I’ve played many Point and Click adventure games that have covered a wide array of situations, from pirates to evil tentacles, whip-toting archaeologists to curious little robots. This is the first time I’ve played a point and click adventure that deals with dark, adult themes, namely death, alcoholism and domestic abuse. The game is Little Kite developed and published by Anate Studios.
During the first few storyboard screenshots of the game you are introduced to Mary, her husband and her son Andrew. When the husband dies in a car crash Mary is left alone with Andrew, and eventually she marries Oliver in the hope that she’ll once again have a family. However, with Oliver’s inability to manage everyday life, he takes up drinking and becomes increasingly violent towards them.
The game takes you through two different stories. That of Mary, who’s patience and inaction, have become so habitual and convenient for everyone but little Andrew, and Andrew himself who’s story is driven by a number of dreamlike imagination scenes, where he learns to deal with the chaos and despair around him.
Like I said, these are pretty upsetting adult topics. Even from the very start of the game I was trying to use every object I could on Oliver, hoping that one of them would knock him out. I was even attempting this with the toy dinosaur, which unsurprisingly didn’t work.
The gameplay itself is a fairly simple point and click adventure affair. You walk through a variety of fairly static scenes, picking up, and using objects to help you solve a variety of puzzles. There are two slight differences that Anate Studios have included that separate this from the run-of-the-mill.
Firstly, there is an icon of an eye that when clicked will show you all the interaction points in that scene. My one gripe with this is that they soon disappear meaning you spend a lot of time clicking on this eye icon. I would have preferred it to be toggle, so you can turn them all on and off at will. It’s a tiny gripe, and doesn’t detract from the game.
The other difference I referred to earlier is that Little Kite is seen through two viewpoints. The first is the rather mundane view of Mary where we follow her performing fairly ordinary tasks in order to just get by. The first puzzle involves making a sandwich for example, there’s another one about escaping the kitchen, that Oliver has locked her in.
The second view-point is the dream-like imagination of Andrew. When following Andrew within his imagination, the puzzles are more surreal. You have to get crows out of cages, move plug sockets around, and burst rubber balls so cranes can move.
The two viewpoints provide an interesting dichotomy between how two people are dealing with the same situation and from a gameplay standpoint it helps to keep things interesting.
There are also a variety of non-object related puzzles as well. There are slider puzzles, pipe-mania style connection puzzles and a few others that provide just that bit of difference from all the other point and click games.
One thing that is a little annoying is that the saves are done at various points during the game often just as you’re changing scenes. So, when I ran out of time and had to exit the game halfway through a scene, I’d lose all my progress after that last autosave. Being able to save at any point would help to remove that particular annoyance.
Graphically, the cartoon, ink drawing style of Little Kite works really well. Plus, the colour palette used for the games continues the theme of despair. Most of the palette is dull, using lots of shades of beige, brown, and grey. It’s like the entire game has been given a good coating of Depression Paint. Even Andrew’s dream-sequence scenes, though slightly more colourful than Mary’s scenes are still quite subdued. This isn’t an insult, fair from it, I think the style of the game is beautiful and depicts the main storyline perfectly.
The way that the storyline is pushed along via comic-book style image panels adds even more punch to the game’s theme.
There’s no speech in the game, so conversations are portrayed via speech bubbles, but the sound effect combined with the visual effects above are implemented brilliantly. There’s a screen that shows Mary, her husband and Andrew, you hear tire screeches, and a car smashing sound, while impact cracks appear on the photograph on the husband’s face. All well-timed, and instantly delivers the tragic message.
The music is beautiful, and happily sits on the background of this game stirring emotions but never wanting second stage. You can buy the soundtrack for around £2 if you become as much of a fan as me.
Little Kite, like many other Point and Click adventures, struggle a little to get the difficulty balance right between the puzzles. Some puzzles are so obvious that it takes no thought at all, where others are reliant on random chance. There’s one puzzle, again the crow in the cage, where you have to move the three pictogram dials to show the correct sequence of three images. I eventually figured it out by trial and error, but if there was a useful hint help somewhere else I couldn’t find it.
Difficulty is subjective however, so it’s probably a good thing that there are puzzles of many levels of difficulty within Little Kite. So that everyone gets a bit of everything.