Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers
Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers is a third-person action puzzle solving game, and an especially distinctive one at that. You use a laser to precisely cut through blocks to form stepping stones to get to higher/farther places. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds; this is quite an involved and interesting game.
Your tools are the aforementioned cutting laser, a grappling hook (only for pulling rocks, not for rappelling) and small rockets for pushing stuff out of your way. Then the game drops you at the bottom of stone temples full of gigantic pillars and broken cliffs and leaves you to figure out what to do next. There’s a very short tutorial in the first level, but after that you’re on your own, and I couldn’t love it any more.
The game’s physics are realistic (except for the ability for a tiny guy to push huge boulders) and demand that the player slice up rock in an exact fashion. Just cutting horizontally or vertically often isn’t enough; you have to pull tricks like cutting out a wedge, as if you’re felling a tree. Sometimes there’s an obvious-looking long stone chunk nearby that you can use for a ramp, but you usually have to carefully carve bits out of hulking monoliths to form a path you can climb up. You travel your own way.
I did terribly at first. I spent a shameful half-hour on the first level trying to get the hang of all the tools at my command and figuring out how to remove tiny slices from blocks so I could use them as stepping stones to explore the canyon where the game begins. But once I learned the ins and outs of butchering the quarry, I was having the time of my life. You see a big cliff face you need to get up? Cut a long thin slice out of it, perforating just so, making it drop in the perfect position for you to climb. Or you can tear big chunks out of it and try to make a straightforward ramp. Tiny and Big rewards creative thinking in precisely the fashion that a puzzle game should.
It’s quite possible to get stuck if you aren’t cutting carefully enough. Maybe I’m just bad at the game, but after trying hard to scale one of the levels I often found myself standing at the bottom of a chasm with nothing but a pile of worthless rubble to show for my efforts. Then I’d search for suicide in the nearest bottomless pit or heavy overhanging stone and try again. But every time I failed, it was my fault, not some random element that screwed me over. Throughout the whole game I never felt cheated or pushed beyond my capabilities. Just enough yin and just enough yang. I appreciate a good old player-killer like God Hand or Dark Souls but there’s something to be said for laid-back, slow but stimulating games like this.
There are boss fights but none of them involve attacking directly, but rather using the aforementioned tools to destroy your opponent’s footing and prevent them from killing you. This is a roundabout approach to combat that I found more refreshing than the typical “left-click to kill the thing you’re looking at” deal. These are puzzle bosses, not damage sponge bosses.
There’s lots of optional stuff to search for, too. You can collect “boring stones” for completion if you’re the type of player who cares about achievements, collect music cassette tapes, or climb to obscure mountain crannies with playable arcade machines in them. There’s no time limit and you have infinite lives, so you’re free to explore to your heart’s content. No overbearing pressure, just a relaxing experience that challenges your brainpower at your own pace.
Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers has a deliberately moronic plot about a squat, dull-witted archeologist hunting after the magical rock-levitating underpants that his brother stole for some reason. It’s better than no plot at all; it’s somewhat charmingly ridiculous and also mercifully short and skippable.
The music is surprisingly varied and incredibly catchy. You can listen to upbeat chiptunes, stoner rock, morose Mexican folk, a song that sounds like something from the early 90s Mind’s Eye CG series, and just plain cool weird jazzy crap. Most indie games have nothing but chiptunes, but Tiny and Big takes the extra step for a more entertaining aural experience. And what’s more is that after collecting tapes in-game you can switch music tracks with the push of a button, a feature that pretty much all video games could benefit from. Tiny and Big has a worthy soundtrack indeed.
The art style is the graphical equivalent of the lo-fi indie rock that its creators obviously appreciate. It’s as crude and sloppy as the U.S. invasion of Iraq but much more endearing. Tiny and Big look like dark childish scribbles brought to life and thrown into a twisted version of the Arizona desert. It fits the eclectic music quite nicely. And there’s a surprising amount of detail to the environments; I found myself blowing out when I saw a lot of dust on screen. That’s pretty impressively immersive right there.
Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers is a rad little game. In Portal‘s omnipresent shadow, Tiny and Big stands out as a much more distinctive third-person puzzler than Quantum Conundrum and Qube. Tiny and Big has a lot of personality, cool art, and it definitely rewards clever laser chopping. I can’t think of anything about it that I don’t like. Give this game a shot. You’ll probably like it. It’s not truly great, but it is genuinely enjoyable from its start to its all-too-soon finish.