Small World

by Andrew D. Pontious

Fantasy/Travel/Surreal
1996

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Number of Reviews: 3
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
How is there not a review for this awesome game?, April 27, 2012
by Rymbeld (Greensboro, NC)

What a cute game is this! What a nice little thing! Small World is not a "deep" game, and it doesn't tackle any big issues like fate or death or heartbreak. Nope. Small World is just a nice fun diversion, not too hard, not too long. Just a short ride. On the other hand, this is a game with great narrative potential. I think it fell short, though, but I can easily imagine a larger story. With just a tad bit more hashing out of the game, this would be among my favorites.

In Small World, you play a fat boy getting ready for a hiking trip:

You hear the bus horn beeping as you, with misgivings, cram the last few items into your backpack, close it, and shoulder it on. It's Saturday, time for the first trip of the Junior Hikers your parents forced you to join. Short, chubby, and extremely shy, you've kept to yourself since your beloved, if eccentric, great-aunt died over the winter. As is your wont, before leaving, you spin the globe she gave you for your tenth birthday.

But it's stuck.

What happens next is great fun: you suddenly shrink, smaller and smaller, until you are in the globe, but a giant. You go from being a little fat boy to a big skinny boy! And in this small world you meet St. Peter, the Devil, Adam and Eve, and little green Martians, in an homage Gulliver's Travels. You job is to fix all the screwed up things in this little world and to get the globe spinning again. And in so doing, you regain your self-confidence and no longer fear a simple hiking trip. Pretty neat!

So, here's where I think the game could have done better: give us more of the set-up. Let us play as a fat, shy kid for a little bit. It doesn't have to be much, but we could roam the house a bit, play with our globe some. Maybe the globe actually got stuck because someone else messed with it, someone who intimidates us. If we had a little more time with the kid, we'd get a better feel for his character and this transformative adventure of his would have more meaning for us. This would make the end more meaningful and triumphant, I think. The basic frame is already in place, and all we as player-readers need is something more concrete, more showing, to really hook us in.

The writing in the game is already wonderful. Small World won the 1996 Xyzzy award for Best Setting (which I think it probably deserved) and Best NPC (probably for the Devil; he's hilarious), but to be honest I think it should have also been nominated for Best Writing. So Far won that one, and Tapestry was also nominated. But you know, Small World is solidly written. It isn't "beautiful," but the writing is solid and clear and Pontious maintains a consistent voice which fits the game perfectly. It's light and humorous and conveys a tone appropriate to the setting. I think it is at least as well-written as So Far.

I think this is a great little game, with very few flaws. It probably isn't the best game if you want very challenging, mind-bending puzzles. It would be suitable for children and people looking for a nice little adventure. Honestly, it has a bit of a Katamari Damacy vibe to it. Play it!

(reposted from my blog--totally surprised that this award-winning game had no reviews and few ratings.)