Big has taken off with Tiny’s pants. For those unfamiliar, that’s British talk for underwear, which makes the premise even more ridiculous. Fortunately, the road to recovering that beloved undergarment is fraught with exciting peril and danger, the kind of thing that makes for a stellar 3D platformer. The game does more than enough to set itself apart with a stylish art direction and excellent soundtrack, but also manages to pull off some rather exciting and freeform bouts of gameplay. This definitely is a break from the usual puzzle platformer indie game fare, and is well worth checking out for fans of the unique. It can be hard to describe exactly what Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers accomplishes, because it manages to be an excellent throwback to the glory days of the 3D platformer while being simultaneously quite unlike anything else.
As mentioned, the main point of the game is Tiny’s pursuit of his wretched thieving relative, Big. He has retreated into an expansive and beautifully cel shaded desert, full of dangerous ascents and precarious gaps. Over the game’s six chapters, you need to cross the erratic landscape and slowly uncover the mystery behind Big’s senseless crime of pant rustling. Unlike most platformers, there’s usually not a clear route to the goal. Technically speaking, most of the time the gaps are downright insurmountable, but that’s where the unique premise comes in. Tiny is a smart fellow, and wisely thought ahead to bring a few tools around. Your all purpose gizmo comes equipped with a grappling hook to drag bits of the environment towards you, a rocket to launch them away as quickly as possible and a powerful laser that can shave chunks of debris off of almost anything. With these three tools of mass destruction and the flexible physics engine, the debris of the desert can be chopped up and rearranged to your heart’s content, or at least moved around enough to reach the goal.
It may sound easy, but the six varied levels bring a lot of variety and danger to the proceedings. Each level is very unique, with a distinct goal and style of level design to carry it. One level might be a lengthy bridge, for example, which means cutting into the supports too much will lead to instability and worse. Another level focuses on the ascent of a mountain, bringing with it lots of tricky jumps and self made staircases. The one complaint is that six levels does feel really short, particularly when you factor in the fact that one level is just a boss battle. This adds up to maybe three hours of gameplay, which is certainly on the short side. Fortunately the dozens of collectibles hidden in the level give completionists something to work on, and provides less dedicated players an excuse to return to a previous chapter and play with the tools. And like any good 3D platformer, there are plenty of easter eggs and secrets to find.
One particularly neat collectible type hidden across the wasteland is a series of cassette tapes that contain new tracks for the background music. This leads to one of the biggest strengths of the game, which is the terrific audiovisual presentation. The game’s soundtrack was amassed by a series of talented indie bands, with each track perfectly capturing the eerie sensibilities of the game. The music absolutely oozes style, perfectly suiting the game’s over the top graphical style. As mentioned, the game uses a cel shaded style, but it goes far beyond that. It definitely looks gorgeous, with a unique palette of colours and some sharp model work. But the little details even manage to feel stylish; for example, every plink, clonk and smush that comes from the environment gets spelled out with some comic book style onomatopoeia. Altogether it makes the world look like a particularly stylized graphic novel. The Gameboy inspired tutorial levels are a particular treat.
As mentioned, length is somewhat of a concern. The other main problem with the game is the somewhat floaty controls, which occasionally give a feeling that Tiny isn’t really connected to the environment by simply gliding over it. The game can also be a touch inconsistent when it comes to damage; a short fall in one place does nothing, but another level may count it as an instant death. This is all largely negligible, and certainly doesn’t impede the game.
Final Verdict: Without going overboard, it’s safe to say that this is probably one of the most uniquely styled platformers since Psychonauts. However, the gameplay is totally unique, taking common puzzle elements and using them in a totally new and unconstrained way. If you like your platformers to be off-beat, weird and most importantly fun, Tiny and Big is an excellent indie choice.
[xrr rating=8.5/10, max_stars=10]
This review is based on a review copy of the GOG.com PC version of Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers provided by Black Pants Game Studio