneccessary and feel like a missed opportunity] [-Difficulty spike near the end veers into ‘cheap’ territory] [-Camera periodically goes haywire]
At the beginning of this review, I pointed out the clear visual, and environmental influences which this game wears like a thong bikini at the Vatican. Two points: Is this game derivative in its presentation? Abso-fucking-lutely! Is that a crime? Abso-fucking-lutely not! While playing Tiny & Big, I couldn’t help but imagine this as some kind of bizarre sequel or side story to Psychonauts as it has a similar ‘anything goes, no matter how weird’ vibe to it. This is a very charming game in its own right however. The characters and game world are visually striking and colorful, and the interaction between Tiny and the sometimes massive environments is expertly conceived.
The story (if one could even call it that) is that Tiny has been robbed by Big, who has taken his grandfather’s underwear and wears it on his head like a trophy. As Tiny, you must navigate six desert sections in order to recover your precious underwear. I’m of two minds when pondering a game with such a nakedly bizarre premise. On one hand, it makes me shake my head and wonder what these developers have been smoking. On the other hand, it is undeniably the product of a creative (albeit twisted) mind and that kind of thing only makes video games as an art form better.
[+Charming and funny concept] [+Striking visual style] [+Familiar yet unique in its presentation] [*Little story, and what’s there is beyond bizarre]
Tiny & Big is $10, and that is on the outer edges of the right price for a game like this. It’s pretty short and, aside from some difficult traversals in the last couple of sections, it’s also quite easy. Beyond the main game, there’s not much content to speak of other than achievements. If you’re the kind of person who likes finding hidden items and areas and/or clearing the levels with self-imposed limitations, then there’s plenty of replay value to be had here…for the first few areas. Later in the game, the environments tend to get pretty linear. That’s not in and of itself a bad thing, but it does feel like a bit of a letdown after the first half where you have total freedom.
[+$10 is the right price for this game] [+Open-ended nature makes it easy to alter play style] [*Very brief game] [*Only has replay value if you’re a completionist type]
Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers is a pleasant little diversion for a PC gamer looking for something light. It’s one of those games where I really enjoyed it for what it was, but it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever revisit it. Realistically, it’s not going to give you more than a few hours of fun before you uninstall it an move on with your life. That may seem like faint praise, but there are more than a few $60 games for which that description fits as well. It’s a cool little game, but what I really want to see is what they do with the mechanics now that they’ve got this one under their belts.
[+Nice clear tutorial] [+Open ended environments with many play options] [+Fluid and receptive controls] [+Realistic physics are a blast] [+Charming and funny concept] [+Striking visual style] [+Familiar yet unique in its presentation] [+$10 is the right price for this game] [+Open-ended nature makes it easy to alter play style] [*Missiles are unneccessary and feel like a missed opportunity] [*Little story, and what’s there is beyond bizarre] [*Very brief game] [*Only has replay value if you’re a completionist type] [-Difficulty spike near the end veers into ‘cheap’ territory] [-Camera periodically goes haywire]