Thank you IGN for the positive words!
REVIEWED ON PC / SEPT. 28, 2018
LITTLE BUG REVIEW
This game promises "simple controls, complex mechanics" and they delivered!
BY NATASHA HASHIM
Delve into the story of Nyah, an 8 year old girl who loves exploring nature and studying science, in Little Bug. Little Bug is an indie platformer adventure game for the PC by Buddy System. You can find the game on Steam, Itch.io and Gamejolt for $9.99 USD.
The game is a 2D platformer, described as a game with simple controls and complex gameplay. And boy, did they nail that tagline right.
The goal of the game is very simple: Get Nyah home. However, it is not as easy as it looks. The game carries stunning graphics and a very catchy soundtrack that shifts and changes according to the tone of the game. With an artstyle and graphics that are very colourful and interesting, Little Bug definitely is setting the bar on how much more interesting indie games can be, especially when it comes to gathering lore and stories behind the game.
The game starts off with Nyah stumbling upon the remains of a dead cat as she was on her way home from school. She notices another cat in the distance which looked similar to the dead one she had found. She follows it and leads her to a dark and mysterious area where things are not friendly. There, she meets a friendly ball of light, a spirit, if you'd rather, which helps her find her way home.
As she is about to reach home, she overhears her mother speaking on the phone to her grandmother, complaining about Nyah’s behaviour of constantly filling her lunchbox with dirt and other weird things. When she walks in, she is scolded by her mother for coming home late. Nyah tries to explain to her mother that she found a dead cat on her way home but her mother would not hear it, and accused her of putting the dead animal into her lunchbox. As a result, Nyah gets excited and upset, raising her voice so that her mother would for once, listen to her and not always be so engrossed with her baby brother. From here, we can tell there is a tension in the family and her mother calls her a “Little Bug” because she is a nuisance and tells her to leave her alone. This is, where I presume, where the title of the game came from, the name her mother uses to insult her.
The world suddenly began to shift and Nyah is thrown out of her home into a moonlit desert which had a very foreboding atmosphere. The spirit is once again there, wanting to help her find her way home to her mother.
From the get go, the players will already know the gist of the story. Nyah has a troubled relationship with her mother, presumably, due to the absence of her father in her life. Likely, she is also very jealous of her baby brother, due to the lack of attention her mother has for her since he was born.
What makes the game very interesting story-wise is how you find out bits and pieces of Nyah’s past and life. In order to have a deeper understanding as well as form a bond to Nyah, players need to find “treasures” around the map as they make their way home and place it in Nyah’s lunchbox. Yes, the same lunchbox that her mother had complained she was placing weird things into. Clearly you can tell that each item in there holds a significance to Nyah and her memories and that is how us, as the player, can delve into Nyah’s story in greater detail. However, finding these treasures are not as easy as it seems. Some treasures will be right there within reach and some, well, they require a little more extra effort to retrieve and are definitely worth grabbing.
The game boasts the tagline: Simple controls, complex gameplay. And as said before, we definitely agree with that tagline given to the game. The controls are easy: press A and D to move left or right, press X to access the lunchbox, ESC to access the pause menu, ENTER to confirm. You can control the spirit or, ball of light, if you would rather call it that, with the arrow keys. But wait, something is missing. Yes, there is no jump button. Jumping and moving in Little Bug is very unique. To move across obstacles, Nyah requires the help of the spirit which moves her with a beam of telekinesis. A press of the spacebar will shoot a beam from the spirit to Nyah which pulls her toward it and swings her in any direction off the ground.
The beam can break certain obstacles between them, specifically, light blue coloured transparent blocks between them to help Nyah go through. However, the beam has limitations. It cannot go through solid objects and it can only pull and hold Nyah for a limited amount of time before it beam gives way and drops her back down again. Do note that the game supports joypads and for the best experience, recommends using it.
And that is where the game gets a somewhat challenging. Jumping Nyah over obstacles is one thing, making sure your timing is right is another. The game’s obstacles are no limited to jumping over large areas but also avoiding, dodging and getting timings right in order to pass through obstacles. You not only have to make sure Nyah’s positioning is correct, you must also make sure your spirit’s positioning and beam timing is correct as well.
You can jump Nyah over obstacles, pull her through traps, swing her over chasms and help her dodge enemies. Patience is definitely a key aspect in this game as you will be seeing yourself try to clear some areas over and over.
Some "enemies" have a an area marked around them which shows where exactly they would notice and react to Nyah when she moves toward them. This is a very interesting mechanic in the game and it definitely should be something to note as it helps you progress.
