If you’ve already read my earlier review of ilomilo for Windows Phone, you’ll be aware of my antipathy towards “cutesy, ditzy, cynically-designed characters with hack-written backstories that are supposed to make me ‘care’.”
Perhaps a little harsh, but anyone who has been gaming since the mid-1980s will probably sympathise, if not agree.
So imagine my surprise when I downloaded a copy of the Xbox Live title for Windows Phone, Little Acorns, only to discover that as platform games go, it isn’t half bad. Now, I don’t expect you to rush out and buy a $0.99/£0.79 game purely on this recommendation (although at that price it is easily one of the cheapest Xbox Live games available for Windows Phone), especially as you know nothing as yet about Mr Nibbles.
Yes, he’s cute, he’s loveable and he has a name that inspires dread.
But you’re still looking for that recommendation, so let’s move on…
What Is It?
As aims of games go, this one is pretty noble – guide Mr Nibbles through 80 different levels to collect nuts and fruit to put away for winter, thereby providing the family of squirrels with enough food. Spread across four years – with four seasons in each – this is a particularly long game for a mobile platform. Note the price too – this is value for money, based on price per minute of gameplay.
Different surfaces come into play at different times of year; for instance, Mr Nibbles becomes tough to control in the winter when he slides around on ice.
Hooks to swing on, rising and falling platforms and temporary floors that fall away are among the landscape items that can help and hinder your progress.
The real problem, however, are the other creatures in the woods who are out to stop Mr Nibbles…
Basic left, right and jump controls enable you to negotiate Mr Nibbles through the various challenges that are presented in Little Acorns, and thanks to the hooks (which can be latched onto using the jump button) there are many ways to get the squirrel through a level before the clock runs out, including some time bonuses.
Spiders and grey squirrels block Mr Nibbles’ way, but these can be overcome with speed boosts, jump powerups and a special helmet that makes the character impervious to damage for a few moments.
As platform games go, Little Acorns is extremely playable and a lot of fun. If you’re fortunate enough to complete a level before the clock runs down, there is also the opportunity to collect fruit for bonus points before you head to the level exit.
Twenty achievements can be unlocked in Little Acorns, each at 10G, resulting in an additional 200 for your Xbox Live Gamerscore – a great reason to have a Windows Phone.
Graphics and Sound
As mentioned earlier, Mr Nibbles is one of those “cute” platform characters, and this look extends to the entire game. Blending a 1950s cartoon art style with a modern smartphone results in a visually attractive game that is complemented by a suitably jazzy soundtrack.
Befitting a platform game, the actual in-game sound effects aren’t particularly impressive, but the soundtrack makes up for this – a particular bonus is you like a nice, slow jazz track with some added funky fuzz guitar.
Watch Your Little Acorns Grow!
This is the type of platform game that you really cannot go wrong with. The low price (check the game in the Windows Phone Marketplace to confirm this – prices can change!) and the cute design hide a game that can prove fiendishly difficult to complete. Some levels can be particularly tough, but the satisfaction in watching the acorns tumble into the squirrel’s tree after a level is completed is particularly warm.
Yes, I know they’re not real squirrels, but for all of his cuteness and hack back-story, I’ve grown quite fond of Mr Nibbles (so much so that Little Acorns is on MakeUseOf’s Best Windows Phone Apps list), and look forward to helping him through many more months of acorn collecting – at least until I’ve got all achievements unlocked and my 200G!