The list of games with former lives on phones or handhelds making the transition to consoles is long. The track record for success, though, is spotty. Various reasons abound. Sometimes the magic is lost in the translation, or the gameplay loses its luster in the switch to a new style. For the most part, I prefer to do my gaming with a controller, which has got to one of the chief motivating factors in porting to console. Well, that and money, probably. More than just a welcome increase to screen-size, Little Acorns Deluxe (80 MSP) is a pretty good example of a touch platformer that feels more solid and ‘at-home’ on console.
LAD’s visuals and concept are kid-friendly, bright and chipper, so its ‘other life’ as an iOS title isn’t surprising. The game plays like a mobile one would, leaving most of the challenge at the door and instead erring on the side of simple (but tight) controls and enjoyable collection; in this case, fittingly, acorns. Mr. Nibbles (their name, not mine) needs to feed a growing family. How else but to burn the candle at both ends across several stages ripe for the picking and gather ye acorns while ye may, stomping enemies on the head as you go along?
If you’ve played any platformer from the NES onward, you’ll be instantly accustomed. Outside of a jump button and the ability to swing by latching a rope onto preset points, the game keeps things as breezy as possible (again, a side effect of the once-touch controls). Hazards are kept to a minimum. Avoid water, bop an enemy to take him down, so on and so on. A timer (picking up clocks increases your limit, naturally) ticks off on each stage, though you’ll never be in any serious danger of hitting zero.
Scattered powerups will give you temporary effects, such as added jump height, a boost to speed, or a helmet that turns you into a one-squirrel wrecking ball against enemies and weaker walls. As further incentive, capturing the fruit that appears after you’ve rounded up a level’s acorns will unlock outfit pieces for your squirrel. It’s cosmetic only, but I never miss the chance to dress up wildlife against their will.
Sometimes the game flips the script and throws in baby squirrels for you to round up, or a boss race / chase to close out the year, though it’s really all about the acorns. And with a visual hourglass marking your progress after each stage, it’s satisfying watching your mound of acorns grow. Acquiring a set amount of will advance the scheme of seasoned levels forward one year, which increases the difficulty and adds new tricks and their required acrobatic feats, but never too much that it rains on your continuous acorn parade.
Whether you’ve played it previously or not, Little Acorns Deluxe will undoubtedly feel better with a controller in hand. The added local co-op is a nice gesture, though it’s the holdover gameplay and level design from the mobile version that will do all the selling. It’s a large game with plenty of levels (80) and side content to be had, with a light personality and balance that always favors fun. I have no objections. So far as squirrel-based platformers go, it’s one of the more enjoyable.