It's a great time to be an Adventure game fan. Over the last couple of months, players have titles like ABZÛ
, Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood
and Her Majesty's SPIFFING
, not to mention the concluding episode of BATMAN – The Telltale Series
. With such a crowded release window, The Little Acre
needs something special to make it stand out from the bunch. To give developer Pewter Studios an edge, the two-person development team brought Charles Cecil, one of the creators of the Broken Sword
series, on board as Executive Producer. This move should have paid dividends, but the end product doesn't quite seem to fulfil its promise.
The Little Acre
Rural Ireland in the 1950s didn't offer many employment opportunites and this is something that Aidan has discovered the hard way. He needs to support and care for his young daughter Lily, but money is starting to run short now that he has been unemployed for a few weeks. As if that wasn't bad enough, Aidan's inventor father has disappeared. As Aidan delves deeper into the reasons for his father's mysterious absence, players are taken on a journey that also takes him and his daughter to the mysterious world of Clonfara. It's a world that is inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films, a colourful natural environment that is filled with strange creatures. It's a magical adventure that is reminiscent of 90's cartoons, despite the game's seemingly serious premise.
Aidan begins the game with the menial task of getting dressed in the morning, but the floorboards are creaky and he'll wake Lily if he isn't careful. As waking up Lily is as bad a move as telling your two-year-old that santa isn't real, Aidan has to get dressed without leaving the confines of his bed. The resulting puzzle is a great introduction to the game's simple point and click gameplay. Of course, movement is controlled with
. Each of the well-designed environments allows players to interact with items using the controller's face buttons, meaning that there are never more than three interactable objects near your character at any time. The fourth face button,
, opens the player's inventory where you can choose to use objects with the environment but not combine or inspect them.
Any parent will know the struggle when a child insists on making their own breakfast
The title's simple environment interactions mean that puzzles are never too difficult and players will rarely be faced with a challenge. Despite the game's cartoonish nature, all of the puzzles have a sensible solution that is never drawn out unnecessarily. If you do get stuck, there is a hint system that eventually offers the solution to a puzzle, but the majority of players are unlikely to ever use it unless they want the achievement that is tied to using the hint system. The result is a point and click that is suitable for all ages, although hardcore adventure gamers may find the game to be a bit too simple.
The gameplay's lack of challenge offers the opportunity for the developer to focus on telling a great story. Before they head into Clonfara, players have ample opportunity to get to know both Aidan and Lily, the latter of which has a personality that reminds you of a mischievous young scamp to whom everything is an adventure. Like her or not, Lily is a memorable character that players will not forget in a hurry. Once the introductions are over, the adventure picks up the pace as the characters get into a difficult situation and then meet the game's antagonist. All of this takes around 75-80 minutes and it feels like players are being set up for an adventure of a decent length. Don't get your hopes up. By the time that you reach the two hour mark, it's all over.
The ending is as sudden as falling off the edge of the dam
The start of the game may be well-paced but the ending is anything but that. The game's credits creep up on you so quickly that you wonder where the game went. Aside from Lily and Aidan, players never get the opportunity to get to know any of the other supporting characters. This includes the main antagonist for whom the explanation for his presence and actions is crammed into a short cutscene. The game always carries a light-hearted tone, but you sometimes feel like this is because the game didn't get enough of a chance to take itself seriously. Moments that would normally cause significant emotional impact to the game's characters are glossed over and the game quickly moves on. All of this hints that story has been cut down from the developer's original intentions and that content was removed from the game.
The reason for this may well be the game's art style. Every single one of the game's scenes features beautiful hand drawn animated art that is inspired by Don Bluth (An American Tail
, The Secret of Nimh
). The game has two distinct art styles depending on whether you are in real world Ireland or the fantastical world of Clonfara. In both worlds, the environments are finely detailed and the characters are exquisitely designed. Characters' emotions are made clear just by their facial expressions and body language. This is most obvious for the creatures that are unable to talk, but all of this comes at a price. When a 15 minute scene takes three months to complete and consists of 2,000 frames of animation, the length of time that it takes to complete a two hour game is extensive. With a need to finish the game within a reasonable timeframe, it is no surprise that something had to give. Potentially, the developer was just too ambitious.
For a creature that can't talk, Bugsy is very expressive
With a game that is over before it began, can the game's achievements be a redeeming factor? Well, you'll need to complete two playthroughs for a completion. On your first playthrough, you'll get 14 unmissable story progression achievements and a 15th for completing the game. You'll need to ask the game for a solution once. Throughout the game there are also objects with which players will need to interact in certain ways to get four more achievements. The second playthrough will be a speedrun that clocks in at less than 60 minutes and where you'll want to avoid using the hint system completely to earn a total of three achievements. This is very easily done once you know how to complete all of the puzzles and is especially handy for the four specific puzzles throughout the game that must be completed correctly on your first attempt. While some of the achievements are technically missable, the length of the game means that it will never take too long to go back and try again. Like the gameplay, none of the achievements are particularly challenging.
SummaryThe Little Acre
is a game with an extremely appropriate name. A lot of love and attention has gone into the game's distinctive hand drawn art style but it comes at the cost of the game's length. Despite a promising start, the game ends at just two hours. Most characters are not developed, important events are glossed over and the story ends abruptly. Children would be entertained with gameplay that is accessible to all ages, but adults will likely want to find something more substantial to entertain them.
- Interesting story
- Beautiful art style
- Accessible gameplay for all ages
The reviewer spent two hours travelling through Clonfara until, to her great surprise, the credits rolled. She spent a further 50 minutes playing through the game again to mop up the remaining achievements and complete her speedrun. An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.