Back in the late nineties, I played through and enjoyed thouroughly the game's sequel, Little Big Adventure 2: Twinsen's Odissey, without having ever played the first one.
Today, I finished the game on my iPad. As one would expect from any port of a title that is 20 years old and relied completely on the keyboard for input, not everything was perfect. On the other hand, it's far superior to most of the iOS "serious" gaming experiences I've had. As such, I take issue with a few parts of the review.
The aim of the game, and how to progress is also extremely unclear. Little Big Adventure is a game where you kind of find your own adventure, and how you opt to tackle obstacles. No arrows show you where to go, and there is no quest log. These are some aspects that would have needed some reworking to accommodate the demands of today´s gamer.
Little Big Adventure is not a casual game. The aim of the game or how to progress is not unclear. It's explained through dialogues with NPCs and interaction with elements of the world. Finding the next step is part of the game due to its highly exploratory nature. If it's difficult to discover what to do next, it's by design and not at all a flaw. It's actually refreshing to play a game that makes the player think, rather than handing instructions for every step on a silver plate.
I remember having direct control over Twinsen on my PC using arrow keys for movement. On iOS the movement is indirect with you touching where you want Twinsen to go. This would be a suitable control method if Twinsen had any intelligent way to avoid obstacles. If something is in the way he simply walks, or runs into it. When just exploring this is a minor annoyance, but as soon as you are trying to escape an enemy it almost breaks the game. It tears on patience though, and having to restart in the asylum being caught by the fascist elephant guards is truly testing my patience.
I'll concede that the controls are not ideal. But the port made a good job adapting them to what would be possible on a touchscreen - far better than slapping a virtual joystick with virtual buttons and calling it a day. Whether this is enough, is a matter of opinion.
Porting a classic isn’t all that easy to do, and sometimes it might be better to ponder remixing or at least remastering the original material. Little Big Adventure is a clear example of this where some core elements such as controls, lack of direction and confusion to when the game saves make it less than ideal for mobile gaming. Personally I really wanted to fall in love with Little Big Adventure again some twenty years after our first affair. Sadly it has aged even worse than me, and not even nostalgia can get me past that. It is a true shame, as beyond the problems there is a terrific genre defining adventure to be found.
What is ideal for mobile gaming? What is mobile gaming? Is it playing on a line while looking up every 10 seconds? Is every game that is adequate to a mobile platform necessarily a casual game?
I sure hope not. I enjoy playing Cut the Rope while waiting for coffee, but when I sit on the couch at home to play games on my iPad, I want as much of an immersive experience as a game like Little Big Adventure can offer. The nostalgia surely contributed to making this particular game so enjoyable. But I hope a mildly negative review as the one linked here won't stop gamers who never had the opportunity to accompany Twinsen on his adventures from enjoying this wonderful game.