GAME REVIEW: Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers

Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s leftovers is a 3-D platform “jump and slice” game released by Black Pants Studio in 2012 . Tiny is the main character, a scrawny inventor whose best friend is his AI car radio. Tiny’s grandfather gave him a pair of very special underpants as his inheritance, but Big (Tiny’s nemesis) has stolen them and fled into the desert.


Before gameplay starts, Tiny’s car gets destroyed, though he’s able to salvage his friend Radio from the wreckage. Radio serves as a guide, to help suggest courses of action, give a little in-game tutorial type advice, to serve as a character for Tiny to hold dialog with, and to play the in-game tunes. Soon they encounter Big who is wearing the all-important underpants on his head (as you do). Soon they find out that the underpants give their wear telekinetic powers.

Although Big has physical size as advantage, and his growing TK powers granted him by the underpants, Tiny has a set of three homebrew gadgets that make him a force to be reckoned with. First is a grapple, which he can aim and stick to most any object and will allow Tiny to pull the object. Second, a set of rockets which he can aim and shoot to attach to an object and then can fire them to push on the object. Third, and most importantly, the cutting laser. You select the two endpoints of your cutting line (which must cut all the way across at least one object) and will slice all the way through the object from Tiny’s location. You can slice and dice the scenery (which mostly consists of pillars and walls and doors, big stone objects that are part of a temple) at will and can then manipulate those smaller pieces with the grapple and the rockets.

The cutting laser (and the other tools to a lesser degree) is the real novelty of the game; there are very few limits to the modifications you can make to your surroundings with it. The level design often implies a solution–there may be a fallen pillar on the far side of a gap too wide to be jumped, so the easiest solution is to grapple the pillar and pull it closer, followed perhaps by cutting a slope into the pillar if it’s too high to jump. But there are often other ways you can get past an obstacle that weren’t an obvious part of the plan.

The game has a reasonably accurate physics engine, especially important since the objects interacting with each other can all be manipulated by the player. So if you cut a pillar at a shallow angle, the friction will keep the top from sliding off. If a sharp angle it will slide off. The point of the object where you plant the grapple or the rocket affects how the object will move, etc…

There were a few points where the extreme manipulability of the setting caused me some difficulty, but in the end it was all part of the charm and appeal of the game. In a couple of places I ended up circumventing a checkpoint only to get confused about where I was going and I ended up doubling back to the checkpoint from the wrong direction. Only, on the other side of it was an obstacle that could not be passed from this direction, so I spent some time trying to get through it before I realized my mistake. Another danger is that you can destroy the setting to such an extent that there may no longer be a way to pass safely to the ending anymore. This happened a couple of times, and in each case the damage was undone by falling off a cliff and resetting to the last checkpoint, no big deal. But I would not be surprised if there were some points in the game where you could cause major damage just before a checkpoint that would prevent you from proceeding and then you’d have to restart the whole level.

The challenge ramps up steadily as the game goes on. In the early levels, the primary challenges are getting across gaps too wide to jump, getting to higher places, getting to lower places without dying from the fall. As the game goes on, Big’s TK powers grow and he starts facing off against you more directly, throwing boulders to crush you as you try to move through the level and you have to either dodge or cut them out of the air. In later levels, magic objects are introduced that are immune to your cutting laser, so act as more permanent obstacles. In the last levels you proceed to the interior of the massive temple and find that it’s harder to manipulate the scenery in a massive indoor space where you’re trying to proceed downwards without falling to your death. These last levels are super hard and in several cases I found ways that I don’t think were actually intended to get past some of the stickier spots.

Breaking the scenery into pieces and using those pieces as building blocks of my solutions never lost its novelty. It’s also very replayable. I’ve talked to other people who’ve played the game as more of a sandbox building kind of game, ignoring the main objects to build their own structures from temple carvings. The game also has a set of achievements which give worthy challenges for replay. In most games I ignore the achievements because they’re either things I would do in the course of the game anyway, or they are giant challenges that I’m just not that interested in. But this game has some really good challenges. You get an achievement if you can complete any level without using the grapple. Another for not using the cutting laser. Another for no rockets. Doing without the rockets would be easiest, cutting laser the hardest, but these are all worthy. Each level also has a “par” score to indicate what an expected minimum for the number of laser slices you should have to do to complete the level. I tended to spam the cutting laser, so this would be a major challenge in itself.

This game is SO much fun. I highly recommend it. I’d love to see many more people play the game, and I hope to see more from the creators in the future.

Visuals
Great look. Has a comic book style all about it, cross-hatching to shade and my personal favorite is the sound effects words that pop up when noises happen. The appropriate ones are funny–“SPAK” when the grapple connects. The inappropriate are funnier–like “GENASH!” when a large rock falls to ground.

Audio
Great soundtrack, and I usually don’t pay that much attention to sound. In each level you can find tapes of songs that then cycle through the soundtrack. I hadn’t heard of any of the bands, but they’re all real indie bands, and I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack. No voice acting, apart from grunts and squeaks that the characters make while the text shows on the screen.

Challenge
Reasonably challenging, with a reasonably scaling challenge level. Some small sections here and there are extremely difficult, especially when having to navigate difficult jumps while boulders are being thrown at you, but the checkpoints help keep those manageable. If you get stuck, if you’re having trouble figuring out what the game designers intended, there are often ways to bypass some of these.

Story
Nothing deep, but fun, silly stuff. I like the TK-power underpants. Fun stuff!

Playability
Easy enough to control. WASD+mouselook for moving. Just aim and left click to grapple. Aim and right-click to shoot rocket and right-click again to fire the rocket. The trickiest to do, especially when under fire, is the laser, click on the center point of the line and drag in any direction to make the line.

Not the friendliest game for the super-short play sessions I usually manage, because the checkpoints only work if you don’t shut off the game. Your progress only perma-saves between levels. Some levels, especially the later levels, may take a significant period of time. The last one took more than an hour for me, though I did get stuck a few times.

Replayability
Plenty of potential for replay between the achievements, the par challenges, and especially if you might want to just play with the levels as a sandbox and just play around..

Originality
I’ve never seen another game where you can manipulate the environment to this extent–fun to cut stuff up and rearrange it however you like.

Playtime
I spent 3 hours playing through all the levels once. I’m definitely going to pick this one up again to pursue some of the achievement and just to screw around.

Overall
The full list price on Steam is $10. This game is soooo much fun. Easy buy even at full price (I happened to catch it on a crazy 90% off day for just $1–whoo!)