Little Big Adventure 2 came with our first computer, as part of the “family pack”. That was more than ten years ago. It took a couple of tries to get into (for my brain that hadn’t quite grasped how to games yet), but once I did it was a delightful experience that just kept on giving.
So I’ve been waiting about ten years for its prequel, the original Little Big Adventure (Relentless: Twinsen’s Adventure according to some screens), to be somehow re-released so that I could bask in the series’ origins.
Just scant weeks ago, GOG.com fulfulled that wish.
LBA has perhaps one of the most brutal introductions I’ve ever been put through in a game. Stuff crash-landing into a Strogg-infested base in Quake II, or Jon Irenicus’ mad dungeon in Baldur’s Gate II — LBA starts with Twinsen in a jail cell, arrested just for having a recurring dream, with an orderly coming in to beat him for tossing and turning in his sleep.
Okay, you beat the guy back harder and use his floating platform to escape, but that’s not all. You have to get through the asylum, where if an alarm panel is hit an orderly that shoots homing missiles teleports in to put you back in your cell. Caught like this, you are treated to a short cinematic where Twinsen is slapped hard by a mysterious figure. Twinsen looks suitably disgruntled by this (but not cowed).
The horror doesn’t end once you escape the asylum, though. You find that Citadel Island is under martial law — a nigh-invincible army of clones patrols the streets, and there are tanks and sandbags and barbed-wire fences everywhere. This world is a police state and the rule is shoot-on-sight.
I never heard the tag “dark fantasy” applied to LBA, but from this opening it fits it far, far better than (say) Dragon Age‘s slightly forced obsession with racism and contrived moral grey areas. The world of LBA, in stark contrast to its more happy-go-lucky (but still capable of being underhanded and sinister when called upon) successor, is incredibly, incredibly bleak. Suddenly that title Relentless makes a whole lot more sense.
If I wasn’t a stronger man, I’d have quit in tears by this point. That’s after only the first half hour.
It’s also not an easy game to get to grips with, mechanically. As well as being emotially distressing, the introduction is bloody difficult. The clones, as noted, are mostly invulnerable, and some will even resist the magic ball once you’ve found it. Then there are the white super-grobo clones from the asylum who start suffusing the landscape, sending you back to jail again and again (though by the second island, the slap-in-the-face cinematic shows Twinsen with a plaster and a huge bruise already evident… will he be a complete wreck by the end of the game?).
It has less controls than its sequel, but that also means no niceties like being able to “‘activate” things regardless of behaviour (one must go back to Normal mode to search/talk/etc). There is also this curious “run into walls” thing where, in Sporty mode, running into walls causes damage. It’s not so much the damage that gets me, it’s being unable to racing-game style steer-by-walls.
And once you can actually kill things, combat is still very hit-or-miss. When you take damage, you stumble backwards and can’t attack. Even though the same is true of enemies, it means that if you miss one attack you tend to get stun-locked; or, if you’re on form, you just keep your opponent stun-locked and hammer him into the ground with little effort.
So it’s a tough game to get into. From my experiences so far, I can’t recommend it as whole-heartedly as I will espouse its sequel (which is a little slice of perfection)…
But this adventure is far from over, and I won’t rest until I have liberated the planet.
Vive la revolution!