Little Big Adventure - One Of The neatest games you ever did see - has spawned a sequel. Fittingly, it's called Little Big Adventure 2, and if it doesn't turn out to be one of the best games of I'll eat my hat, then regurgitate the and eat it a second time. Because judging by what I've seen (and played), it's going to be magnificent - an arcade adventure of rare calibre.
The action takes place upon a superbly-realised fantasy world. If God had dropped acid (just say no, kids) while creating our planet Earth, it could have turned out like the « planet Twinsun: brightly-coloured, populated by Quetches E (basically humanoid, fondness for ponytails), Grobos (cute li'l elephants), Rabibunnies (physique of Nicholas Lynd-: hurst, head of Hartley Hare), and Spheros (short, fat and round, but cheerful nonetheless). It's a charming place to live and doubtless an ideal holiday location too.
You play the role of Twinsen, a Quetch whose moniker is irritatingly similar to that of the planet he inhabits. Twinsen's something of a Twinsuniun hero since he overthrew Dr Funfrock, the crazed dictator who was ruling the roost in LBA Numero One-o. Revolutionary spunkiness aside, Twinsen's a fertile little so and so, as the bulbous abdomen of his beloved wife Zoe makes clear - she's expecting their first child. When the game opens, the loving couple are relaxing at home. He's doing a spot of decorating, she's pottering around, doing breathing exercises and generally 'being pregnant'. It's all so thrillingly domesticated, yet simultaneously urbane, you half expect Bob Hoskins to suddenly wander on-set and start harping on about the telephone bill, in that curious cheery-cockney-geezer-who-inexplicably-never-uses-the-'f-word' manner of his. That doesn't happen. Indeed, to start with, more or less nothing happens. But don't be fooled. Strange doings are afoot. For despite the low-key opening, LBA2 is one of the most imaginative games of the year...
In an act of geekoid prick-teasing matched only by iD's infamous 'Qtest' Quake deathmatch beta release, EA supplied me with a fully-playable, pre-release version of LBA2 which was approximately 95% complete. Well, '95% complete', that is, if you care to overlook two minor details:
1) the voiceovers and many of the sound effects are missing... and 2) the entire thing's in sodding French.
Now, my command of the French language is matched only by my blindfolded stilt-dancing prowess. Consequently, I was forced to chew upon my own linguistic ignorance each time any one of the game's 300 characters said anything. And believe you me, they're a talkative bunch. If the first game's anything to go by, the things they say help to explain and advance the plot - so naturally I was condemned to confusion. I spent a while near the start of the game dashing around in a thunderstorm, chasing a Rabibunny who I think had stolen an umbrella, chatting to a rotund, pea-shooting schoolboy about God knows what, fiddling with my 'Ball Magique' and wondering where on earth my 'wife' had suddenly buggered off to (being chatted up by a bloke who speaks fluent French, no doubt).
Time to consult the press release and find out what's up, whereupon I discover that LBA2 revolves around a bit of extra-terrestrial skulduggery. It's flying saucers ahoy as Twinsun plays host to the Esmers, a race of grim-faced aliens hailing from Planet Zeelich. Upon touchdown they're all smiles, handshakes and "we come in peace", but let's face it - they ain't fooling no one.
Sure enough, it soon transpires that they're hatching a plot to cause a collision between Twinsun and the nearby Emerald Moon, in order to split the planet asunder and get their filthy alien mitts on the magic power lurking within. The swines. Naturally, it's all down to Twinsen (ie you) to sort the whole sorry mess out - and as anyone who has played the first LBA can testify, it's likely to be a mammoth under-taking. And indeed, a second glance at the press release reveals that the game features 'around 220 locations, distributed on three planets'. Not the sort of thing you knock off during a lunch break, then.
The English, Patient?
Thoughtfully, EA also supplied some savegames, so that I could trespass my way into some of the later stages. I say 'some' savegames - in fact there were 90 of the things, spaced widely apart and spanning the entire game from the opening scene right up to "Le Conflict Final". Having dipped into several of them at random, it's clear that LBA2 isn't just huge, it's also hugely entertaining. From sand-dune buggy races, to low-gravity moon exploration, Twinsen is set to encounter far more variety than he did on his last excursion. Within 20 minutes of savegame exploration, I'd seen more bizarre and unusual things than I did the last time I went abroad. Considering I stayed next to Amsterdam's red-light district, that's quite an achievement.
What we have here is a videogame that positively overflows with invention, warm-hearted quirkiness, even - and I mean this - effortless beauty. The graphics are crisp, clear and uncluttered (somehow they remind me of the old TinTin comic stories), the animation exemplary (when you can tell a lot about a character simply by the way he moves, it speaks volumes about the skill of the animator). It all looks so enticing, so captivating and enchanting, that I can't wait to get my hands upon the final - English language - version. I want it. I want it bad.
Download Twinsen's Odyssey
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode