The title Tiny and Big in Grandpa’s Leftovers refers to our goggled hero, Tiny, and his power-mad brother, Big, who’s stolen (and subsequently worn on his head) a magical pair of underwear. In a more metaphorical sense, “tiny” represents the game itself—six levels, which take slightly more than three hours to complete—and “big” the amount of love and charm that went into hand-crafting the physics-based mechanics, Borderlands-like environment, and exotic soundtrack (18 songs submitted by indie artists, which you’ll collect as you advance through the game). Unfortunately, the platforming gameplay and third-person aiming feel like the “leftovers,” as they rarely work well together.
Guided by a radio and an interactive training manual that uses, for some reason, Gameboy-style animation, your basic goal is to follow a trail of “boring” stones (their poor choice of words, not mine). As you navigate a temple in the middle of a desert wasteland, objects inevitably get in your way, at which point you’ll have to use a grappling hook to pull, a laser beam to cut, or a miniature rocket booster to propel them, often into some sort of staircase. Exploring the landscape is fun, as there are hidden “god plates” and silly achievements behind solid-seeming nooks and in just-out-of-reach crannies, but actually manipulating the objects to get there is a tireless chore, complicated by the poor checkpoint system and the overly sensitive character movement, which will frequently send you plummeting to your death—assuming you haven’t already crushed yourself in an accidental, laser-triggered avalanche.
The story also does little to propel you further. You’re chasing Big, and each time you catch him, you’re forced into a frustrating boss battle in which he flings giant boulders at you while you try to slice apart the platform he’s standing on. This is particularly annoying given that the laser is operated by holding down the left mouse button and then dragging, which extends the line outward from your selected midpoint. Should you make too broad of a slice (you can cut only through entire objects, not segments), you’ll watch your character stubbornly stand there, cutting away even as he’s crushed to death. In any case, it’s not the sort of epic confrontation one looks forward to; couple that with the repetition of levels and solutions and there’s often little reason to continue playing. The one exception is the fifth level, which has you descending rather than climbing—but rather than allow you to enjoy the experience, the developers plunge the entire level into darkness, turning complex cuts into literal shots in the dark.
It should be noted that I’m not particularly good with slicing mechanics, so it’s possible I overcomplicated some of the solutions; the built-in leaderboard (which tracks speed runs, rock collection, and tool usage) certainly seems to think so. If that’s true, however, it speaks only to the general inaccessibility of the gameplay: There’s no deeper tutorial or training offered, save for some extremely useful tips on the often ignored loading screen, and rarely any hint markers that suggest viable paths or useful angles at which to cut. (I stuck mainly to a scalable 40° gradient, with no real variation, for the entirety of the game.)
Frustration aside, the aesthetic—which extends all the way to wacky font choices and cryptic hieroglyphics—is charming and enjoyable. And in truth, even with control issues slowing the best of players down, Tiny and Big is at worst only a little waste of time.