Wednesday 26 July 2017

The Little Acre review: Irish whimsy translates well

The Little Acre (XO/PS4/PC) 4 stars Age: 7+

The Little Acre
The Little Acre
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

THERE was a time in the late 80s and early 90s when you couldn’t move without tripping over a point’n’click adventure game. Coincidentally, it was also an era in which former Disney and game animator Don Bluth set up a studio in Dublin to make feature films.

Three decades on, the point’n’click genre has all but withered on the vine in the face of elaborate modern action-adventures. Bluth’s studio on Conyngham Road is long gone too.

But their spiritual heirs live on in a handful of current projects, including this one from Dublin’s own Pewter Games.

The Little Acre employs a deliberately hand-drawn Bluth-esque look, far away from the sameyness of a title rooted in Unity or Unreal middleware. Coupled with the rare sound of Irish accents voicing the lead characters of Aidan and daughter Lily, The Little Acre makes an immediately striking impression.

It begins as a piece of whimsy but soon graduates to a darker tone as Aidan learns of the disappearance of his father, an inveterate inventor and tinkerer. Soon, Lily follows Aidan into the fantastical world they’ve uncovered.

The puzzles will hardly surprise anyone raised on the staples of the genre – usually requiring no more than careful observation and the combination of two objects readily to hand. A generous hint system ensures no one will ever get stuck.

Pewter brought in adventure kingpin Charles Cecil (Broken Sword, etc) as executive producer for the last six months of development, though it’s difficult to fathom how he could have done any more than polish a few rough edges off a three-year project. Yet The Little Acre is very much in the mould of his body of work.

The voice cast may be a little over-earnest, the plot too hasty as it dashes to a close and the script short on zingers. Yet Pewter has crafted an engaging debut, a homegrown success that deserves a wider audience than its launch just before Christmas allowed.

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