Platforms PC (reviewed), PS4, XBO
Developer Pewter Games Studio
Publisher Curve Digital
Release Date December 13, 2016

Review code provided

The Little Acre is an animated point-and-click adventure game set in 1950’s Ireland. While searching for clues to the whereabouts of his missing father Aidan accidentally activates a portal to another world and is promptly sucked in. Things get even more complicated when his young, adventure-loving daughter Lily finds the portal and rushes to save her father and grandfather.

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As you might imagine from the art style, The Little Acre is a very funny, lighthearted adventure. Inspired by Don Bluth (animator on The Land Before Time & American Tail), the game looks incredible, with the art style and animations doing a great deal of the heavy lifting in bringing this story to life. Everything looks like those old cartoons you may or may not remember watching growing up (depending on your age).

That’s not to say that The Little Acre needed any help in that department. The game frequently switches its perspective between its two protagonists and both are full of like and well drawn (pun intended). Each has their own arc to play out throughout the adventure and both bring a different energy and attitude to the table. It’s a nice contrast switching between the reluctant hero Aidan and the lovable and adventure mad Lily. Both characters are also excellently voiced by their respective actors.

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If the abundance of Irish accents aren’t an immediate giveaway, it quickly becomes apparent that The Little Acre is very Irish in its style, setting and sense of humour. It’s also incredibly weird, invoking some of the classic point-and-click adventure games that it draws inspiration from, as well as old animated films. The portal to Clonfira is hidden in the garden shed, there’s Dougal the dog whose sole job is to make sure Lily doesn’t kill herself trying to do mundane tasks like make porridge, that kind of thing.

The Little Acre also takes a very old school approach to its gameplay. While eschewing the pixel hunting style of classic point-and-clicks (everything you can pick up or interact with is very clearly highlighted), it can sometimes take some incredible leaps of logic to figure out what you need to do to proceed past certain puzzles. While nowhere near as impenetrable as those older games, it can sometimes become a case of bashing items and objects together until something inevitably works.

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All of the puzzles in The Little Acre are quite satisfying and well thought out. They’re not especially difficult to solve, though there are some pretty cool puzzles in the game. One recurring brain teaser, which sees you needing to activate walkways in specific patterns to progress through locked doors, stands out. I also want to bring special mention to the character switching, which allows you to see the world(s) through entirely new eyes. Exploring environments through the childlike imagination and enthusiasm of Lily is a delight from start to finish (that Gnome never knew what hit it).

The biggest problem The Little Acre has revolves around its swiftness. It’s main story is over within around 90 minutes, depending on how adept you are at solving its puzzles. The game also has a tendency to switch between Aidan and Lily at breakneck speed, sometimes only allowing you a minute or two with one character before switching to the next. While this keeps things moving along at a steady pace, it robs the game of some of the impact it could otherwise have had.

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It’s no accident that the better moments of the game are its opening ones, which are also the longest stretches of uninterrupted time you’ll spend with either character. Extended scenes towards the beginning of the game at the titular Little Acre and at a nearby hydroelectric dam are high points that the latter portions of the adventure never quite match.

As the story progresses, the character switches become faster, which causes both jokes and some surprising emotional beats to fall flat. While I always appreciated a well made joke and always empathised with the characters during the more poignant moments, it was hard to feel the full weight of them when I was being torn away at lightning pace. I feel like the games heavier moments especially would have had more impact had they been given more space in the overall narrative.

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The few side characters that also appear in the game are also given short shrift because of this. I was barely able to learn a thing about them and they were given very little development thanks to their lack of screen time. While I was still able to appreciate and enjoy The Little Acre, I feel like its shorter running time hurts the story in the long run. It would have been nice to get to exist with these characters a little more and have their scenes given some time to breathe. That said this is still an entertaining little title


Summary

The Little Acre is a fun little adventure game. Although its story is compromised somewhat by its short running time and inability to stick with certain key scenes, its satisfyingly old school gameplay mechanics and an overabundance of charm and wit compensate for this. Puzzles aren’t complicated but can still have you scratching your head from time to time, searching the environment for that ever elusive series of interactions necessary to advance the scene, which serves to make solutions quite satisfying. The protagonists are both solid, though Lily’s thirst for adventure and general aloof optimism far overshadows Aidan’s reluctance, and the whole adventure is wrapped up in a gorgeous art style reminiscent of the classic cartoons that inspired it.

7


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