Side scrolling platform games really take me back to my childhood days. Being able to continuously play level after level and only every really going right was some of the most fun I had growing up. Little Bug, from Buddy System and FIG Publishing, reminded me of those times. Expect it came with a lot more frustration. Little Bug is a platform adventure game created by Bela Messex and Hana Harada using their love of art, nature, and social advocacy. When both thought there was a lack of diverse female protagonists within the gaming world, Nyah was created and around her the rest of the game.
The game follows young Nyah, a city girl, as she is dropped into a mysterious world and must find her way home. Along the way she finds treasures that remind her of home and her family. Using a mysterious light and her telekinetic power she can swing from place to place, avoiding troublesome spirits, climb mountains and even light her way home.
The first thing that really threw me for a loop was the “gamepad recommended” screen that came up in the opening credits. It might just be me, but I feel that if a game is created for the computer it should be built around the idea that most people are going to be playing with a mouse and keyboard. I get the feeling that this was not the case. During game play, you control Nyah with the A and D key and you control her light companion with the left, right, up and down arrow keys. I would get mixed up at times and forget which set was which and send Nyah down into the pit of hands. I don’t own a game controller so I was unable to test if playing would be easier, however I get the feeling that it would have been.
During the game their are times you will need to not only being moving Nyah but also be moving the light companion at the same time. This would be extremely difficult especially since you have to incorporate hitting the space bar in order to create the link that allows Nyah to swing. However difficult this mechanic might have been at times, I actually loved it. I was afraid in the beginning that it was just going to be another plain side scrolling plat former however with the addition of the light, it felt completely different. I would have to get up and walk away at times, but the challenge never stopped me from coming back to the game.
Little Bug has some fantastic visual elements that really tie the theme into the game itself. The game itself is dim to simulate night and it allows the colors from the light companions and neon hands and enemies to really stand out. The enemies themselves are very simple, tall thin and completely shadow which is a drastic difference from Nyah and her light. This clearly creates a light in the dark feel in both visual and emotional view. My only complaint is that at times it was a bit hard to see where floors were unless I pulled the light closer in the show the way. The audio is simple and at times would really help to ease my stress when things got tough. The game is one of, if not the best, visually striking indie games I have played.
One of the things that kind of always let me down with platformers is that they can fall flat when it comes to story. However Little Bug is built around the story of Nyah and her quest home. Their is quite a bit in the beginning when she is getting off the bus and you have to lead her to the apartment. Here we realize that Nyah has a rather large imagination and probably gets in trouble quite a bit with her mother because of it. You can also see how overwhelmed her mom must be and how she reacts to Nyah. Throughout the game when you find treasures, she always thinks back to her mother and happier times. This makes needing to complete the game so much more important.
While the only two playable characters during the game are Nyah and her light companion, there are several others we get to see. Messex and Harada do a fantastic job of creating a world that allows us to see into Nyah’s emotions. It isn’t just trails and roads she is traveling, it is broken pieces of her life. The enemies are all something she might fear, the hands and the strange beings chasing her. Each one to me doesn’t feel like it was added because they needed something new, but a well thought out design that helped grow the narrative.
I truly enjoyed playing Little Bug for the story and visual elements. However the mechanics and difficulty of the game made it hard to play for long periods of time. When I first started playing it was easy to get lost in how beautiful the world was. It was also fun playing around with how far I could swing myself or how long it would take before the light companion would drop me. Once things got too difficult and I kept dying to hands or creepy people or the other enemies, it became less fun.
What they did right is the constant check points you come across. These saves really make dying less painful, since I only had to repeat a short part of the game before hitting the hard part again. I would honestly say that if every time you died you were taken back to the beginning, I would have played far less. Little Bug is available on Steam here for only $9.99 on PC. I would definitely recommend adding this game to your collection, not only because it has such a low cost right now but is a great game for something in between a much longer more intense game you might be playing.