Point & Click adventures are my crack cocaine – if you want to know in which order you’re supposed to collect the items from the dragon room in Shadowgate, who to give the cigar to in Day of the Tentacle or what exactly you were supposed to do with the rubber chicken in the Disc World series, I’m your man. So when Pewter Games announced they were going to take us back in time to when Point & Click adventures were the gold standard of story driven gaming, I was fully on-board.
The Little Acre is a stunningly beautiful, hand drawn Point & Click adventure following a small Irish family as they are thrust into the heart of an inter-dimensional game of Hide and Seek. Taking on the role of Aidan, an unemployed single parent searching for his father who mysteriously disappeared in a laboratory accident, you’re transported to an alternate reality, where you are tasked with solving a variety of problems in an attempt to reunite your family and learn what has become of your eccentric Pappa. However the real heroes of this story are Aidan’s adorable bundle of mischief: Lilly, his small daughter and her ever faithful hound, a comedic duo whose yearning for adventure and a way to alleviate the family’s financial burdens create a wonderful comedy of errors wrapped up in an infectious ball of childish enthusiasm.
Though there are points where the narrative tense becomes confused, the world Pewter Games has created is full of life and intrigue. Interesting and relateable characters are mixed with moments of wonderful slapstick humour that stands its grounds next to some of the greatest Point and Click adventures of all time. Unfortunately, the game is let down by its rushed and unsatisfactory ending, wasting some major character moments with throw away plot devices, rushing the final encounter in a way that, hopefully, was due to a lack of funds or a publisher desperate to hit a deadline. In addition, in the final cut scene, the audio and visuals are so out of sync it feels like you’re watching a 70’s Kung-Fu movie.
Pewter Games have done an incredible job with the controls. Having recently played Lucas Arts’ Secret of Monkey Island on Microsoft’s Xbox One, I can’t help but be reminded that these games were made for a mouse and a keyboard. The consol’s confusing control scheme and awkward use, look , and get functions really detract from the immersive nature of the game. Not so for The Little Acre: fast, responsive and incredibly intuitive,the game effortlessly allows the characters to maneuver through the story without having to scroll through numerous menus or disconnect with the narrative as you look up the control scheme to find out which button opens a door or the combination of commands you need to use items from your inventory. It is truly a a master class in the Point & Click user interface for console gaming.
Visually the game is stunning: apart from the drop in quality at the very end of the adventure, all of the animations are beautiful. From the classic 2D backdrops of the human world to the isometric swamps of the strange fay landscapes, it truly brings that nostalgic retrogaming feel into glorious high definition.
Unfortunately, The Little Acre is a game split into thirds. The first two thirds are the perfect introduction to Point & Click adventures and the world of Little Acre – superb controls, wonderful graphics, an immersive story and puzzles that slowly build in difficulty. The last third is a sloppy mess of out-of-sync visuals, a story that stops suddenly, an inconsequential villain, a slap dash ending and an unfathomable dip in difficulty that had the puzzles become so simplistic I thought I was playing a Sesame Street counting game. But what really rubbed salt in the wound was how short the game was – I completed my 1st run-through in 1 hour 23 minutes! I couldn’t believe it, I had never completed a Point & Click game that quickly (on my 1st run through). I had to play again just to see if I had missed something… I hadn’t, but I did receive a trophy for completing the game in less than an hour and on my third attempt I platinumed the game. I was livid, I felt absolutely ripped off! What we had here was an introduction to a game, not a complete Point & Click Adventure.
Pewter Games had shown so much potential – they’d introduced us to a world we wanted more of and proved that Point & Click adventures were still relevant in the modern gaming environment. But instead of making this an episodic event they chose to slap an uninspiring ending on to a poorly finished game. And this hurts because it could so easily have been solved: scrap the ending, make this game episodic and I’d have happily given it 8 out of 10 and bought every episode they released from here on out. But as it is, I can only give it a 6.6 and that’s with me being biased towards the Point & Click genre.
The little Acre is a glorious disappointment that deserves a sequel – so we can get the Point & Click adventure that the team at Pewter Games is so obviously capable of doing.