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One of the most striking things about early adventure games was how animated they were. The nature of the game meant they could use more complex drawings and backgrounds, which ended up creating games that looked much better than their predecessors. Of course, nowadays, games in every genre push visual limits, but there's still something to be said about the charm of old-school animation. In many ways, The Little Acre is an old-school adventure game that's a nostalgic throwback, and it's shaping up to be a very enjoyable trip indeed.
The Little Acre follows the story of a small Irish family that's comprised of Aiden; his daughter, Lily; the dog, Dougal; and Aiden's eccentric father and inventor, Arthur. One day, without warning, Arthur goes missing. Naturally, this is upsetting for the other members of the family, and they set out to find where he's gone. It's not long before tinkering with his adventures sends the rest of Arthur's family into a magical world. They must find a way home and try to figure out what happened to Arthur.
The Little Acre is a standard point-and-click adventure game. As with most games in the genre, it's not action-packed but focuses instead on encouraging you to come up with puzzle solutions by using items in the environment. You'll swap between Aiden and Lily as both explore the world. Most actions can be done through simple point-and-click interactions. The game offers both a traditional mouse-pointer interface and the ability to instantly interact with an option with context-sensitive button presses. It's nice and keeps the game fast-paced without dragging things down.
The opening puzzle is simple but charming. Aiden wakes up before his daughter does. He can get out of bed and get dressed, but in doing so, he risks awakening the slumbering child, which no parent wants to do. The result is that you have to use various widgets and gadgets in the environment to get each piece of clothing without disturbing Lily. You can poke something with a nearby stick or something more complex, like feed the dog a sandwich so he'll flop over and spew his foul dog breath in a different direction so Lily will loosen her grip on Aiden's sweater. It only takes a few moments to solve the puzzle, but it sets the tone for the game. Obviously, things get more complex as you progress.
One of the more charming aspects of The Little Acre is the difference between characters. The entire game is fanciful and cartoonish, but Aiden and Lily are pretty different. Aiden is an adult, and his puzzles tend to be more logical and straightforward. Lily, on the other hand, is a kid, so her puzzles and solutions feel more akin to something you'd see from someone her age. She believes in fanciful things, is more prone to taking risks, and her stuff is sillier. It's a good mix and makes the characters feel distinctly different. This is a game designed with humor and whimsy at the forefront, regardless of who is in control.
The real star of the show is the beautiful, hand-drawn animation. The Little Acre is absolutely dripping with charm. The characters bounce, stretch and animate with lots of loving detail, and the characters and environments are bright and colorful. Easily the most distinctive thing about the game is how it looks. It's not the only colorful adventure game on the market, but it has the style of a living cartoon. The game plays with camera angles and shifts from side to isometric views to present some aspects of the world in different ways. The voice acting is largely solid, with a lot of cute quips and good exchanges, and what we heard of the music was quite enjoyable.
What we played of The Little Acre showed a lot of potential. It's not breaking any molds, but it's charming and accessible. The gameplay seems right for players of any age. The mix of adult and child characters seems to indicate that this would be a great game for nostalgic, adventure-game-loving parents to play with their kids. The older set will get a trip down memory lane, and it's easy to see young fans enjoying the cartoon graphics and whimsical plot.
The Little Acre is shaping up to be an enjoyable adventure game. The division between serious father and energetic child gives the game a lot of personality, and the visuals are lovely. Anyone who is a fan of Disney-style antics will probably find a lot to like here. It's silly, it's funny, and it's there to entertain. What more could you ask? The Little Acre is coming to PlayStation 4, PC and Xbox One on Dec. 13 for $12.99.
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