September 5, 2011 | Andy Boxall
Long time readers and fans of isometric 3D puzzle games may recall Alone, which we reviewed way back in March 2010. The Big Little Quest is ITL’s follow-up and another isometric game, but this time with a style of play which concentrates more on exploration than on puzzles.
The plot follows a young man named Axel, who has returned from several months at sea to find his sister has been kidnapped by an evil villain, who lives in a castle nearby. It’s up to Axel to rescue her, a feat which means slaying dragons, casting spells and unfortunately, a lot of walking around.
While Alone was a straight-up platform game with retro graphics, Big Little Quest is a fantasy-style explore-em-up, with some strategy/RPG intentions, but never really capitalizing on them. For instance, to gain access to the castle you must first defeat three fire-breathing dragons, which can be done with a water spell. When you find the dragons – more on that later – it’s a case of swiping in their direction to shoot them until they die. As the dragons don’t move around, they’re not exactly tough to kill either.
But it’ll take some dedication to find the dragons. At first, you wander around a couple of houses after being told to find a map and a library, but as everything looks very similar it’s easy to become disorientated and I missed the fact there were more than two houses for a while. Ah, I thought, those problems will cease when I find the map! But they don’t, as the map is not only small and almost unmarked, but it doesn’t show your location; making it completely useless.
With rubbish map in hand, I went exploring. For a long, long time. Little Big Quest’s biggest problem is the amount of space you have to cover before discovering something to do. Then, when you do get somewhere, you often find you needed to be somewhere else beforehand, which means another 10-screen trek only to lose your way back as it all looks the same! Occasionally you’ll find someone who’ll offer some advice, which helps a little, but thanks to some translation issues, never sounds quite right at the time and can easily slip from your mind.
The advice isn’t always helpful either, and after a particularly long detour I found a character standing around who said ‘what are you doing out here? This is a dead end’ or words to that effect. Having wasted time getting there, being told this, and then having to go all the way back again, it’s a miracle I continued playing. On the positive side, the corner-based touch control system is excellent, and the game feels like it has potential; it just hasn’t been exploited yet.
Having a large landscape is fine, but without a map it’s a frustrating experience. I was reminded of Silent Hill, where you could check your map to see whether you’d wandered down a dark corridor only to find your way blocked once, ensuring you didn’t do it again unless you wanted to. Now imagine playing Silent Hill without a map.
Add some annoying hidden switches, more pointless walking about than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, uninspired landscapes, no threatening baddies, no sound FX to speak of, and some extremely difficult traditional indoor platform levels just when you think you’re at the end; and Big Little Quest is best described as a frustrating, unrewarding and sadly quite dull gaming experience.
- A well-implemented touch control system.
- Unrewarding quests, no map and unexciting combat.