The Little Acre Review – Bite Sized Adventure (PS4)
If you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s the animation style of The Little Acre will be instantly familiar to you. There’s a certain magic that we remember from our childhood, much of which comes from the cartoons that we each grew up with. Animated movies and Saturday morning cartoons were core parts of my upbringing, helping to bring my imagination to fruition, the impossible coming to life on the screen in vibrant colors. Per our recent chat with Pewter Games, The Little Acre was inspired by ’80s Disney animation and Sullivan Bluth films (the creator of such classics as The Land Before Time, Rock-a-Doodle, and All Dogs Go to Heaven). The bright environments and stunning characters stand out as a unique testament to The Little Acre’s visual styling, an approach that hasn’t been tackled in many games.
Of course this animation style lends itself very well to the point-and-click style adventure, which is exactly what The Little Acre is. Taking the formula back to its roots, it plays much like classic King’s Quest games, moving screen to screen, picking up items and using the environment to solve puzzles and advance the story. It revolves around a man looking for his missing father, and his daughter then seeking him, switching back and forth between them as they explore a magical world called Clonfira, apparently another dimension. Don’t let the bright art style fool you though. Consistent with those Sullivan Bluth films by which The Little Acre is inspired, this story does have some dark points, and doesn’t pull its punches.
A lot of developers have tried to to solve the problem of translating classic PC point-and-click adventures to console, moving from a mouse (where the obvious “point-and-click” name comes from) to a controller. The issue is that you want to map precision while also maintaining a fast enough cursor speed that the game doesn’t feel slow. The Little Acre solves this by using the character as the cursor, and mapping nearby objects and points of interest to the face buttons. It’s quite a brilliant solution but it does come with a few drawbacks. Characters’ movement is painfully slow, and makes the trial and error of trying to solve some of the puzzles a long process, though the full voice acting at least ensures it’s kept fairly interesting throughout.
When using an item, the cursor is then mapped to the analog stick which moves too fast and doesn’t auto target to the points of interest. It makes using items quickly and effectively a little bit of a pain, particularly in the couple of instances where the puzzles are time based. That’s not to say that it takes much away from The Little Acre’s particular brand of console based point-and-click, but it’s noticeable enough to call out. I do have to commend Pewter Games’ efforts to change up the point-and-click formula while retaining the classic screen-to-screen style of play that classic PC point-and-click games are known for.
Coming Up Short
While the story is a fun tale of adventure and mystery, The Little Acre’s biggest failing is its short length. When I saw that there was a trophy for beating it in under an hour, I thought that it would be comparable to the length of something like Broken Age (which has the same trophy), at least around five hours, but when I saw the credits rolling after my first playthrough I had clocked less than two hours in game. Given the relatively low launch price point of $12.99, I wasn’t expecting a 12-hour adventure, but the short length impacts the story. The Little Acre has a long beginning, a rushed middle, and a hastily wrapped up ending, so much that I felt there was little payoff to things that were set up.
There are set pieces that are built up and narrative lines that are suggested, but this grand adventure feels like a false fuse in the end. It’s a story that falls flat on its face after spending more than half of its running time just setting up Aidan, Lily, and their family, and getting them both to Clonfira. After that it’s a whirlwind trip with very little else explained, and some of the moments that are meant to be more emotional coming and going with very little fanfare or justification for any of it. Pacing is imperative, and often it feels like the game is swapping back and forth between Aidan and Lily without much to say for either of them. If gameplay is going to jump to another character, it should be for more than a single room that has a simple puzzle, or no puzzle at all. Some sections for each character lasted no longer than ten seconds before reverting back to the other.
Mysteries of Clonfira
And then there’s all the unanswered questions. What is Clonfira? Who is Merr? What is the research facility at the dam really researching? We get moderate hints at each of these elements and more, but none are given the time or attention they deserve. There’s a fantastic story at the center of The Little Acre, but one that fails to play out to its fullest potential when that last portal is closed. There’s a lot of heart between Aidan and Lily as a father-daughter pair though, and that familial bond helps cover some of the holes in the rest of the plot, but when the entire length of the game is shorter than a single chapter of the new King’s Quest, or most modern movies for that matter, it’s tough to weave so many threads without leaving a number of them hanging.
At the end of the day, The Little Acre is a fun, albeit bite-sized, adventure with some beautiful animation work that seeks to re-explore how point-and-click adventures are handled on consoles, but its short length doesn’t leave any room to explore some of the more interesting plot points. As an initial foray for Pewter Games, it makes me excited to see what they’ll follow it up with. I don’t fault The Little Acre as a bad game, but rather as something that comes up short and fails to explore its full potential.
The Little Acre review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.