It’s very refreshing to see an indie game developer take familiar game mechanics and turn it into a new experience. With limited resources it’s quite easy to try to create a game only to end up with a carbon copy of Portal but with a lower budget. Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers takes traditional gameplay mechanics and molds it into something completely new but familiar.
Tiny and Big was developed Black Pants Game Studio. Based in Kessel, Germany, the studio is a six man team comprised of three programmers, two animators and one comic artist. Tiny and Big is the first game ever released by this game studio and so far they’ve done an excellent job as a small indie game company.
Tiny and Big is an action puzzle platformer that gives you a set of tools to interact and manipulate the environment. In this game, you have three tools in your disposal: a laser cutter, a grappling hook and an unlimited supply of remote controlled rockets that you can attach to objects to propel in whichever direction. The game gives you a nice little tutorial in the beginning on how to use these tools. You can slice rocks using the laser cutter then use the grappling hook to drag them around or you can use your rockets to propel objects in whichever direction.
While the game does give subtle clues as to how to progress through the levels, it still lets you play the game however you want. I came across this part where there was a tall thin structure that I could easily bring down to use as a bridge to cross a gap but then I saw a massive wall adjacent to it. I figured maybe I could just bring that massive thing down. But I didn’t just cut a piece of that wall; I absolutely destroyed it with the laser cutter. I cut a bunch of lines across the wall then used my grappling hook to bring it all down to fill the gap. I could’ve easily just used the makeshift bridge and saved time but it was more fun that way.
Despite the numerous ways you can go through a level, the game rewards you for completing a level with minimal use of your tools. I thought that was a bit unnecessary though. The game gives me three tools that are incredibly fun to use but it wants me to use it as minimal as possible. Screw the rewards; I want to go crazy with the laser cutter and attach rockets on everything! However, going crazy with the tools does come with its consequences. One wrong cut could send a massive landslide of debris stunting your progress. The game does let you try to fix your mess but most of the time it’s just impossible. At this point it brings you back to the nearest checkpoint via an awkward transition. The checkpoints seem random and there are no indications as to when it’s saving or not.
Perhaps the best thing about this game is the fact that almost the whole environment is destructible. Objects that look like they’re only there to add to the atmosphere can be cut, dragged, rocket propelled or even contribute to your progress. The only downside of this is it’s really tempting to just destroy everything making the level unplayable.
The combat, or what would be considered combat in the game, is very limited. The main villain of the game is called Big who wears magical pants (underwear in American English) on his head that gives him the power to lift and hurl objects at you as well as fly. In all your encounters with Big, he hurls rocks at you that you must cut in mid air so as not to crush you. The problem with this is that the rocks come to a full stop once you start cutting them which is makes it quite easy. The only difficulty in this is that the level won’t progress unless you keep moving on so you can’t just stand around and hope Big runs out of rocks to hurl. This gets a bit boring after awhile because they’re no other way to combat Big. I also managed to survive a section of the game with effective dodging instead of cutting aerial rocks just to see if it can be done.
While sporting extremely fun gameplay and mechanics, the plot, on the other hand, could use some work. Actually, that is an understatement; the plot is absolutely ridiculous and needs plenty of work. The player takes on the role of Tiny who has gotten his pants stolen by Big. The pants, which Big wears on his head, were handed down to Tiny by their grandfather and apparently give you the power to lift and hurl objects as well as fly. Later on, after going underground, Tiny finds evidence of an ancient civilization who worshipped a pants king. The ancient pants king’s mind was totally consumed by the power of the pants and proceeded to kill everybody under his reign. When Tiny learned this, his quest to reclaim the pants became more imminent as he feared that Big would not be able to control the power and eventually succumb to the pants. Yeah, I know; ridiculous. However, this crackpot of a story does not get in the way of how fun the game is.
I have to say I was highly impressed by the graphics and art style. The engine Black Pants Game Studio uses is called the Scrape Engine and they developed it themselves. Considering that they only have three programmers, the engine works phenomenally. The mini cinematics are very eye-catching and the art design, with its hand-drawn comic book style, really reflects the ridiculous world Tiny and Big is set in. Most of the game is set in a desert wasteland where the strange structures are filled with plenty of Aztec-like patterns and levitating rocks. The other half is set underground in an abandoned kingdom that is slightly reminiscent of Tron. You can tell that the one comic artist Black Pants Game Studio has really put in a lot of effort in putting forward such a peculiar and beautifully rendered world.
The art style reminds me of Adventure Time. Tiny look like he could be Finn the Human’s brother. The silly expressions and the crackpot storyline reminds me a lot of Adventure Time which is known for its bizzare style and peculiar animation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the developers were fans of the cartoon.
As you play through the game, you find these cassette tapes that add to your music playlist. The game also lets you cycle through the tracks that you’ve find which I thought was a nice touch. The music itself sounds very hipster which isn’t really to my taste but I’m sure there are people (*cough*hipsters*cough*) out there who would enjoy it.
Tiny and Big: Granpa’s Leftovers, with its incredibly fun gameplay and nicely rendered visuals, is definitely a game worth playing. Their engine shows plenty of promise and their use of traditional gameplay mechanics is fresh. Now all they need is to brush up on their storytelling. They are currently developing a game for the iPhone and iPad called About Love, Hate & The Other Ones. I don’t own an iPhone but I’m considering borrowing one just so I can check out their newest development when it comes out.