There’s been a modern revival of point and click adventures over the last few years, with plenty of new tales being joined by re-imaginings of some of the classics too. It’s great, especially for a fan of the genre like me who loved playing the likes of ‘Monkey Island’ and ‘Grim Fandango’ in my younger days. Seeing the genre burst alive once again is only a good thing.
The Little Acre is the latest release in the genre coming from small Irish studio Pewter Games. It offers a charming, stunning adventure, but unfortunately it doesn’t come with the meat and bones that would make it live up to some of the more fondly remembered classic point and click adventures out there.
The Little Acre begins by showing the plight of an old man and a young woman as they venture through a mysterious world. Only the woman makes it back to reality though with the old man left behind, his fate unknown. Attention then shifts to the mature and responsible Aidan (the son of the old man) and his anarchic daughter Lily, with the two of them getting separated after Aidan seeks out his missing father. Lily’s crazy ways encourage her to find Aidan though, with both characters essentially embarking on the same adventure but along a different path as they swap the beautiful greenery of Ireland for the bizarre land of Clonfira.
I won’t go into too much detail with the story, not only to avoid spoilers but also because it’s so short too. Most point and click adventures offer a grand tale that’ll take you a good while to get through, but disappointingly my time with The Little Acre was over in under two hours. It’s a shame too because the story seemed to be developing into something pretty unique and interesting, but instead plot points got tied up abruptly and some details were completely ignored.
I felt as though The Little Acre was setting itself up for a bigger adventure but was left unfinished. The worst part is that I was enjoying everything that was happening, so for it all to tie up with a whimper rather than a bang left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. Hopefully we might see more of the world and go on more adventures through Clonfira in a potential follow-up to the game because there really is a lot of potential there.
Given The Little Acre’s point and click nature the game has plenty of puzzles. It takes a different approach to a traditional point and click adventure though, with each interactive object and item in the environment being pointed out with a face button indicator above it (at least on console anyway). This took away from the sense of exploration with the game – I’m used to scouring an environment to find items or objects to interact with in a point and click adventure, but when it’s clearly pointed out to you it takes out the explorative side of the game. It’s a minor qualm though and nothing that ruins the game, plus I’m not even sure if it’s the case in the PC version.
The game’s puzzles are interesting though, offering a decent variety of different tasks for you to complete. It isn’t always simply a case of using a particular item with a specific object and sometimes you have got to think outside of the box a little too. You might have to carefully follow one of Lily’s dance routines, use a pesky cat to break into a building, or even stress out Dougal the dog as you destructively make breakfast – there’s a charming amount of different ways to solve puzzles in the game. Timing plays a big role too, with some puzzles demanding you either wait for the right moment or work incredibly quickly.
The problem with The Little Acre’s puzzling is that despite them being interesting and varied, they’ll rarely perplex you. The way the game is structured sometimes leaves you in one small area with a puzzle to be solved. If you mix this with the fact that everything in the environment is clearly pointed out, you’ll quickly discover that nearly all puzzle’s solutions are simply obvious and right in front of you. Other point and click adventures will often see you exploring a whole map in order to solve a puzzle; the fact that you’re typically left with just one small area in The Little Acre means that you don’t have to do much thinking, but rather just press a few buttons. It’s a shame because some of the puzzle design is really clever – even getting dressed is a hefty ordeal, showing that Pewter Games have put a fair bit of thought into the game’s puzzle design. It’s just a shame the way they are delivered is so simplified.
You switch between Lily and Aidan as you play through the game with each character visiting the same locations but at different times. I quite liked this aspect of the game with some moments actually building a sense of tension. Take the swamp area for example where as Aidan you’d catch a brief look at a hidden monster, only for it to make an attack on you when you come through the same area as Lily later on. My only issue with the character swapping was that it could happen too often at times. Sometimes you’d be with a character for less than a minute before swapping over again, something that detaches you from the story and the overall feeling of progression.
There were a few other small things that bothered me too such as the walking speed when in Ireland, but those were little issues that barely hindered my experience. For the most part everything is pleasant to play, though a lot of that could be owed to the simplicity of it all. I’ve already mentioned the short running time, so naturally it would’ve been nicer if there was a bit more to do in the game too. Still, it comes at a low price point so you won’t feel like you’ve been ripped off at all.
The Little Acre’s greatest quality is just how beautiful it looks with some stunning visuals that are reminiscent of classic cartoons but with the lick of paint that high definition offers. You can see that a lot of care and attention has gone into both worlds you visit; Ireland looks idyllic and peaceful with clouds that breeze past, trees blowing in the wind, and leaves falling to the ground, whilst Clonfira is full of colour and life as you venture through some futuristic locales, a swampy land, and even a snowy Cliffside. It really looks fantastic and offers a wonderful world to explore – I really enjoyed every second I spent admiring the visuals.
The same attention to detail has gone into the sound design too, with the voice acting well performed and the soundtrack perfectly fitting in with the vibe of the game. When in Ireland there’s a charming soundtrack that’s peaceful and easy to hum along with, whilst Clonfira is met with sci-fi like beats that suit the more bizarre landscape. It’s as great to listen to as it is to look at.
The Little Acre has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand it offers this charming, stunning world to explore along with some well designed puzzles. On the other hand though it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the story is under-developed, the running time a little too short, and the decent puzzles a little too easy to solve.
I think it’d be an insult to the developers to say that The Little Acre was rushed because it’s clear that a lot of care and attention has gone into it, but sadly it doesn’t offer an experience that’ll leave you fully satisfied. It’s almost a little too simplified and with other games in the genre offering meatier experiences it simply doesn’t compare. It’s never a bad game, but these negatives certainly prevent it from being particularly great too. Still, whilst there are certainly better point and click adventures out there, fans of the genre could still have a good time with The Little Acre.
Developer: Pewter Games
Publisher: Curve Digital
Release Date: 13/12/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux