Preview: The Little Acre
Well, wasn’t this a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I watched the reveal trailer for The Little Acre a few days back – a Disney-esque point and click, seemingly a little bit childish, but charming nonetheless – but after playing the game I think it’s safe to say the trailer didn’t quite prepare me for how enthused the game would make me. I suppose trailers can be a bit rubbish for actually representing their product anyway, but I really didn’t think much of the game other than “kinda cute point and click” prior to actually getting into it.
So what is The Little Acre? It’s a beautifully drawn point and click from Pewter Games, which follows the story of Aidan and his daughter Lilly living in their rural home in 1950s Ireland. Aidan’s dad, a quirky sounding individual with plenty of unusual science gadgets, mysteriously disappears, which leaves Aidan to work out what happened to him.
Our first challenge, however, is a little simpler than finding lost scientists – getting out of bed. It sounds a little pointless, but Aidan shares a room with his daughter Lilly, still fast asleep, and wishes to avoid her wrath if he wakes her. Which gives a great excuse to implement some delightfully convoluted way of getting changed and out of your room (ah, point and clicks, how I love you so).
It’s actually fairly straightforward – a good introduction to the mechanics – though still provides some enjoyment through its silly nature. You need Lilly to turn over without waking her? You have an off fish sandwich and a sleepy, greedy dog at your disposal? Feed the dog the sandwich, get him to roll over so he breathes his nasty breath on Lily, who then rolls of her own accord. It sounds like it might be more difficult than it actually is, and that it delves too deeply into the festering pit of ‘point and click logic’, but I assure you it’s much more accessible than that. But I’ll talk a bit more about the gameplay in a bit.
What you will probably first react to, as did I, is the visual style. Such a colourful, well animated and detailed world. When you exit the house and see the lush fields in the background, and even before that, just having a look around the small interior of this rustic cottage is delightful. Perhaps a fitting comparison would be a mixture of Deponia and classic Disney? Take a look at the screenshots and trailer for yourself. Lilly has some pretty cute animations as well, with her tired expressions at the beginning and her clumsiness.
It’s pretty clear that effort has been put in to give each of the main three cast some character, and they’re all endearing in their own way. Lilly is a little rowdy but sweet, Aidan is much more together but has an innocent way about him, and of course the dog which has to put up with the both of them – constantly making sure Lily doesn’t get into danger, for example one puzzle where we, as Lilly, needed to get to an item at the top of a bookshelf, but the dog wouldn’t let us climb up there, so we have to distract him first.
It’s a nice contained relationship they’ve all got going on, and it plays very nicely into the story and gameplay from what I’ve seen. We play as both Aidan and Lilly at different points throughout, and we get to see each of their steps as the story progresses. For example, as we explore further as Aidan we discover the most probable reason for his father’s disappearance. A pod/cubicle, which when Aiden enters sends him to a strange world. The environments look different, and even Aiden looks smaller – like a chibi Aiden – and at the entrance of this place we find some possessions belonging to Aiden’s father.
Not too long after reaching this new area the preview comes to a close – after meeting a strange creature/person (a little hard to tell) called Merr who gets you to follow him into the next area. As far as the story, it’s definitely got me intrigued. It’s got bags of charm, and the mystery of what Aiden’s father has got himself into will surely be interesting to find out.
The gameplay mostly comprises of what I’ve already mentioned – looking for items, using those items to solve puzzles, etc – though there were a couple of sections which involved pressing buttons to bring up bridges across water (they weren’t particularly complex – in fact, I was expecting some sort of sequence puzzle, but actually they just turned out to be simple linear interactions – but it adds a bit to the proceedings nonetheless). The addition of two playable characters also works to keep the pace. I’ve not seen enough of that to really get an idea of whether it will mix up the gameplay or not, but at the moment it at least helps give the game an enjoyable flow – in fact, Lily is mostly re-treading the same ground as Aiden (Aiden going off to find his father, and Lily essentially doing the same for him) and it’s nice to see how they both react differently to things in the environment.
I love the interactions and dialogue for both Lilly and Aiden, and the voice acting and writing are both great. The only issue I noticed was that sometimes the animation of faces – particularly Aiden’s – seemed a bit gormless when he wasn’t doing anything. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it struck me a bit – he’d say something with full expression, then just switch to ‘brain disengage’ mode with wide staring eyes. A very minor criticism though. However, something that may irk some and delight others is with regards to the actual puzzling. As I’ve already intimated, the ‘point and click logic’ problem doesn’t seem to really be an issue here, but even if item searching and finding things to interact with does become an issue, the game highlights all interactable things on the screen. Personally I love this – I’m fed up of getting stuck in point and clicks, only to find the reason why is because I’ve missed a tiny item, or not figured out you can interact with something on screen – but I appreciate some might think this makes the game too easy. Each to their own I guess. But so far the gameplay seems stable, enjoyable and not too ridiculous (only ridiculous in a funny way), but a lot of point and clicks take the ‘old school’ inspiration without modernising, which is something we will have to wait and see with The Little Acre.
But I can’t be more excited to play through the rest of the game. It really is looking to be a great little adventure. So charming and colourful, with some good characters and an interesting story. I’ll be reviewing the game here for PushStart closer to release, so keep an eye out for that, and hopefully it continues with the good form. The Little Acre releases for PC, PS4 and Xbox one soon (Steam lists as 13th December, however this changed recently from 22nd November, so perhaps wait and see with the release date).