Platform | Release Date
PC | June 19, 2012
Developed by Black Pants Game Studio
Published by Black Pants Studio
Tiny & Big, a comic styled jump and slice platformer, gives you the unique ability to shape a whole world at your will! You are Tiny, a nerdy inventor who tries to reclaim his most beloved possession: Grandpa’s white, fine rib underpants! On his journey through a forsaken desert he will meet mysterious creatures, no clowns, a taxi robot and his arch enemy: Big!
The best pure platformers are tight, precise, pixel perfect affairs. The best pure puzzle games leave clues in plain sight, if your brain can twist itself into the right shape. Puzzle platformers can survive without a pure platforming experience but only if the puzzles carry the day. Tiny and Big brings a solid set of mechanics to the table and an interesting comic-book art style. Developer Black Pants had something special here, but lost their magic underpants somewhere along the way.
After a brief virtual reality tutorial, players are turned loose on a desert landscape. Tiny must chase down Big after he stole their grandfather’s magic underpants, a powerful artifact Big wears proudly on his head. The vast majority of objects in the game can be cut with Tiny’s laser. While cuts must be completely through an object and only in a straight line, surprisingly intricate interactions result when cutting objects simultaneously. Players must, in essence, complete missing pieces of the levels to traverse them.
The cutting and reshaping mechanics are fun, but Tiny and Big is not particularly ambitious with its level design. In terms of sheer size the levels are impressive but progression is entirely linear. Sure, you can cut the pillar a foot higher or at a different angle, but to proceed it has to come down to bridge this gap. The first couple levels were wide open and offered a nice sandbox to play around with. When you can cut and re-shape the game world at will, having single-solution puzzles is a wasted opportunity. This isn’t a bad thing per se, as it doesn’t detract from the experience – I just wanted to see more.
This worsens the longer the game goes, to the point that cutting is hardly at all in support of the platforming. Early in the game, Big’s role as antagonist is the occasional thrown boulder and unconvincing “Mwahahaha”. Your early “boss” encounters aren’t particularly fun but it’s pretty easy to plow through them. To see the humorous end credits, however, players must endure two boss fights which involve nothing but thrown boulders. The final fight is the worst: for all intents and purposes, it turns a slow-paced platformer into a twitch shooter where the cutting laser is a weapon rather than a tool.
The comic book art direction is lovely. Much of the humor falls flat, not helped by the lack of spoken dialogue (characters mumble inaudible pseudo-dialogue while text appears in speech bubbles), but the underwear-centric story has its moments. The soundtrack is pulled from numerous instrumental indie groups. Thankfully it’s not the typical chip-tune heavy mix, nor the generic orchestral mush of action games, instead creating a nice downtempo mood which suits the game’s unique presentation.
Tiny and Big has flaws even before you pile on the frustrating boss fights. Yes, it’s only $10, but I cannot recommend it. Adding twitch elements to a relatively laid-back platformer ruins the experience. A novel mechanic and interesting art direction are not enough to forgive bad gameplay and unambitious level design. That said, I hope Black Pants (or someone else) takes another look at a cutting-based platformer in the future, because there is definite potential here.