I’ve covered many titles by RedDeerGames now, and they never cease to surprise me with their vast selection of games. This year they’ve been releasing some pretty solid titles on a consistent basis, and it has been enjoyable waiting to see what is next in store.

And so when I stepped back a little to play one of their earlier offerings, Little Bug, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It looked like a cute little platformer with a great visual style, and that’s all I was expecting.

I was not expecting it to be just so damn unique.

Many thanks to RedDeerGames for the review code.

NYAH CAT
Nyah, the young protagonist, stumbles across a dead kitty on her way home from school, which promptly sends her active imagination into overdrive. As she continues her journey, she finds some odds relics that she can either store in her lunchbox or offer to the wandering feline spirit that always seems to be near. If that wasn’t enough, she’s learnt how to fly with the help of a bright light that seems to be following her. It has been quite an eventful day for the eight year old.

Her mother isn’t best pleased however, who promptly tells her off upon her return for being so late. After a bit of an argument, Nyah finds herself plunged into an oppressive world that she then has to find her way out of in an attempt to get back home.

It’s a charming story, if a tad predictable with its resolution, although Nyah is such a likeable protagonist that you won’t really mind that much. She’s got a vibrant imagination and is always commenting on the things happening around her, so it’s hard not to root for her.  

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A LITTLE BUG’S LIFE
Calling Little Bug a platformer would be doing it a little bit of a disservice. What is a platformer if it isn’t about jumping between platforms? You see, what makes Little Bug stand out is that Nyah can’t jump at all. Heck, she can’t even mount the smallest of ledges for some unbeknown reason. What she does have is a friend: a ball of light that she can tether herself to and pull herself towards. It works a little bit like a grapple, except its use is relatively limited as you can only connect to it briefly before needing to recharge your connection. This tether replaces your jump, and can be a bit unwieldly at first until you get used to it.

After being introduced to the tethering via static points, you’ll soon gain the ability to control it directly with the right stick. Whilst this ball of light can be moved around anywhere on screen, you’ll soon learn that it does not pass through objects or enemies. It’s a jarring limitation at first, but it works in the game’s favour as puzzles and platforming challenges are built around it. Whilst there are no levels as such, there is definitely an evolution in the mechanics that give you the feeling of each area having certain types of puzzles around a particular theme. It’s all seamless and there’s a good sense of difficulty progression as you swing around the world. Thankfully there are checkpoints scattered generously throughout to help mitigate any frustration involved with your inevitable frequent deaths. The game is tough, and controlling the spirit and Nyah at the same time can be pretty overwhelming, so it’s nice to see that the game makes sure you don’t have to replay too much when you mess up. The only real exception to this is the final gauntlet at the end of the game, which – whilst not very long – doesn’t have any checkpoints at all. It makes this final area a bit of a hassle compared to the rest, especially as a checkpoint at the midway point would have solved the problem entirely. Nevertheless, it’s one minor pacing issue in an otherwise well-paced game.

Whilst the gameplay itself is fun, the real star of the show is the stunning visual style. The game is pretty dark most of the time, but there’s a lot of lighting provided by the dangers that lurk within. Giant neon hands, glistening ice, and the shine of the moon in the background stand out well amongst the nighttime setting. It has a very distinct visual style that you’ll remember for a long time to come. The developers did a great job with the aesthetics overall, and even the tall shadowy creatures that you need to evade give off a very sinister aura and fit the world well.

It’s such a shame then that the game is incredibly short. It takes about an hour to beat, although there are unlockable stages for those who find enough of the collectibles. It’s good that the game never outstays its welcome, but the problem is that it ends as soon as you start feeling comfortable with how the mechanics work. I loved my time in Nyah’s twisted fantasy world, and it was a shame that I had to leave it so soon.

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A short but sweet experience. Little Bug has a cute gimmick and offers some surprisingly tough platform challenges during its brief runtime. Frequent checkpoints limit any frustration caused by deaths, even if the finale decides to forgo them with an unforgiving gauntlet. Regardless, platforming fans should check out this charming little game when it’s on sale!