On the bright side (see what I did there?), there are parts of the game that you will find hanging light bulbs around the area. Those light bulbs offer a hint on where the spirit should be at to help you clear the obstacles in the area.
Another thing that makes the game unique is how Nyah reacts to failing obstacles multiple times. She will mention how that was an “ouchie” and wonders if she “will be there forever”. She will also comment on how everything in the area is unfriendly, that she will make it through in the next try and so on. That definitely makes you empathise with the girl and want to try even harder to pass obstacles.
Enemies in the game are not what you expect it to be. Sure, at first you will see silhouettes of creepy, black coloured, long and lanky shadows with red eyes chasing after you. Eventually, the “enemies” are neon pink coloured body parts scattered around the map, which are your obstacles. By body parts I mean, random eyeballs with acidic tears that drip on you, fingers that block your path when the beam is pointed toward Nyah, bright neon feet that try to stomp on you, and hands that try to swat, punch, and chase after you through the game. That is when your creative thinking skills as well as timing come into play to ensure that you get through each stage seamlessly.
A feature that I wished the game had is the ability to either zoom out or change the POV between the two characters. At certain times, it is needed for you to be able to look further ahead to plan your move, timings and jumps. The mechanics they have right now makes you go through a lot of trial and error, which can be a little frustrating, especially at longer obstacles that require you to think and move fast.
Candles are the game’s checkpoints. Fail an area and respawn there. Certain areas have many candles around which is a relief to me as I don’t have to redo obstacles over and over again too much. Some places have barely any candles around and you find yourself starting over from far, far away. It can be frustrating, especially if you finally got through the some particularly tough obstacles, yet, very rewarding when you reach the end. It is a very nice feeling.
Remember the treasures I mentioned earlier? They are more than just a way delve into Nyah’s past memories. They are also bonus levels that you unlock as you find the treasures. Each treasure has an aura (if you’d like to call it that) around it and each of them represents a bonus level. Some of them are extremely hard, and some of them, incredibly simple. The bonus levels can be found on the main menu, under the “Altar” tab - which at first, I thought was just a list showing the treasures that you have found. I wish they were a little more clear on that!
The world in Little Bug was built to represent how Nyah sees the world. The world is beautiful yet carries a very foreboding feel about it. The design of the world is whimsical, weird and dark at times.
The artstyle of the game is mesmerizing. A lot of thought and detail had been put into the creation of the game’s world. Many say that a game itself can be considered moving art, and this game is definitely one of them. The art style is very modern with a very simplistic element to it. However, I wouldn’t simply peg the word simple to how the graphics of the game is either.
How the “enemies” of the game are created, one look, and you can tell that they are bad. Obviously, the black coloured, tall man with the red eyes would be considered as “bad” from the start. Other things I’d like to point out are the neon pink body parts. One look at them and you feel a foreboding feeling, telling you stay away from them. Some enemies are outright weird and creepy. There are hands that shoot out their fingers tips at Nyah, like creepy, bleeding missiles.
The cartoony vibes the game has gives the game personality. To be specific, paints a very interesting way Nyah views the world and in turn, how that affects her and her attitude toward it.
With a game that can get you frustrated due to the tough obstacles, you’d find it very hard to get upset with the calming, yet catchy music in the game. The music is what I would describe as “very chill” but not too calming to the point that it lulls you to sleep.
The beat is catchy, and in a way, helped me concentrate better on the game. Did I mention that the music is incredibly beautiful? However, the music does not stay beautiful all the time. As the tone of the game shifts and changes, so does the music. When times get very dark and foreboding, the soundtrack slows down and shifts to reflect that. When Nyah is walking in the clouds, the music plays a song that makes you feel very light, almost like you, yourself are in the clouds yourself. In a better way, the soundtrack of the game helps you immerse yourself into the game as well as the world Buddy System had built.
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Little Bug is a story that is about a misunderstood girl who just wants to spend time with her mother, trying to make her way back home with the help of a spirit. The main focus of the game is a “simple game, complex gameplay” and they delivered it. Beautifully, may I add.There are a few qualms I have in regards to how spread out certain checkpoints can be as well as with how the game could have done the story telling a little better, instead of just relying on the treasures for a more seamless way of storytelling with the treasures for those who are interested in learning more about Nyah’s life. That said, it is possible to have a basic understanding of the storyline without getting all of the treasures but personally, finding all the treasures and delving more into her past makes her a lot more likeable and builds empathy to the life she lives in.
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