Monday, 28 January 2013

Little Big Adventure (MS-DOS)

Little Big Adventure Relentless title screen dos pc
Today I'm taking a quick look at Little Big Adventure, released as Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure outside of Europe (no relation to Little Big Planet... probably), as the internet asked me to. The internet even bought me a copy to make absolutely sure that I played it and made it a priority. If I was a paranoid man I'd suspect the internet was scheming to make me suffer (again), but I'm sure this will actually be a perfectly enjoyable and not at all frustrating experience!

The game was originally released for DOS CD-ROM, then it got a floppy disk version, and two years later it was ported across to the PlayStation. But I'm playing the PC CD version because it's what I've got.

I've always liked the Adeline Software logo. To this day I have no idea what animal it's meant to be, but it's got nice colours.

Little Big Adventure was Adeline's first game and they only really made two more after this, scrolling beat 'em up Time Commando and Little Big Adventure 2 (aka. Twinsen's Odyssey), before they were sold off to SEGA to form No Cliché and make 'Toy' games for the Dreamcast.

LBA's intro video begins with a lemming cosplayer gliding through icy mountains on his dragon in glorious mid-90s pre-rendered 3D.

A narrator helpfully explains that the guy's called Twinsen and that the game takes place on a planet called Twinsun, which sits in space between twin suns.

Twinsen lands his dragon on top of a snowy peak just in time to find himself a good place to sit and watch a pretty impressive light show on a mountain opposite. I haven't seen CGI fireworks this impressive since the Beijing Olympics.

And then the planet blows up.

But it was all just a dream! Our hero is actually stuck in a pretty expensive looking jail cell with no toilet and zero privacy. They didn't even give the poor guy a pillow, no wonder he's not sleeping well.

Clearly we must escape from this hellhole, but how? It doesn't even have a door.

Little Big Adventure Relentess behaviour screen athletic
The game was made by some of the team behind survival horror classic Alone in the Dark and it's not difficult to tell. Both games have you steering the character around like a tank (Resident Evil style) and holy shit does he turn slowly, about the same speed as he's spinning in the animation above in fact.

Plus they both have a choice of behaviour modes to change how the character moves and interacts with objects. If I want to run, I have to switch to Athletic mode, which also then turns the action button into a jump button. If I need to fight, I'd have to switch to Aggressive mode instead, which turns action into a punch button.

Why they couldn't have just added a punch and a run button, I have no idea.

The guards finally got sick of my spinning around and whining about controls, so they sent a guy over on a floating platform to come tell me to sit down and shut up. I waited for him to land, kicked him so hard he exploded into money, then stole his ride.

Prison break!

Man these guys have some nice looking pipes, very... shiny. The whole place has a cool 50s sci-fi charm to it in fact. It's just a pity it's run by assholes really.

Sorry bro, but I can't let either of you set off that alarm.

Fortunately the combat in this isn't as awkward as I expected and I was able to quickly neutralise both enemies with a few good kicks. Sure I'd prefer being able to just run directly at an enemy without worrying about rotating to face them first, but it's not a huge frustration (yet). I guess playing Resident Evil and Silent Hill this month was good practice.

Anyway, the guy in the lab coat dropped a key, so I can automatically use it on the gate and escape to the next area.

Oh c'mon! I was actually doing well then for a minute. But then the guy in the next room reached the alarm button before I could hit him, which teleported an elephant supersoldier into the room to take me down with a single bullet.

Well at least now I know what happens when the alarm goes off, so there's one mystery solved.

Twinsen is taken to the Principal's office and smacked around a bit in a cutscene, and then we're dumped right back at the start of the game again.

Alright, let's try this again.


ONE ROOM FURTHER THAN LAST TIME.


Hey, I've just rediscovered my Holomap! It's damn fortunate that I started searching random lockers really. Also I've just spied a pair of pants I plan to borrow. A cunning disguise should help me get out of here without triggering any more unwanted white elephants.


A COUPLE OF ROOMS LATER.


Fuck.

I tried making a run for it, but the door was locked. Then my elephant buddy teleported in and before I knew it Twinsen was back in the office getting slapped again.

You know, I think it was only the guy in the lab coat who caught me there. If my disguise is actually working on the guard, then I should be able to get close enough to beat the living shit out of him before he can hit the alarm button. Then it won't matter how loud the the doctor yells, because no elephant's going to hear him and no one's coming to his rescue.


SOON.


I'm out! I've finally escaped the evil fortress of... FF.

I think 'FF' must stand for Dr. Funfrock: the evil tyrant mentioned in the intro who has conquered Twinsen's planet. Which just goes to show that naming your poor child 'Funfrock' is a sure-fire way to traumatise him into growing up to be a vengeful megalomaniac.

