Week of Games: Number 1

Saturday 30 September (2006)

Well, here we are. A historic week of sustained consecutive posts, and a fine list of games, which you can view below. There remains but one.

What could it be? Perhaps Worms Armageddon, a game I have clocked up scores of hours playing? Or maybe that game is too annoying. It could be The Longest Journey, a point-and-click adventure game that told a story that was far too deep for its own good – but then, that Abnaxus really did piss me off. Maybe it’s Grand Theft Auto 3, another game that perfectly 3D-ified itself? Hellfire was great, but now we’re getting desperate. I’ve just realised that Toejam and Earl should have been at number 10, but alas, it is too late.

On with the show.

2. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) 
3. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (PC)
4. Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube)
5. Metal Gear Solid (Playstation)
6. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Gamecube)
7. Day of the Tentacle (PC)
8. Beyond Good & Evil (Gamecube)
9. Grim Fandango (PC)
10. Street Fighter 2 (SNES)

The Best Game Everlittle big adventure 2 (pc)

Before I start here, I need to point something out. Most of you have just seen this picture and either sighed a hearty sigh saying “I fucking knew he’d do that” or sprayed your [insert beverage] all over your monitor in angry surprise. Well, before you log onto IRC to bitch-slap me, hear me out. How many of you actually played this game back when it was new? How many of you played Beyond Good & Evil and knew where that Gallic sense of weirdness came from? Truly knew? I’m guessing not many. So shut up, and listen to why this is the greatest game of all time.

Little Big Adventure 2 is a simple and unassuming game. It arrived without fanfare, and quietly and confidently took its place on the shelf. Those who remembered the first LBA game would have been forgiven for thinking this was little more than a re-hash. After all the graphics didn’t look much improved in the three years between the two games, and despite the original being a rather excellent game, the saving method (God-forsaken save points) rendered it far too frustrating to ever realistically make a top-ten games list. But the magazines knew and trusted the French team who were behind it – the same team responsible for hits like Ecstatica and Alone in the Dark – and they had devoted pages previewing the game.

PC Gamer gave it 93%, and they put a playable demo on their monthly CD. My dad was a subscriber at the time, and when I read the review it sounded like LBA2 was a sort of 3D, action version of the LucasArts point-and-click games. What did I have to lose? I put the demo CD in the computer and booted it up. There was the main character, Twinsen. His wife Zoe told him that someone called Dinofly had just crashed in the back garden, and could Twinsen go and get some medicine for him? Sure. Let’s step outside.

Suddenly I’m in a completely 3D gameworld (like Mario 64) and it’s dark and raining. I realise I can control the character now, so I start moving around, selecting the ‘sporty mode’ to make Twinsen run. I jog around the corner and see an elephant strolling up the high street in a mac. I run up to him. This is just a demo, so I figure what the hell, and put Twinsen in agressive mode. I amble up to the elephant and punch him in the face. The elephant recoils in pain, before resuming his previous stance. He turns to me and… 

“Hello, Twinsen my friend!” he booms in a deep and friendly voice.

What the hell is this game?! I loved it from the very beginning.

As I explored the town further I was surprised to find that there was nothing to stop me from attacking an annoying child by kicking it off a roof, or indeed from doing anything. I was a game character, a hero, but I could do things that were completely out of character on a whim, as the player. I mean, if I’m playing a game like Monkey Island and I sail across three islands to pick an item up from a character, walking across dozens of screens, only to get there for that character to tell me to go back where I came from for the item, there’s a large part of me that would like to, out-of-character, punch this guy’s face in. Here, I could do it!

The game didn’t penalise you for these actions either, really – if you punched someone the chances are they’d punch you back, but after that there would be no grudge. The first thing I noticed besides the ‘do-anything-you-lie’ nature of the game was how every character seemed to be doing something. One bloke was walking around in the rain, and he would comment how peculiar the weather was on this island. Another elephant was up in the mountains picking mushrooms. Someone else was fishing. This world actually felt alive around me, which was something that was missing in most point-and-click games, where the only characters you’d see were ones who you needed to get something from.

Some would argue that the ability to attack anyone you like and then have a friendly conversation with them seconds later makes the game less realistic, but it’s actually, perversely, the opposite. The whimsical nature of the world you’re presented, where there are elephant-humanoids and rabbit-humanoids alongside normal people and weird little sphere-people, and there’s a talking cow in a field – all of these things add to the charm and give things even more of a whimsical flavour, which essentially makes the world more believable.

There are shops on the island, and a bar. In the bar, you can order drinks and talk to the patrons, and if you put the jukebox on people come and dance to the music. It felt like a real world – it was like Mario 64 but more ‘real’ – but it was different enough from our world to still feel alien. There were vehicles – from your friend Dinofly, to ferries, scooters, alien spaceships and, I can’t stress this enough; the car.

Twinsen has a car. He can drive it around the desert, and it’s about the most fun you can have in a game – it feels like a real car, but with all the whimsy of a Little Big Adventure game – it handles like a dream, it can tackle steep hills with ease, and like a real car it drastically cuts down your travel time. I’m not exaggerating to say that you could find yourself driving this car around for ages, just pretending you were really there. Shit, when I arrived where I was going I’d even find somewhere good to park the car, out of the way and preferrably in the shade.

I mentioned the desert there, and I should mention that this is on another island to the one you start out on. As a matter of fact, there are several islands for you to explore, all in complete 3D and equally alive as the first (on the desert island I mentioned, in typically French style, all the old blokes would be out playing pétanque on the beach – it was good fun to run across the game for them to call you a pest.) But that’s not all, because there are two other planets for you to explore.

