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An awfully big adventure: The Little Acre review

The adventure genre is one of gaming’s oldest forms. The relatively simple point and click mechanics allowed developers to hone artwork and ingenuity to a fine edge, giving rise to classics like Monkey Island and Broken Sword, both staples of many childhoods and enduring proof that games can be so much more than guns and plumbers. The humble adventure game has faded out of prosperity in recent years but the genre is still very much alive, mostly thanks to indie studios and many a Steam sale.

The Little Acre is a game born from that passion, and it radiates from every hand animated frame. Set in 1950’s Ireland, you play as unemployed engineer Aidan, the sole caretaker of his daughter Lily after his wife’s death and his father’s mysterious disappearance. Investigating his father’s fate, Aidan finds himself transported to a fantastical, sinister world, with his valorous daughter following soon after.

Aidan shrinks as he moves into the mystical realm of Clonfira, giving him the unfortunate appearance of a small child with magnificent muttonchops.

The artwork is the star of the show here, reminiscent of older animated movies with lashings of Miyazaki influence. From the quiet Irish countryside to the darkly beautiful swamps and hills of Clonfira, every backdrop is intricate, filled with tiny little details and animated flourishes. Interactions between Lily and the various creatures she meets as she bumbles through danger are genuinely adorable. I never thought a slimy bog-monster could look perplexed until I played The Little Acre.

So Don Bluth inspired animation, a clear Broken Sword influence (Series creator Charles Cecil worked with developers Pewter Games on this one), and a rolling, soaring Celtic backing soundtrack all swirl together to cook up a fairy tale world that at once feels familiar and unique, classic game design driven by modern knowledge. It’s an immensely brave creation, confident and disarming, and I get the distinct vibe it wants to give genre-lovers something new to enjoy whilst extending open arms to the uninitiated.

Something about you just activating my trap card.

As a result puzzles are rarely challenging – there are few things to interact with in the lush environments and it’s often just a matter of picking up the single object available in the room and finding which socket to stick it in but it has its moments and the animated pay-offs are always more than adequate rewards. My favourite puzzle involved sneaking into a guarded building by enabling a cat to exact a vicious vendetta on a hapless lab attendant, not because it made me think, rather the sublime cartoon that followed charmed the critic right out of me. There’s no combining of items within your inventory – so a fatal lack of rubber chicken adventures – and the solutions to your problems are almost always obvious straightaway. It’s not a flaw, exactly – The Little Acre is one of the most accessible adventure games I’ve ever played, and every moment I spent with it was precious, but it could offer a little more food for thought.

Even in drab 1950’s office backdrops the animation’s nuances still shine through.

Breakfast, dog puzzles, interdimensional travel and dramatic showdowns race by all too quickly. Just at the height of your enthrallment, when you feel like you’ve seen the smallest fraction of the weird wonders of Clonfira, the credits roll. That’s not a complain about its length – creating something this intricate must have been a true labour of love, and the story is wrapped up nicely – but there’s so much potential here. I cleared it in a single two hour setting, and there’s an achievement available for beating it in one, something easily doable if you’ve already played it once. I would have loved even half an hour more in The Little Acre‘s effortless charm, with so many aspects of the world and its lore left unexplored. Really, I think I just want to see these guys draw more stuff.

So there might not be an immense amount of challenge or particularly impressive length (keep those jokes to yourself) but The Little Acre does what it set out to do with buckets of gooey charm and a truly interesting world held up by brilliant animation. Whether you’re a veteran or completely inexperienced with adventure games, this brave new entry should be in your library. I hope we see more creations like this in general, and many more games from the extremely talented folks at Pewter Games building on the potential they’ve displayed in this short jaunt.

THE TL;DR:

  • A singularly wonderful adventure game with heaps of passion and respect for one of gaming’s oldest genres.
  • They don’t make ’em like this any more. We rarely see animation so pure these days and something as lovingly made as this deserves to be celebrated.
  • A very short glimpse at massive potential. If Pewter Games were set loose with a larger budget I have no doubt they’d be able to fuel the revival of the genre as a whole.
  • Short but sweet, and never poses too much of a challenge which might not be great for players looking for a mental workout.

80%

The Little Acre is developed by Pewter Games and distributed by Curve Digital. You can buy it on Xbox One,  PS4, and Steam. 

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