If it hadn’t been for Counter Attack! I might still be pondering the pros and cons of Steam. I might still be on the fence about creating an account and playing games on my (non-gaming) laptop. I might still be sadly passing over tweet after review after tweet of cheap and highly enjoyable games available through Steam. Oh, I’d be ecstatic at the recent Steam Machines announcement, but my emotions wouldn’t have translated into action. Probably. If you haven’t made the jump to Steam but are thinking about it, you might want to hit up the guys at Counter Attack! with a question for their podcast CA! Radio. That’s what I did and I won a Steam code for Tiny & Big in Grandpa’s Leftovers. Then I had no excuse not to get back into the heady world of PC gaming.
Thing is, that was…last summer? Yeah, the end of last summer. So I made a Steam account and got the game. And then the game and my account sat..
…for several months.
Pathetic? Maybe. I mean, things were pretty busy in life and work then. Gaming took a backseat while things settled down before the holidays. Also, I was gearing up to lose my waking hours to Grand Theft Auto V. And then the holidays rolled around ad things got even busier. But I knew that I had an an extended Christmas break planned and that LOTS of gaming would happen then. And that’s when I finally got round to Tiny & Big.
Christ, that was a long-winded introduction. I gotta work on that.
Being rather out-of-step with happenings in the indie game world, I had never head of Tiny or Big or their developer, Black Pants Game Studio; and I was quite curious as to the makings of “Grandpa’s Leftovers.” Was it a game about food? Stale, moldy food that had somehow mutated into giant monsters that wanted to TAKE OVER THE WORLD??! No. No it was not. Instead, it was about a pair of underpants. Why? Because that was what Tiny had inherited from his grandfather, a hallowed pair of underpants. They had been stolen by Tiny’s nemesis, Big, and he simply had to get them back. Makes absolute sense.
I think like most people, I’m a sucker for beauty. (Though what constitutes it is in the eye of the beholder. Also, gag me a little for being so clichéd.) First and foremost, Tiny & Big is a really fun game, but it’s also a beautiful game. Game reviewers have said that unique art and animation styles sometimes help define and set apart indie games from AAA titles, and that’s totally the case with Tiny & Big. Its hand-drawn look is just so likable in both detail and scale. The character and environmental animations are technical and precise, and yet very endearing. It helps that the developers imbued Tiny & Big with a keen sense of humor, and I repeatedly found myself laughing the wacky conversations of not just those between Tiny and Big, but also those between Tiny and his helpful (hints) companion that just happens to be a radio.
Gushing about the graphics is all well and good, but what about the gameplay? Friends, you’re in for a platforming treat in Tiny & Big. Not only is the story of Tiny’s adventures to reclaim his rightful undergarment compelling and hilarious, but the mechanics of the game are downright buttery. The game can be played either with a keyboard or a controller. Being waaaaaay too out of practice to get my WASD on, I went with a controller. Tiny & Big is both a platform game and a physics game. At Tiny’s disposal is a laser that you use to slice through, well…just about everything. And you have to slice through just about everything — mostly free-standing (or free-flying) structures of one shape or another — in order to make the platforms that you need to reach each level’s goal. What’s brilliant is that there’s really no wrong way to approach the slicing and building. If you need to get up to a high doorway, the structure you build to climb there is entirely up to you. Tiny can push and pull around just about anything you cut. So if something falls out of place, all you need to do is push it back. If something turns out to be too big, just slice it. If you slice it too much, that’s okay — go and slice up another piece of scenery and drag it into place. It sounds a little simplistic, but the process of navigating any given level requires at bit of forethought, and not all areas have unlimited pieces of scenery to cut. There were plenty of times when I sliced something completely wrong and had to start over. Especially difficult was something of a “bottomless” level that required you to slice down overheard beams. Mine frequently ended up just falling to nothingness.
It bears mentioning that the game isn’t all slicing and puzzling. There are some heated battles between Tiny and Big that require timing and control. Those are my biggest gaming weak points, and yet I still enjoyed the hell out of playing. Bravo Black Pants!
I struggled to take a break from Tiny & Big once I started playing. I just had to keep playing until the end. It was just so sweet and addicting, and surprisingly so! Oh, and it also had a wonderful soundtrack. I mean…wonderful. Like the kind of soundtrack that is almost distracting in its greatness. And it was presented in a unique way. Among the collectibles in the game are hidden cassette tapes, each of which plays a different song. Once you collect a new one, a new song starts playing. And they aren’t just any old songs, but songs from a number of great indie artists like Seven That Spells, 3 Body Problem, and Antares. I’ve yet to pick up the soundtrack, but it went right into my iTunes wish list after I finished the game.
Tiny & Big in Grandpa’s Leftovers is just a few hours long, but it speaks volumes in creativity and artistic talent. It was the perfect game to make me say a big YES to Steam. While I’ve not yet handed over my life savings to the service, it’s made me quite happy to have another avenue by which to learn about and play games. So thanks Counter Attack! for enabling the beginnings of addiction. And believe me, this is only the beginning.