Following advice from a helpful Rabibunny (basically a race of Roger Rabbits), I crept into a garbage truck using Discreet mode and used it to ride out of the prison gates right under the guard's noses. I probably could've just walked out behind the truck as it passed through the gate, but I didn't really feel like getting shot again.

It zoomed in like this automatically for this bit, but there's a button to toggle it for normal gameplay. Not really sure why that feature exists, but hey options are good.

Man, these sure go through a lot of barrels in this place. Wait, did I just take damage then for running into a cardboard box?

Holy shit I did, I lost health! Man, even hitting a wall while in run mode costs me a hit point. That's just weird game design. Weird and really annoying.

I made it about three roads into town before a robot elephant ran up and started oppressing me, and that was the end of my daring escape. I thought he was just a normal NPC, I was just walking up to say hi! Fortunately I just respawned back at the edge of town, with one life lost.

Oh by the way, the camera doesn't scroll to follow me as I walk around, that's why I'm at the edge of the screen in this shot. It flicks over to give me a better view when I've walked far enough across the screen though, and I can re-center it at any time so it's not really an issue.

Little Big Adventure Relentless Twinsen drowning death animation
Damn, well that's what I get for assuming there'd be an invisible wall there if I couldn't go that way. I also kind of expected the water to be a little shallower a foot from the beach.

I'm out of lives so that's THE END.

I did try looking for a save option before wading in (I even checked the manual, which I don't often do) and apparently there isn't one. The game autosaves when it feels like I guess, perhaps at invisible checkpoints. Hopefully I didn't lose too much progress though.

Well... fuck. I suppose it could have been worse though: I could have ended up back in my cell again.

Maybe this time I should try to figure out where I'm going before boldly striding through the streets of my occupied hometown wearing my best 'escaped fugitive' outfit. I've been given zero instructions, no clues, and no goals except for 'change clothes'... but I did pick up that map didn't I? 

Wow, that's... really helpful. I can't even find a way to zoom in. The arrow points to Twinsen's house though, so at least I have an idea of where I should be.


LATER.


Finding Twinsen's house wasn't hard in the end: it was the one with his girlfriend waiting outside in a classy pink dress. But I wasn't able to take two steps inside before the fascist elephant police came by to haul me back in.

I need to hide somewhere, fast! The pachyderm replicants are hammering at my door and I have no idea where to go.

Crap, this house is bloody huge. I guess Twinsen must be pretty well off, though not wealthy enough to afford proper walls it seem. Which is kind of awkward when I'm trying not to be seen by the soulless minions of orthodoxy bursting through my front door.

Hey, there's a door leading off from the kitchen, I think I've found my hiding place! But the elephants have grabbed his girlfriend...

Damn elephant shot me with his damn one shot kill gun again.

Okay, so I just need to break out of my cell, get the key, kill the guards, recover my gear, take the disguise, kill the other guard, get the exit key, sneak out through the fence inside the garbage truck... and then I'll be free to run back home and grab a change of clothes! Again.

Man look at that, you can see right into the bathroom. They haven't even put up a curtain or anything. I guess no one gives a damn about privacy on this planet.

Oh also I've found an ancient robe in Twinsen's wardrobe and learned magic powers. Which is pretty cool. I can cross 'change clothes' off my list of things to do at least. Maybe people will stop shooting me in the street now.

Crap, I didn't even make it back to the street! These kinds of enemies can't take me down in a single bullet, but Twinsen is stunned for a moment after being shot and unfortunately it only takes these enemies a moment to fire off another shot, so I'm kinda stuck.

I did manage to get out of it in the end with a tiny bit of health left, and ran around the other side of his house instead. Then got shot by a different guy.

THE END.

Back the the bloody FF prison again. Oh hang on, I still have my ancient magic robe even though I got game over and had to load a save? Well that's not THAT bad then.

Though I still have to use the garbage truck to escape again. I must have done this around five times now and the only thing that keeps my spirits up is the though that these dumb guards still haven't caught on.

Yeah, I really do have all my gear in here: Holomap, magic ball, tunic, id card and my handy one use only health restoring clover.

No arrow on the map this time, but at least I know what I have to do. I'm gonna have to rescue Twinsen's girlfriend from the insidious clone army of Dr Funfrock.


EVENTUALLY.


Trouble is I have no idea where she might be (or even what her name is) so I'm chatting to every NPC I can find in town to learn if they've seen her. Someone in the street said to ask around in the tavern, so here I am. So far, no luck. Maybe it'd help if he stopped referring to her as a 'young girl' when she's clearly not.

You know, Twinsen's starting to remind me of Tintin a bit now that I've heard him talk. Except entirely lacking all emotion. It's not really the best voice acting I've heard in a video game. Though I do like the guy performing all the rabibunnies.


LATER.


