Review: Little Acorns

Mr. Nibbles and his squirrel family have been gathering nuts to last through the winter, but their efforts are continually foiled by spiders, bumblebees, and other hazards in the forest they call home. Chillingo’s latest platformer Little Acorns is a family-friendly adventure that’s accessible to both hardcore and casual players. Unfortunately, it goes a little nuts when it comes to touch-controlled platforming.

The glasses-clad squirrel patriarch takes it upon himself to collect the family’s food stores, zipping from branch to branch and avoiding pesky woodland inhabitants that stand in his way. And it couldn’t be simpler to jump right in: onscreen touch controls (a directional pad and jump button) regulate his every move.

Your mission is clear-cut from the very beginning: collect all the acorns before time runs out, then head to the exit door. As difficulty ramps up in subsequent stages, additional objectives and obstacles are tossed in to keep you on your toes. By the end of stage two, pieces of fruit appear in addition to acorns. Collect them all and you’ll get an accessory for Mr. Nibbles: a hat, a mustache, or even a different color of rope to swing from.

Amidst all this collecting you still have enemy creatures to deal with. Fortunately, they don’t take any lives or force you to start over. Touch one instead of bopping it on the head and you’ll only be slowed down for a brief period of time.

It’s prudent to make every move count, but when Mr. Nibbles doesn’t run so much as glide from point A to point B, that can be quite difficult. Long leaps and precision jumps from disappearing platforms are the norm, and Little Acorns simply doesn’t give you the tightness you’d expect. It feels floaty and loose, so learning to swing across large gaps using Mr. Nibbles’ momentum can be difficult.

When you find yourself forced to retrace steps to pick up valuable acorns, you’ll wish for mechanics similar to that of Mario or other platformers that feel much weightier than Little Acorns. Later levels offer Mr. Nibbles super speed, high-powered jumps, and other power-ups that aid in making the sojourn for nuts a cinch– or at least, they would, if you weren’t fighting against them so often.

Thankfully, until the later stages of the game, these issues aren’t insurmountable. You might rage-quit due to the control issues and vow never to play the game again like angry gamers are apt to do, but you’ll probably come back due to the addictive nature of the acorn-collecting and “just one more stage” mentality. A funky soundtrack and clean, angular visuals go far to set this one out from the pack, and it’s great to pass around between friends and family members for a quick-hit challenge.

Little Acorns may not be a textbook example for excellent platforming mechanics, but it’s still a perfectly serviceable adventure that’s great for small chunks of on-the-go acorn hoarding. Give it a try, even if only to see a squirrel in a bowler hat. It’s a beautiful thing.

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