Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo
3DS Download | Pixel Toys / Team Pesky | 1 Player | Out Now | $7.99 / £4.99
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18th April 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
Developed by Pixel Toys, Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo affixes firmly a single hat on the heads of those who choose to engage with it, never diversifying from its fairly traditional plane. Some may look at this and see this as a short-sighted move. I, however, see this as being more than just a cautious fail-safe. Lest it be labelled as linear, Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo's design is enough of a testimony to the game being cohesive in every way, and on the basis of its unstated rationale, it's fair to say that its decidedly breezy approach has been more of a help than a hindrance.
Unable to hibernate peacefully with his family without adequate rations, Mr. Nibbles, as head of his household, leaves his abode in search of acorns that have been pilfered by mischievous creatures. The game structure tracks Mr. Nibbles' adventures across a three-year time frame, having you complete four levels per season before concluding with a bonus level where you recover jumpy squirrel babies. The last level in the winter will switch this out for a boss battle that has you racing an enlarged form of one of the creatures you've encountered in your travels. How you go about scavenging these goods isn't anything out of the ordinary. With gameplay fashioned as a platformer, players run and jump across platforms to retrieve acorns tauntingly left out in the open, with Mr. Nibbles moving at a fair though slightly stiff pace. The objective is to reach the exit with all of them in tow before time elapses.
Just with this basic understanding in place, Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo may give the impression of a ho-hum model, but before this thought even enters your head, you are introduced to what is really the main mechanic at the heart of the game's design -- that of linking onto circular grapple points. Connecting to one of these points is a matter of pressing the same button designated for jumping (an action for which both the A and B Buttons are eligible), and from there, the only variables you have to worry about are elevation and momentum. With the exception of flying enemies that may try to break this chain, nothing further plays a role, making the game measurably accessible.
That being the case, it's up to the level design, then, to give the game some kind of coordination and to leverage the mechanic so that it shapes into a hook. And for the most part, Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo succeeds in this regard. Although platforming arrangements aren't especially sharp, it's a common case of acrobatics being levied, not only for the purposes of interacting with the environment, but also to work in something tangible that can be pointed to as an attribute that sustains the design and helps it grow in small spurts. While there will be cases where well-timed moves will allow you to influence the conditions of a level to your benefit and with style, this is all with the caveat that you won't ever feel like a talented circus platformer, seeing as there isn't much margin for failure or disruption -- there's no life system present, making the only self-inflicted way to a Game Over be if you fall into a water trap or down a hole in the floor.
On less broad terms, there are specific cases where enemy placement is executed strategically, periodically being used as a scare tactic or to lead you away from a path and have you come out at another end instead. In line with this, invincibility and speed power-ups made available in certain levels encourage more speedy reactions and test how much of the surface tension you can clear away during these temporary states. Moving platforms, springs and grapple points situated in mid-air are also used in later levels to evoke some planning and create more puzzle-oriented arrangements, thereby contributing to an environment that feels strangely mechanical for the game's natural setting. But generally, the organic feel does remain. With all that said, the game never steps out of its territory, and so while it is adapted nicely to a casual, fun-loving audience and has resulted in a very user-friendly set of rules, these same rules simultaneously box the game in and make it unable to really flourish in more impactful terms.
Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo has some fun graphic design that uses 3D visuals well to enhance the 2D perspective, along with having modest quirks that are in connection with the game's easygoing personality. Carrying its own cutesy charm, too, is the funky music that is heard across the entire adventure -- and actually if you've played LEGO City: Undercover, those same vibes you detected translate here but in smaller quantities. The action is smooth, sound effects are tasteful, and really there aren't any concerns to speak of in this area. This isn't to say that everything is executed to a tee; just that everything encompassed by the game's presentation is unified, having a more muted strength in how it corresponds and doesn't interfere with the design.
For those wondering what the "Turbo" in the title refers to, the game features a separate component known as Turbo Mode where you can tackle every single stage with Mr. Nibbles moving at a faster pace. Admittedly, I expected more from the speed and felt there wasn't enough there to justify as strong of a commitment to seeing the game to the end; the standard supply of content was sufficient for my tastes. On that note, there are three duties to be accomplished in each level aside from just collecting all the acorns. These are: clear within a stricter time restriction, collect the five fruits that appear after obtaining the final acorn, and defeat all enemies. Themed get-ups and accessories do provide an added incentive to shoot for these awards, but they do just fine at being motivating on their own. 10 race-to-the-finish challenges are also available, each offering three variations that adhere to the same award system just mentioned (minus the enemy condition). So all in all, the longevity on offer is very satisfying.
In the final analysis, Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo won't be seen as an especially creative effort, due to it not breaking away considerably from ordinary conventions. And it's unlikely to generate a glowing response from anyone who places due emphasis on being surprised or thrown out of their comfort zone. But for its make, Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo has seen to pleasing execution, and it sure is one that younger players will especially find captivating -- older gamers finding it mildly so. As a sound and playful platformer with disciplined design and much replayability, Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo deserves a look.
24/30 - Very Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Main mechanic produces a hook, feel in control of how you approach stages, good design helped by acrobatics and enemy placement
Presentation 8/10 - Welcoming atmosphere with modest quirks, consistent and smooth, 3D enhances visuals, music carries its own charm
Enjoyment 4/5 - Younger audiences will enjoy it most, remains accessible and cohesive in every way, design contributes to a positive environment
Extra Content 5/5 - Motivating award system applied to the many levels, Turbo Mode available for a second outing, decent challenges, very replayable
Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System