It remains one of the great riddles of the 1980s. Why, with the success of Dragon’s Lair and the entire decade falling in love with adventure games, did Don Bluth never hand-animate an adventure game? Fortunately, Pewter Games has stepped in with a game that overflows with handcrafted charm. But the adventure game aspect might be a bit too old-fashioned for its own good.
While there are some minor quibbles, like the background being more detailed than the characters, there’s no denying this game looks and sounds great. The hand-animated characters mesh well with the voice work and the score to create a very distinct atmosphere of ’50s-era Ireland. It doesn’t entirely reach its goal of feeling like you’re playing a movie, perhaps, but the artistic work put into this game paid off.
Make no mistake, though, underneath it all, this is very much a throwback to classic adventure games. You walk around finding items and rubbing them on other items until you solve the puzzle. Which turns out to be a bit of a problem.
Adventure games always have a struggle between plot momentum and puzzle-solving. It’s very easy to get stuck in these games, which stalls out the story. The Little Acre, with its decidedly old-school adventure mechanics, runs into this problem rather quickly as you wander around as either Aiden or his daughter Lily, poking at stuff until something happens. Thankfully, there’s none of the insane moon logic that passed for lateral thinking and drove some of the worst games of the ’80s era. Everything mostly makes a type of sense, although the puzzles can feel overly simple in some areas.
The development team takes steps to curb frustration, like a limited inventory and an item, once it’s been used, departing said inventory. But there are still moments where you, for example, have to walk to one area to determine what the puzzle is, then pass through another area into yet another screen to get the item you need for the solution. The construction can feel very clunky and dated, and it would have been good to use the tropes of modern adventure games, or better level design, to get around those issues.
It’s also a bit rushed. We managed to get through in about three hours, but dedicated players can probably clear it out in two. Fortunately, with no DLC and a $13 price point, that means the game is fairly reasonably priced and won’t linger in your pile of shame. It’s an excellent all-ages romp, bar perhaps one or two awkward conversations about where Lily’s mother is.
It’s always nice to see an adventure game, and Pewter’s ambition should be encouraged. That said, the short length and old-school construction problems might make this a frustrating game unless you’re looking for a holiday aperitif to crown a year of big AAA games.