Monday, June 3, 2013

Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers (Black Pants Game Studio, 2010)

In my last review on Wake, I mentioned what a great time it is now for indie games. While Wake had a nice retro SNES style going on, it left me in the mood for a more modern feeling indie experience. After a quick skim through my Steam library, my eye kept coming back to one very unusual looking game.

Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers is a tale of love and loss. Not love and loss of a person, but of your grandpa's used underwear. Yes, this is a game about magical tighty whighties. Have I lost you yet? No? Good.

In this game, you play Tiny, a lonely desert dweller who's best friend is a talking radio he built himself. Tiny is apparently quite the inventor and has built a number of ingenious devices which will assist you on your quest. Big, Tiny's cousin (or possibly his brother, if the game ever actually explained it I must have missed it) has stolen the underwear that their grandpa had left to Tiny, and thus begins your epic quest to retrieve them. It's a surreal premise that works perfectly with this surreal game.

Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers is combination platformer and physics puzzle game. Rather than just finding your way to get from point A to point B through the environment, you get to directly manipulate the environment to create your own way. This is done through the use of your three tools.

First there is the laser that cuts through almost anything. Is there a wall in your way? Cut it in half diagonally and use it as a ramp to get up to the next area! Rocks, pillars, walls, even floors. If you can manage to draw a line that cuts through the entire object, you can cut it in half. The geometry system works surprisingly well for this, on par with many 3D modelling packages. Sometimes it's fun to just see what kinds of shapes can be carved out.

Next up is the rope that can connect to objects and pull them towards you or drag them around. It's great for pulling down the top section of blocks that you just cut free and manipulating them into the right spot to get you where you need to go. It's also useful for pulling large rocks onto enemies, since you don't have any direct method of attacking.

The third tool is a rocket launcher. Are your eyes lighting up at this? No, it's not that kind of rocket launcher. No big boom here. This tool launches small dart sized rockets that stick into random objects, and can be remotely controlled to quickly push things around. Sure, if something is on the ground you can just walk up to it and push it, but these rockets push it much faster, and allow you to push around objects that you can't reach on your own. It's good for quickly pushing a large slab over a gap to create a makeshift bridge, or clearing a boulder off a platform so you'll have room to jump to.

The combination of these three tools allows for some extremely creative level design. At the beginning of a new area, it's always made clear where it is that you are trying to get to, but of coarse not how you are supposed to get there. Sometimes solutions are fairly obvious. Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to finally figure out how to get to your destination. And sometimes there are actually multiple solutions.

In addition to just chopping up walkways and shoving together bridges, you also occasionally have to search for keys to unlock doors. And yes, the keys are also shaped like underwear. Also, sometimes the doors are shaped like underwear. In fact, a lot of the architecture is made to look like underwear. It's an ongoing theme throughout the game. And somehow, this game is just bizarre enough to make it work.

An interesting aspect of the game is the music system. First off, the songs in the game are actual songs by various indie bands. I don't know why more games don't do this, since I'm convinced that there are twice as many indie bands in the world right now as there are people, and I'm sure any one of them would love to get their songs featured in a game. And these aren't your typical garage bands either. The music is every bit as bizarre and surreal as the rest of the game, and every song fits as if it was made specifically for this world.

But, you don't get all of the songs by default. Throughout the game there are cassette tapes (remember those?) hidden in various nooks, crannies, and other out of the way spaces. Each time you collect one, a new song is added to the background music rotation.

The story of Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers is presented through dialog bubbles that pop up during gameplay, and in the occasional cut scene. There's just enough story to make you care about the characters, and imply the importance of grandpa's underwear that is more than it seems, but it never gets in the way of the game itself. By the end of it, you're left wanting to know what might happen next, and hopefully Black Pants Game Studio will create a sequel someday as the mechanics are all already in place, and it would only require some new level design.

Until then, I'll have to say that this strange game is by far the best rescue-the-stolen-underwear video game that I have ever played. Sure, it's the only one, but it's still the best. If you know of any more, let me know!

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