Have you been upset by the severe lack of games based on magical ancient underwear? Well good news! Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers is here to scratch that itch. Luckily, it has more going for it than its toilet humor plot. Tiny & Big has one of the cleverest physics platformer mechanics I’ve seen, but the game is held back by the just as important mechanics of actually running and jumping.
You play as Tiny, a strange creature whose Grandpa left him a pair of magical underpants. Unfortunately Tiny’s arch-nemesis, Big, steals the pants, and it’s up to you to chase Big down and get them back, before Big accidentally destroys the world. Tiny is joined by a companion, a talking radio strapped to his back, and the two romp through an ancient desert full of fairly interesting ruins. While this sounds like it could be good for some chuckles, the writing in the game is pretty bad. It never really made me crack a smile, and I appreciate some good toilet humor as much as the next guy.
Fortunately the real star of Tiny & Big is its unique “cut anything” gameplay. Tiny is armed with three main tools: a grappling hook, a rocket, and a laser cutter. The gameplay primarily centers around the last of these. Tiny can cut almost anything in the world, as long as he slices all the way through it (end to end). With the grappling hook or rocket Tiny can push and pull objects both already in the world and that he cuts.
In practice this creates some pretty awesome physics puzzles, many of which have multiple solutions. Tiny’s tools are deceptively simple in concept, but complex in practice, which is the hallmark of the most memorable puzzle games. Big is a constant pest through most of the game, trying to stop Tiny generally by tossing large boulders at him. Luckily Tiny’s laser cutter can be used to defend himself from these assaults as well, and the player will have to pay constant attention to his surroundings to avoid being squashed.
While Tiny’s tools give you some options for exploration outside of the main path, the game is pretty linear in practice. Exploring can find you more music for the radio to play, collectibles, and hidden “arcade” games which are completed using Tiny’s skills. There are lots of little hidden secrets to find, but the stages themselves are fairly small in scale. It would have been a lot of fun to see these physics tools in a more open, free-roaming style game.
If all of this sounds fun and unique, that’s because it is, but it’s not all roses for Tiny & Big. In practice the game fails to make the core mechanics as smooth as they should be. Platforming feels stiff and at times unresponsive, and the world’s modular nature makes it easy to (literally) slip through the cracks. A large number of my deaths in the game happened from bugs, glitches, and just less-than-stellar level design. In general there’s a distinct lack of polish to the game’s mechanics that prevent it from feeling genuinely great to play.
On the presentation side of things, the graphics are pretty good, but the art is largely dull. Most of the game will take place in similar desert areas with similar ruins. As I mentioned above, the humor and plot don’t really stand out at all, and the music, while featuring some enjoyable indie rock tracks, gets repetitive. This is largely due to the odd mechanic of having to hunt down new music tracks as collectibles. You’ll hear the same track played quite a lot in your short journey.
And indeed it is a pretty short journey. The game is fairly easy to complete in less than three hours, but with all the collectibles you could easily add another couple to that total. There’s not much reason to replay other than that, but it’s a great game for achievement hunters. With a $10 price the value is really pretty good, but it doesn’t approach the best of the price range either.
All-in-all I had a very good time with Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers, but not without a number of caveats. The humor and writing are simply not entertaining, and the gameplay’s concepts are clever, but lack smooth execution. It’s easy to recommend the game to puzzle and platformer fans, but it’s hard to not be a little disappointed that the game never really reaches the potential of its awesome concept.