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The Little Acre

Score: 89%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: Pewter Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

The Little Acre follows the adventures of a less than ordinary family in the Irish countryside. Adventurous Lily is a red-haired girl who carries a toy sword and wears a knightís visor as a helmet - sheís fearless, as her father Aidan puts it. Youíll also meet Dougal, the protective family dog, and of course, harried father Aidan.

Youíll notice The Little Acreís lovely hand-drawn art the moment the game starts up. Each character is hand-drawn and animated. Itís a style that is reminiscent of older adventure games like Full Throttle or the Don Bluth animated reflex games such as Dragonís Lair. I donít make that comparison lightly. True, the lack of a big budget may be impossible to hide in The Little Acre, but you can see the professional level of work in small details, such as the bounce in Lilyís hem or the cascading crackles of electricity after the transporter powers up. These kinds of small touches can be forgotten, even in big budget, fully-rendered games. Even backgrounds are lovingly rendered, from alien landscapes in cool blue and purple tones, to a yellow, incandescent lit office in a concrete-walled building.

The sounds of The Little Acre are equally as lovely, especially the voice acting. Ok, full disclosure: I am not a fan of Merr, but I can see how some might like his exaggerated drawl. However, the feisty Lily, the pragmatic Aidan, and all the other characters of the game are fun to listen to and feel like real characters due to the care that their voice actors have put into their craft.


Gameplay:

The Little Acre drops you into a little Irish town in the 50ís (according to the gameís developers), but thereís nothing ordinary about where it goes from there. Youíll meet Aidan and his daughter Lily. You discover from Aidanís story (the one that the game begins in) that his father (and Lilyís granddad) has gone missing. Granddad was an inventor of sorts, and the search brings you to a mysterious transporter hidden in the shed behind the family house. Aidan is zapped into a strange, alien world called Clonfira. Adventurous Lily soon follows, and soon the father and daughter find themselves attempting to escape.

This is a point-and-click adventure game, and a rather simple one. You have an inventory, and yes you can combine items, hover over your environment to find things to interact with, and youíll need to do some puzzle solving in order to progress through the game - it's standard stuff. Where The Little Acre seems unique is its emphasis on timed events. You wouldnít think that with only control of a tiny, slow cursor, that youíd be expected to move quickly. There are, however, puzzles that require you to do just that, and a slow reaction (to say, distracting a monster) will mean youíll have to start the whole thing over until youíre fast enough.

I found myself feeling that I was missing out on some background story for this game. It feels as if youíre expected to know something about the world of The Little Acre before you begin playing the game. I expected to find a webcomic, a novel - something out there that this game was based upon. I found none of those things, and was left with a lot of questions. Does everyone know about the mysterious, powerful crystals that can transport one to other worlds? Why does Aidan have so few questions for Nina, the person he discovers has been working on secret projects with his Granddad? Some of the people of Clonfira seemed to love Granddad, while at least one of them despised him, but why? Thereís no backstory to this, only a few hints. And itís also implied that other residents of Clonfira have visited us, but then that story thread is cut short as well. Overall, it feels like thereís some world-building that could have taken place here, but did not. Also, it feels like the game ends in the middle of a story, which can be a bit frustrating.


Difficulty:

The Little Acre is, as mentioned, very short. And itís also not very difficult, if youíre able to catch on to its rather unexpected timed puzzles. I breezed through the game without even realizing you could ask for hints and solutions. (I got an achievement that accused me of using a walkthrough, the nerve!)

If itís your first time with the point-and-click adventure game genre, yes, this game might take you a while to beat. However, if youíve made it through a game like King's Quest, youíll be more than prepared for The Little Acre.


Game Mechanics:

The Little Acre is fun to play, donít get me wrong. However, with hand-drawn animation, you donít have as much freedom to move a character around the screen freely - every frame has to be pre-drawn, after all. So itís hard to come down on the game for control issues, but thatís one of the few places where it doesnít shine. Iíd often find myself hampered by an invisible wall in the background, or get hung up on something that did not look like an obstacle. And again, I understand why this might happen; after all, if you donít draw a character in the proper perspective for the background, youíre going to run into confusion as a player when you have to move that character around.

Other than that, I only ran into a few minor glitches, such as when I clicked on a back wall that was supposed to be deactivated, but still allowed me to click. It forced my character to walk endlessly toward an event that could not be triggered. Again, these are small complaints on an otherwise great game.

The Little Acre is short and sweet, and thatís not just a turn of phrase in this case. Itís short - you can beat the game in less than an hour to earn an achievement. Itís sweet - the characters and charm of The Little Acre will have you coming back to experience more. And thatís it. I was left wanting more, but sometimes the shortest adventures are the ones most fondly remembered.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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