Many gems go unnoticed in the overcrowded AppStore and one of the games you may have overlooked in the last few years is Tiny Thief; a charming point and click adventure game from Alike Studio. In the years since Tiny Thief’s release, the Barcelona-based dev consisting of twin brothers have been working alongside Pati Games on its spiritual successor: Love You To Bits, which is now out on iOS devices with Andorid, PC and Mac versions to follow in the near future.
From the opening of Love You To Bits we’re immediately introduced to Kosmo; a clumsy human space explorer and his more refined android girlfriend Nova. We find them on their spaceship; battered and bruised by the onslaught of lasers from a fleet of enemy ships. Before their foes are sucked into a newly-opened wormhole, the main cruiser of the fleet fires a fatal blow, obliterating half of the ship and causing Nova’s mechanical body to explode into pieces. Despite his efforts to save her, Kosmo awakes to find that only the head of his robotic girlfriend remains. Distraught, he hops into his smaller vessel in order to travel across the galaxy and recover her shattered pieces, mending her and thus mending their broken bond.
The gameplay in Love You To Bits is iterative of typical point and click design with inventory-based puzzles and item combination. Right off the bat you’re introduced to the simple mechanics and controls. Tapping an area of the screen directs Kosmo to move to that position. If an object can be interacted with a small icon with a hand will appear on it. Clicking the hand icon will either cause Kosmo to pick up the object and store it in the inventory or shrug or shake his head if the action is not available at the time, usually because you haven’t yet acquired a particular item that can be combined with it. If an object in your surroundings can be combined with an item in your inventory, an icon containing the picture of said item will be displayed. The interactive objects are easy to locate since they are given a stronger outline than environmental props in the background, eliminating the rather egregious act of pixel hunting that most point and clicks succumb to.
The main objective of Love You To Bits is to find one of the several appendages from Nova’s body on a series of different planets. The game has a level-by-level format; you must complete this principal objective on each planet in order to unlock the next and planets can be revisited at any time. About the first third of the game’s levels are played out on a single screen but the further you progress, the more each level opens out and takes place on multiple screens.
With the premise of the game revolving around space travel, the developer has been afforded some creative freedom and artistic license and have therefore managed to create the most eccentric and diverse range of settings, characters and environments. There’s a tropical, time-jumping planet inhabited by apes, a robot-only cocktail bar, an ancient lava-filled temple, a haunted mansion and more whimsical places that only the most imaginative minds could have come up with. And each one is as fantastic as its predecessor.
Despite the otherworldly settings, the puzzles always remain grounded and logical; an aspect that seems to elude a lot of point and click adventures that become mired in complexity. For example, a squid has inked all over the bedsheets in a hotel room located inside the innards of a megalodon fish and you must clean it up. A ridiculous scenario however the solution remains grounded in reality; you need to acquire some stain-removal spray and a toothbrush to clean it. And what’s more is that the logic of the puzzles doesn’t restrict their entertainment value; these multi-layered puzzles are, although somewhat on the easy side, some of the most amusing and enjoyable puzzles I’ve solved in an adventure game.
What’s particularly fantastic about the puzzles and environments in Love You To Bits is the fact that they pay homage to nerd culture as a whole. Half the fun of each level is to see which video game (predominantly mobile counterparts) its puzzles are inspired by and to spot the dozens of pop culture references. I won’t give any examples since that would ruin the surprise for you but I will say that I spent ample time poring over every pixel to spot the sometimes subtle, sometimes intentionally obvious Easter eggs and genuinely found myself grinning inanely when I located one. Even twenty levels in the novelty hadn’t worn off which just demonstrates the unique humour and charm that Alike Studio are able to capture in their games.
The visual and audio presentation in this game is phenomenal. Vibrant and vivid colours bounce off the screen and the soft textures of the background contrast wonderfully with the sharpness of objects in the foreground. It comes as no surprise to learn that the developers have a background in the animation industry as the animation in Love You To Bits is second to none and perfectly complements the cartoonish aesthetic. There’s an astonishing attention to detail in both the art and animation; for example the developers have taken the time to animate even the smallest and most nuanced gestures made by Kosmo and other characters. It’s evident that so much love and care went into making Love You To Bits. The music is equally great as the soundtrack differs according to each level and reflects the tone and mood of the setting.
As stated previously, the main objective of each level is to acquire a piece of Nova’s body but there is also the option to collect a selection of mementos by completing additional puzzles and searching hidden areas. There’s typically two or threemementos hidden in each level and finding them adds more time to what will already be a five-or-so-hour playthrough. Not only this, once found the mementos reveal memories that the couple have shared together via small animated clips. These short clips further establish Kosmo and Nova’s relationship and the animation has the ability to effectively elicit emotion and tug at your heart-strings without a single written or spoken word. In addition to these, after every three planets you’re treated to a small comic book strip-like set of panels that provides not only context but intrigue to the story and the characters. The cliff-hanger the story ended on has me clamouring for the planned future content.
This time round the developer has decided to revise their pricing model and unlike Tiny Thief, Love You To Bits costs £2.99/$3.99 upfront and contains no in-app purchases. Although I was more than happy to pay to unlock more content in Tiny Thief, it’s refreshing to pay only an initial price. And what’s even better is that all additional levels will be absolutely free. Considering that the base game alone took me around five hours to complete and more content is on the horizon, £2.99/$3.99 is an absolute steal. And hopefully in the next update the odd bug that I encountered will be ironed out. I must note that nothing I came across was game breaking in any way and were just small things such as a delay in an item disappearing from the screen after it’s been put in your inventory.
I can’t recommend Love You To Bits enough. It’s delightfully charming, beautiful and heart-warming in every single way. Each level is wonderfully unique in its setting, cast of characters, music and puzzles so it feels like you’re getting twenty-four miniature games in the one. If you’re a fan of point and click adventures then it’s a must-buy and even if it’s not your favourite genre you’ll still be able to appreciate its quality. Worthy and deserving of an Editor’s Choice award and a lengthy stay on the front page of the AppStore, you’ll definitely love this game to bits.
Many thanks to Alike Studio and Pati Games for providing Indie Marathon with an iOS copy of Love You To Bits for review!
- Heartwarming Story
- Fun, Imaginative Puzzles & Planets
- Fantastic Music, Visuals & Animation
- Nerd Culture References
- Puzzles a Little Too Easy
- One or Two Bugs