Review: Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers
I’ve never had this much fun looking for underpants before, and that’s something I do every day. I don’t normally have to topple ruins or cleave mountains or send boulders rocketing into space to find them though, so that’s something. Really the accomplishment of Tiny and Big is taking a simple set of mechanics, and not only crafting an entertaining journey to use them on, but giving you all kinds of chaos you can cause with them. It’s a game that knows it’s fun, wants you to enjoy it to the fullest, and does a really good job of letting you do just that.
The oddly monochromatic Tiny is on the trail of an heirloom of his grandpa’s, taken by the dastardly and equally monochromatic Big. His quest leads him to a mysterious desert full of ruins that very quickly take on a life of their own. As he hunts Big and his treasure, the hidden history of the world begins to emerge from the sands, and the adventure becomes a battle against a primal and terrifying force of nature. And yes, the heirloom in question is a pair of grungy underpants.
The entire game is steeped in this sort of punky, irreverant humor, starting with the art style. The thick lines, limited color palette, and simple faces evoke the underground comics of yesteryear, complete with impact text that pops up 60s Batman style whenever something dramatic happens. And once you start exploring the towering and mysterious ruins, you’ll feel like you’re skipping across the pages of Krazy Kat or SCUD’s bizarre wastelands. It’s a fantastic look, supported by some goofy dialogue and an impressively jazzy soundtrack that can be expanded by finding hidden cassette tapes.
What works even better than the aesthetic, though, is the puzzling. You have no weapons and no fancy abilities to move around, just three tools that let you wreak havoc on the environment. The first is a hook that lets you grab an object and drag it around, and we’re not just talking little barrels or whatever. You can topple towering pillars and pull enormous gates open with this thing, despite Tiny’s name-appropriate stature. You also have a rocket you can stick to things to help scoot them across the ground, or more often send them careening into the horizon.
But the real star of the show is your laser, which lets you slice anything in the world. As long as you’re close enough and your beam can reach all the way across whatever it is, you can chop it up. Pillars, walkways, bridges, walls, cliffs, buildings, you name it, you can destroy it. This is used to fantastic effect in challenging you to cross gaps, descend shafts, or scale sheer walls. But there are plenty of other places you can get to by cleverly carving stones into your own bridges or ramps, and the wide open levels encourage exploration with collectible stones, the aforementioned cassettes, secret minigames, and special scenes that expand the backstory of the world.
Once I had a feel for the game I was unstoppable, slicing pillars into bridges and hacking cliffs into scalable ramps wherever I went. But I would still stop every few minutes to carve up a statue or a wall, just because I could. The tools in Tiny and Big are just so much fun to play with, you could easily spend 20 minutes just ruining a level by chopping it to bits and giggling the whole time. It even understands this, and gives you achievements for going bonkers with your powers and destorying artifacts and landmarks. It’s silly and entertaining all the way through, not just in the way it’s presented but in how it’s designed.
Reclaiming your underpants won’t take much more than two hours, but those are some of the best two hours to be had in a third-person puzzler. Plus there are secrets and par scores to challenge for each of the game’s six levels, along with over fifty achievements for doing all sorts of funky things. Considering how unique it is in look, feel, and gameplay, there’s really no excuse for missing out on this one. Tiny and Big is an absolute gem, the kind of funky, one-of-a-kind gem that more games should aspire to be.