Crossing the Steams 2.2.13: Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers
Welcome to another edition of Crossing the Steams. This week’s column is going to examine the indie platformer Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers. It’s an extremely interesting platformer, with some new mechanics, but has a few small problems when it comes to the fundamental game design. Still, the tools the game gives you, as well as the music, and look of the game more than make up for some of the short comings the game has. Let’s begin:
Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers is a platformer where the big emphasis is on physics and how your actions have consequences in the world. The basic gameplay just involves you following a path, picking up collectibles, jumping around on platforms and hopefully not dying in the process. The really unique things are the three tools you have at your disposal:
The first and probably most important tool is a laser cutter. This lets you cut apart pretty much all of the environment within the game. You can cut apart rocks, ledges, cliffs, masks, pretty much anything you can see, you can cut it apart. This is the main crux of the game actually. You’ll see plenty of platforms you can’t jump on, or areas that you’ll need to cross a gap to continue. For the first problems, you can start shearing away parts of the rock so as to create a jumpable slope for you to get on it. You do this by activating the laser, which pauses the game around you. This is done by holding the LB button on the gamepad. Then you draw a line using the right stick across the object’s surface. You need to cover the object completely with the line in order for the laser to cut it apart. Once you do so, a green outline appears around the object denoting that you can cut it. You can also use the laser for defensive and offensive purposes, aside from just the platforming ending. On the offensive end, you’ll occasionally face off the titular “Big”, and have to figure out ways of trying to hurt him. On the defensive side, Big will occasionally throw rocks and debris at you, which you have to cut up, otherwise it’ll kill you.
The second item you have is an item grappling hook. While it would be great if you could use it to swing around like Bionic Commando, this grappling hook doesn’t work that way. You can only use it on objects, and largely on objects that you’ve already cut up. Basically, any object that is loose and not too big can be pulled, with your character, Tiny, as the pulling force. There is a bit of a weight limit on the hook, but it’s only in how much Tiny can pull the object around. Still, massive item can be moved around, providing bridges across chasms, or lining up rocks to get up to a higher level. You use the LT or RT buttons to attach the hook to an object and you can pull away.
The last item you have is a rocket that you can fire. This functions a little like the grappling hook in that you can only really use it on objects that have already been cut apart. The rocket itself feels underpowered and can only really move small to medium objects around the environment. You can fire a rocket, with the RB button, (only one active at a time) at an object. It’ll attack to the object and be inactive. You then press the RB button again to fire the rocket up, and hold the button down for a sustained burn. Like the grappling hook also, it’s more for moving objects around, or for making objects fall in a certain direction (by giving them a nudge).
Getting around the levels is really all you do in the game, aside from a few boss battles (which play out the same). One level involves you navigating around a huge temple in order to get to the top. Another level has you scaling a broken down bridge, moving beams around to create pathways so you don’t fall. Another level has you actually inside the temple trying to get to the center of it and so on. There is only 6 levels in the game, and one of them really doesn’t count, so make it 5. The levels are all fairly long though, and probably will take you at least a half hour to get through each one (if not more, depending on other factors).
The game is simply fun to play, but a few problems crop up here and there. The biggest one I encountered is that the game has a poor way of telling you where you can fall and where you can’t fall. Often times you might fall off a ledge, and just die from not a great height. This is encountered way more in the “Inside the Temple” level than anywhere else, but it is a reoccurring problem I noticed. Another issue is how rocks falling works, and is kind of related to the falling issue. Sometimes a rock or item will just graze you, and you’ll die from it. Other times, a rock will fall on you and you’ll manage to survive. It just feels random at spots, and in a platformer you don’t want that feeling. The last issue I ran into was some of the pathing in the levels is unclear, notably in the second level. The game hints at you to carve up this mountain when you’re actually supposed to go inside it. I wasted about 40 minutes trying to create a path on the outside, before I finally looked at a video and saw there was a hidden path in a hallway.
Graphically, the game is a bit simple, but has a definite art style that I like. The whole game looks like a comic book, or kind of like Borderlands. All the environments are nicely detailed, if a bit bland in there only being the desert, but some of the detail is interesting. The character designs are funny, intentionally so, and everything has a crisp look to it.
Audio is a driving point of this game and semi-divisive. The sound effects are fine, and what little voice work there is, is passable. The music is the part that might split people. It’s very weird sounding, full of not-popular music, but a lot of it very good. It fits into the game extremely well, but it may not be everyone’s style. I could see the hipster crowd eating it up, but if you like more harder-edge music, look elsewhere. I personally found it enjoyable, and even grabbed the soundtrack from Steam.
Despite the short length of the game, there is a fair amount of replayability to Tiny and Big. There’s a ton of collectibles for you to find (rocks and tapes – which unlock music for the game), as well as challenge arcade cabinets and secret areas. At the end of each level you’re also given scores on how well you did, and what you’d need to get a better ranking. The interesting one is trying to make it through a level with the fewest cuts possible. One example is, trying to make it through a level using only 4 cuts, that sort of thing. It’s not the content that 5 or 6 more levels is, but if you do like the game, it can keep you busy for a little while.
The game installs and runs fine. I’d say a gamepad is probably recommended (if not required), due to some of the platforming bits, and cutting things with the laser. Good Steam achievements are also built in, which are always nice to try and get.
Overall, Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers is a fun little game. It’s not as fleshed out as a Mario or Sonic game might be, but the new mechanics it has are worked in rather well. More levels and some tightening of the gameplay would have been nice, but it’s worth a look for all involved.
Graphics — 8.5 Definitely stylized, with a comic book look. Everything is well detailed, and a few specific areas look great, but too much desert pops up.
Gameplay — 8.5 Some of the platforming is made more problematic due to the frequent deaths, but you get past that. Cutting up the levels is quite fun, and so is puzzle solving.
Ease of Use/Playing –10 The game works well, gamepad support is included (and needed), and Steam achievements keep you updated on your own progress.
Replayability — 6.5 Only 6 levels to keep you occupied, which isn’t a lot. Most of them are large and have secrets, and all of them have challenges associated with them.
Overall — 8.6 (exact), which I’ll round down to 8.5
Other Steam News
Only one game is announced for next week, Special Forces: Team X due on February 6th. It looks like Monday Night Combat with more of an emphasis on level creation and the like. Next week I’ll try and look at Defense Grid: The Awakening.