I finally got a lead pointing me towards the docks, so I raced down there and tried asking around. But the bastards immediately ratted me out to the sinister elephant agents of tyranny!

I've had no luck taking one of these things down in a first fight, but now I have Twinsen's ancient magic ball it's a whole different situation. A pretty repetitive situation actually. I guess I just don't have the magic power left in this thing to do anything worse than make an enemy pause for a second. After all the effort I went to trying to get him facing the right way as well...

Well, seems that there's nothing left I can do here but try to make a run for it.

Making a run for it didn't exactly work out. Twice. So I lost all my lives and now here I am again, back on the far side of the island.

My new plan this time, is ignore EVERYONE. I'm not going to try talking, I'm not going to throw my ball anywhere, I'm just going straight for the boat and if there's no boat there I'm just throwing Twinsen off the dock and calling it a day.

But first, I've got a rubbish truck to climb into.


LATER.


Still no sign of Twinsen's kidnapped girlfriend, but I did find a door at the docks that led to a mysterious crate pushing puzzle. The hardest part seems to be getting the blocks lined up right with the gaps. I was tapping it forward a bit at a time, but I overshot by a just fraction and now I've got to get behind it somehow to push it back the other way. I hope this is worth it

Alright, the crates are in position! What do I get? Nothing? I can't even use them to jump out of that window? Well, okay then whatever. 

Oh I see, solving the box puzzle got me a ferry ticket, allowing me to sail to a new island on this Gouraud shaded ship in search of Twinsen's beloved!

Either Twinsen doesn't like boats much, or seeing 'Adeline for ever' etched into the wood has made him physically sick. Don't worry man, they only ever made one more LBA game after this and after that you'll be free!

Well, until the designer somehow makes that sequel that they've been threatening. Or a remake.

And we're away, across the ocean to bold adventure in new lands!

Uh, is it just me, or does that island at the south pole look like a bit... spidery?

I'm a huge STAR WARS fan. The saga's sequel should be released soon, so I already reserved my seat in the movie theater!
Different island, same shit. All I can really do here is go around every building again, asking everyone if they've seen Twinsen's girlfriend. Same line, same monotonous line delivery.

So far all I've learned from these guys is that Star Wars: Episode VII is being made, which is definitely good to know and I hope JJ Abrams does it justice, but this info doesn't really help me much with my current dilemma. At least there's no danger of ending up back at that bloody prison again now though.


Anyway, that's basically Little Big Adventure. Dated controls, awkward combat, and not a great deal of information about what you're meant to be doing. Plus you lose health if you run into a wall. But it's got a nice look to it, some of the music's pretty good, and I found myself wanting to like the game. I mean I still want to like it! I just don't really want to play it any further. But it has gotten me curious about the sequel.

Reviewers and players generally seem to love this game though from what I can tell, it's still got an active fan community, and it's often considered to be one of the best adventure games of the early 90s. So if you haven't tried it yet, please don't let my whining put you off. Not entirely anyway.


If you have any opinions about Little Big Adventure/Relentless, feel free to share them. I mean I've just shared like thirty-something screenshots worth of my thoughts, so you might as well.

6 comments:

  1. When I played this as a kid at a friend's house I remember she loved it and I thought it was rubbish.
    Apparently it still is.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you again. This is a magazine game - the graphics are ZOMG THREEDEE which is apparently impressive and were great for printing full-page color spreads to ship coverdisks with the demo on it, but the gameplay sucks ass.

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  2. New logo for site? Why? :-(

    May I ask what did motivate you to change its appearence? I liked old logo for its "quasi 16-bit look". But this new one looks odd, bit incohesive. I hope that this doesnt mean that you are preparing bigger changes for overall design and layout of whole blog...
    or are you?

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    Replies
    1. He's changed the logo once every year now, with no major changes to the site thus far. So I wouldn't really be worried.

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    2. Yeah I give the site a new logo for each year. This time I decided to go with something that looked more late 90s, a bit more PlayStation.

      Plus to be honest it's been driving me mad that the 'Super' and 'Adventures' were on the same line and in the same style of text. Game titles always have 'Super' separated somehow and it just looks wrong to me otherwise.

      Delete
  3. I remember how much I loved this game back in the days. And it still is a solid adventure game, it really is! But yeah, the controls are seriously awkward and some of the game's mechanics are a bit off (like the hit box from time to time and the fact that you lose health from running into stuff). Still, I recently played through the game for the first time in like 10 years and had a real blast - despite everything that is sure to annoy you with the way game's are made today, whatever your previous relationship to LBA is.

    Definitely have a look at the sequel as well, which I'm gonna start playing soon as well. A lot of things have improved there, I promise you. But the game at core with its great adventurous atmosphere, still remains <3

    ReplyDelete

Semi-Random Game Box