The Little Acre
- Street Date:
- December 13th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Tyler Treese
- Review Date:1
- December 13th, 2016
- Game Release Year:
- Curve Digital
- Pewter Games Studios
- ESRB Rating:
- E (Everyone)
Digital PS4 version reviewed on PS4 Pro. Review copy was provided by the publisher.
'The Little Acre' is the debut title from Irish indie developer Pewter Games Studios. Set in 1950s Ireland, the game stars Aidan and his young daughter Lily as they search for her grandfather who has mysteriously vanished. The adventure game features hand-drawn animation and full voice-acting.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'The Little Acre' is one of the most charming games I've played. The adventure game is filled with likable characters, and even manages to have two rad protagonists (the wisecracking father Aidan, and his spunk-filled daughter Lily) when developers often struggle to develop one. A lot of this charm is due to the game's fantastic hand-drawn animation that makes a rather by-the-numbers game (for a more in-depth overview of the basics, check out my impressions piece) feel fresh.
The game's narrative has players interacting in both 1950s Ireland and a mysterious new world filled with strange creatures (including an adorable caterpillar-dog). While one would think that would open up the gameplay a la 'Day of the Tentacle,' the player is never given any freedom to leave as they please. Instead, 'The Little Acre' is very narrative-driven game, and players tend to only have access to one room at a time. This feels restricting for a genre that is typically reliant on exploration, but there are some bright spots.
Some of the most clever puzzles in the game revolve around using its animation in conjunction with the gameplay. For example, early in the game Aidan had to get a stick out of his adorable dog's mouth. This meant that I had to click on the stick while the dog's mouth was open, otherwise I couldn't grab it. This is expanded later on, and is used in some really fascinating ways. I never found the puzzle solving to be extremely taxing mentally in 'The Little Acre,' but these moments did have me thinking how neat they are.
While most of the gameplay is what you'd expect from the adventure genre, the in-game hint system really deserves some praise. Each puzzle has various degrees of hints that can be viewed, which allows players to get nudged in the right direction, or just told the solution if they are completely stuck. I found myself wondering what to do in several scenes, so using the basic hint option was a good way to remind me of what I was supposed to be doing at a given time. This eliminates any need to ever look at a guide, and it should become a standard for the genre.
One of the things that interested me the most about 'The Little Acre' was that it was set in 1950s Ireland, an incredibly troubling time for the country. I was curious as to how the game would touch upon the poverty that went on, and the struggle that people went through. Sadly, it's barely brought up besides a small scene where Aidan mentions that he's looking for work, and it felt like a lot of missed potential. This bleeds into the fantasy world as well, as it's creatures and inhabitants are never really fleshed out over time.
This main reason why these worlds don't feel fleshed out is that the game is extremely short. The game took me less than two hours to complete, and that includes a 20-minute span where I was stuck on a single problem, yet didn't know there was a hint option. I'm not against short games (several of my favorite games this year have been completed in a single sitting), but I was left incredibly unfulfilled here.
The issue here isn't the short length in of itself (although understandably that will raise a red flag for those looking for the most bang for their buck), but that the game doesn't really come to a very satisfactory conclusion. By the end of the adventure, I was filled with more questions to answers, and not in a thought provoking way. Story beats are brought up for a single scene, then thrown away, never to be mentioned again. The most egregious example of this involves part of the antagonist's motive that a character goes out of their way to say they know the answer to, yet then complains that they don't have time to discuss it at the moment. That'd be fine if it was brought up later, but it wasn't.
It also doesn't help that the final scene plays out in a (gorgeous) cutscene, that doesn't have any player interaction. There's no feeling of despair when things aren't going Aidan's way, nor any thrill of accomplishment when the player ultimately triumphs as they are just a spectator at that point. It's disappointing that a game that marries animation with gameplay so well, decides to take that all away at the most pivotal moment.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The big appeal of 'The Little Acre' is its hand-drawn animation, and it really is a treat to watch. Every person in the game is filled with character, from their idle animations to how they interact with the rest of the world. It's really a gorgeous title, and the artists' really showed how versatile they are as the two in-game worlds have very different art styles (one being more realistic, and then the other featuring chibi-styled characters). The only slight complaint I have is that the characters can occasionally look awkward when walking around. Sometimes the character's feet just don't gel with the environment they're walking upon, and it looks rough. That doesn't come up very often, but it was something that distracted me several times.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
All of the characters in 'The Little Acre' are brought to life by some fantastic voice acting. While all of the performances are strong, Kate Clavin as Lily really stands out as the star. The young protagonist's enthusiasm really shines, and it's contrasted by some of the game's more heartbreaking story moments. A decent soundtrack also accompanies the action, although there aren't any real standout tracks that I would want to listen to outside of the game.
After the credits roll on 'The Little Acre,' there aren't many reasons to go back. The game is short enough to where it's an easy sell to go back, and get trophies one may have missed, but it's still a very linear title (as most adventure games are). It's also worth pointing out that there's only one save file, but given the game's length, it doesn't really become an issue.
Playing through 'The Little Acre' will make for an enjoyable afternoon, but not much past that. The impressive production values are the star here, as the gameplay can't match the amazing amount of polish that has been put into the visuals and audio. Narratively, several ideas are left unexplored, and it rarely touches upon both of the unique settings that the game takes place within. Ultimately, it's an average adventure game that has been put in a gorgeous package.
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