Released at the tail end of December, The Little Acre kind of got lost among the shuffle of big budget releases and Steam/PS4 sales. That’s unfortunate, because this game is a gorgeous, bite-sized love letter to the classic LucasArts adventure games of the ‘90s with modern control sensibilities and a humor and writing style all its own.
The story, set in 1950s Ireland, follows Aidan as he looks for clues about his father’s disappearance. Soon however, he disappears himself, leaving his young daughter Lily and Dougal, the family dog, alone to piece together the mystery of his appearance. Players alternate control between Aidan and Lily depending on the scene.
One of the really fascinating things is how the two different characters react to, and solve, similar problems. Aidan approaches problems with an analytical, engineering approach. He sees things as an adult and the strange world he finds himself in fills him with dread. Lily, on the other hand, tackles everything with a reckless abandon that any parent will recognize. Her transition into the other world, while totally surprising, is greeted with happy, giggling laughter.
Incidentally, the interactions between Lily and Dougal are especially fantastic, reminiscent of the Buttons & Mindy sketches from the classic ‘90s Animaniacs cartoons. Pity poor Dougal, who is tasked with the impossible job of keeping fearless Lily safe as she goes about her chosen activities heedless of any sort of danger.
Players of classic adventure games will definitely remember some of the bizarre “moon logic” required to solve some of the puzzles. The Little Acre doesn’t suffer from this problem, and seems more concerned with telling a good story than artificially holding up players while they figure out that combining an ipecac flower with some pancake syrup will make something that can be fed to a giant snake to make it vomit up the next MacGuffin to move the story forward.
For players who do find a puzzle too challenging, there’s a two-stage hint system integrated into the game. Stage One will give an oblique reference to the solution, while State Two effectively provides the solution. It’s a neat solution to getting stuck and frustrated by a particular puzzle, and that those of us who remember needing to look up solutions on GameFAQs, a strategy guide, or call a hint line will appreciate.
Amateur voice acting can often be a hit-and-miss affair, but The Little Acre also does that well. Lily is particularly well acted by Kate Clavin, who also did character design and was part of the concept design and animation teams.
One criticism I do have is that the game is short. My leisurely playthrough clocked in at about two hours, and as an adventure game, there’s not a lot of replayability beyond some light achievement hunting. The length is more appropriate to the first chapter of an episodic game than a stand-alone title.
Limited duration aside, this game is a bite-sized treat for adventure game fans. If you long for the classic adventure games of the past, with an art style that’s a cross between a Don Bluth cartoon and Sam & Max Hit the Road, The Little Acre will leave you with a smile on your face and hoping for a quick sequel.