Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers is a brilliant combination of pedantic and introspective gaming. On the surface it is a cel-shaded, physics-infused, third-person adventure about a boy searching for his grandfather's underwear in a barren desert. On a deeper level, each scenario in which panty protagonist Tiny finds himself offers so many different points of articulation and destruction that the very nature of the person playing is revealed with each decision.
Tiny has three tools at his disposal: a hook, rockets and a laser gun that cuts through almost any surface in the game, including stones, walls, platforms, mountains and priceless, ancient monuments. Most of the game is spent destroying beautiful archaeological temples, and they are beautiful – the art direction in Grandpa's Leftovers is outstanding, hovering between Adventure Time cartoonishness and the gritty sophistication of Borderlands.
Tiny chases Big, his smaller, blundering nemesis who has stolen his grandfather's underpants and is using them to control ancient, telekinetic magic. To reach Big, Tiny must scale monumental temples carved into the sides of mountains, using his laser cutter to chop gigantic pillars in half, hooking them toward him or rocketing them away to create bridges and unveil secrets. The entire world is destructible, and there is a wonderful sense of achievement in destroying each bit of irreplaceable ancient history (literally, as that's what many of the Steam achievements are for).
The game is four hours long on a first run-through, though with plenty of replay value as a sandbox or time-trial game. During my first run, roughly half-way through the six levels, I handed the controller over to my boyfriend, who had been watching my progress avidly as Tiny tried to run up a platform without getting smushed by the boulders Big kept throwing down with his tightie-whitey mind powers. And I was amazed.
It was like I didn't even know this man holding the controller: He approached each in-game element in entirely diverse ways from my own thought processes, essentially playing an entirely different game. Consistently, where I would try to make a bridge with a fallen pillar, he would cut the ground horizontally and pull it toward Tiny, attempting to make the environment work for him, rather than working with it as I was (what this says about our relationship, we'll let Freud figure out).
It was then that I realized the enormousness of Grandpa's Leftovers
. The campaign itself may not be 40 hours long, but with the amount of unique gameplay opportunities at every step, it easily eclipses days of playtime – and perhaps a lifetime of insight.
This article is based on a download of Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers, provided by Black Pants Game Studio.