This all happens because, like in Beyond Good & Evil after it, this game has a plot based around the single greatest fears of the French: being invaded, and fascist dictators. The dictator here is the baddie from the first LBA game, Funfrock (again a whimsical name) whereas the invaders are the Esmers. These guys land in a UFO near the start of the game, and although they preach friendliness and peace, as a player you begin to suspect that they are up to something suspicious. They look like the CIA, for one thing – they wear sunglasses and carry around guns, and they have big viscious dogs that attack if you get too close. They also seem to hide in dustbins, which is very odd.

Sure enough, they’re up to no good, and Twinsen’s friend Baldino (another elephant, seen in the above image in an orange spacesuit) builds a spaceship to head to the Esmer’s planet and find out what’s going on. But first the two have to travel to the Emerald Moon, which has been exhibiting some strange movements. When you arrive, you find an Esmer space-station, and a huge rocket which is going to propel the moon down onto the planet Twinsun (the home of our heroes.) So Twinsen and Baldino set off to the Esmer planet to put a stop to it all. When there, the scope of the game increases even further, from Casinos and Bars on some of the big islands, to slaves and ancient religions deep down underneath the ‘undergas’ – a section of the planet that is ‘off-limits.’

I played this game every day for hours, and I never got stuck once. It’s not that it’s not a challenging game, it just struck a chord with me, and I inherently understood the nature of the puzzles and how to solve them. Either way, it still took me weeks to finish the game, because it’s simply so huge. It’s like a cross between Monkey Island 2, with the island hopping adventurey feel of it all, and Mario 64 with the free-roaming 3D action fun it had. In 1997, this was the surprise best game of the year.

As time went on, it dated quickly. It began to show its age, and other games would come along and take the features of LBA2 but tighten them up -games like Beyond Good & Evil, with similar plots but a good deal less whimsy (in BGAE you uncover a secret plot, travel around a series of locations talking to people, end up going to the moon to see what’s happening, and then defeat an evil dictator – just like LBA2) come across as more polished, and LBA2 is allowed to be forgotten. This shouldn’t be allowed, because it has more scope and more ambition than any of the games that came after it. Those who decry its weak plot don’t get it – we don’t need to have a solid world to believe in ourselves as long as we understand that the characters believe in it. And it tries harder than any Mario game ever has, with their flimsy Bowser-has-kidnapped-the-princess plotlines.

Simply, there is no game which can touch Little Big Adventure 2. When people played Beyond Good & Evil they were blown away by how good it is. But when BGAE was released, it was only its playability, gameworld and story which were uniquely good. When LBA2 was released not only were its playability, gameworld and story uniquely good, but it was doing them all for the first time. A 3D point-and-click adventure game? An adventure game with fighting? Little Big Adventure 2 ticked all the boxes, and it took a long time for anyone else to try and do it again.

If you didn’t play this game when it was new, chances are you’ll never believe me how good this game actually is. It is, unequivocally, the best game ever made.


4 Responses to “Week of Games: Number 1”

  1. Huzbo Says:

    Hah what? I thought you’d denied that a LBA game would be in the top three. I make that two correct predictions out of three, and I could easily have foreseen Mario 64 if I’d tried hard enough!

    Never played this, or even heard much about it from anyone other than you, but you’ve certainly made it sound like a worthy contender for top spot. I wonder what would be top of your list if you tried to be totally objective, though – or was that your aim?

    I’d definitely have a hard time doing a top ten using any method more scientific than “how much I enjoyed them at the time”, which would naturally place MI2 astride all else. Or Grim Fandango. Or Frontier…. hmmm.

  2. stan Says:

    I said LBA wouldn’t be there – this is LBA 2 ;

    Without a list being a collaborative effort I think it will always end up being very subjective; in my case I based it on how many times I’ve returned to the game again. I know this sort of gives older games a slight advantage, but that can’t be helped.

    Grim Fandango for example – absolute genius, and at times I’d say the best adventure game ever made. The fact is I’ve only been able to complete it twice, compared to DOTT which I’ve played about four times, and Monkey Island 2 which I’ve played about seven times or something.

    Then take Smash Bros. – that’s a game I can always rely on to be fantastic fun (unlike Worms) and I must have clocked up hundreds of hours of play time. It’s limited in that you need a few other people to play, but when they’re there it’s an unmatched experience.

    But with the top two or three, they really need to be games which don’t rely on anything to work – if it was just you and that game, would you enjoy it? Monkey Island 2, absolutely – but because it’s story driven, it gets boring once you know the story too well. That’s not a problem with Mario 64, but after a while of playing that you begin to wish for some kind of story to go with all the action fun. That’s where LBA 2 fits in.

    I’d be lying if I said nostalgia was nothing to do with it, and I can very easily see how people would find fault with the game, but when it was new – wow.

  3. Creggmaster Says:

    Thank you! Twinsen’s Odyssey is my favorite game of all time and is what truly introduced me to videogames. I still have yet to come across a game as magical as twinsen. The only other game that gives me somewhat of a magic feeling is Kingdom Hearts. I nee to check out Beyond Good and Evil.

  4. Ali from iran Says:

    The little big adventure 2 is the best adventure game that I have ever seen and besides I thinks it’s one of the top 20 games of the world. and to night when I saw that some one else have the same idea with me and define the game that emotionaly I got impressed.
    good games are: Resident evil , syphon* filter, lba, the city of lost children, elderado, dino crisis, and ….

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