Addictive platform games have been a bit on the few and far between side in terms of mobile gaming apps, so when you stumble across an indie title like Little Saw, you can’t help but be excited about the prospect. It’s an incredibly tough, but ultimately rewarding 2D side scrolling action tapper that will crucify you for even the most marginal of mistakes, while also delivering a whole lot of addictive fun. In fact, sometimes just getting killed can make you smile, which is pretty impressive all by itself.
The game itself has been available on iTunes since November 2013, but unfortunately its independent roots have meant that it has largely passed under the radar, so not been given the attention that it deserves. A part of the problem is that if you search in iTunes for Little Saw, the game doesn’t come up very highly, so if you are tempted to download the game after reading our review, make sure you search for it without the space; LittleSaw, which is appears for straight away.
The storyline is a pretty simple one that sees a boggle-eyed blob creature hatching alone from his egg only to find himself in a dangerous landscape filled with killer saws, thorns and seemingly unstoppable creatures for you to avoid and escape from. It makes for a pretty uncluttered introduction to the game, and sets you off through the 22 levels that make up each of the three different worlds in pretty swift order. It may not have the most compelling of text intros, which would have been the icing on the cake, but it does throw you into the fray pretty rapidly and leaves you with a lot of love for the little one eyed protagonist of Little Saw.
This is where the title comes into its own, delivering a solid amount of challenging levels to make it through, with a good amount of progressive difficulty built into it. Things appear to start out easy enough, but it doesn’t take long for you to find out that this is an unforgiving game that has danger around every corner and a central character that has some very specific skill sets that need to be executed with exact precision if you’re going to get through the game.
Essentially, you control our eye blob hero as he enters the godforsaken land of saws with the ability to run right and left, accelerate to a run if you keep the touch screen controls pressed for a little longer than a fraction of a second. He’s got the added power of a complex jumping system with fine controls that take some time to get used to. Your standard movement through the levels is bolstered by the ability to kick jump off walls too, which opens up all sorts of possibilities to get over, under or around the serrated landscape.
There are no tutorials on how you get past any of the many vicious obstacles, so prepare yourself for a baptism of saws when you’re about to fire up the game. It gets challenging in no time at all, which is sort of frustrating at times as you find yourself struggling to pull off all the various fine tuned maneuvers that you’ll need to string together to make it through a level unscathed. However, the reward of finally cracking it more than makes up for any disillusionment that might have crept in while you were still trying to get to grips with the many difficulties that pack each level.
The difficulty level is increased by the slightly gung-ho nature of our hero’s movement, which sees him jumping to his doom if you don’t control his actions with close precision. If you time a jump wrong, over-egg a run or miss a beat for a series of wall kicks, you’ll find yourself skidding, careering or falling into the fatality thorns, spikes and black holes that litter the playing field. It does start to become a bit more second nature once you’ve played the game for long enough, but even with this you can still find yourself in trouble fast when faced with a new challenge, obstacle or malevolently advancing enemy of doom.
When you’re in the thick of the frantic struggle of one eye, there will be times that you might entertain the concept of the game being better if it was just a little bit easier to master, but when you look back after triumph you realise that it was pretty spot on just as it was. It might have been nice to make it a little easier to control the short jumps when hopping over a series of thorn barriers, but that would have also meant smashing through the levels a lot quicker, which would have taken away the sense of achievement that you get when your plan finally comes together.
In terms of the main game itself, the graphics are minimal, crisp and effective. It’s got a stripped back style to it that adds to the tough challenge ahead of the hatchling eye blob, which is pretty cute in itself, despite its massive central eye. It’s a bit like a squat, infant Mike from Monsters University.
The animation is smooth and free flowing, with some cool details that add to the impact of the game, like the boggling eye of the thorn wall boss from the end of World 1. In general it’s a solid looking game that sacrifices frills for minimalist edge, which works very well to give it its own personality.
With 66 levels to crack, there’s more than enough packed in for the very reasonable sum of 79p, giving you hours of entertainment, a little frustration and a long stream of fist pumps, wry smiles and little chuckles along the way. The game may not be entirely polished, but as a low cost platform game it ticks all the boxes it needs to for us in terms of fun and excitement.
It’s a bit like the spawn of a Super Mario, Limbo and Leo’s Fortune love fest and we’ve loved every second of it. Hopefully, it’ll be getting a new levels update or a sequel in the not too distant future, because who knows how long it’ll be before we get another good mobile platfomer. The only other change we’d make is sprucing up the story sequence and it would feel much more like a polished release, but other than that Little Saw is a microcosm of visceral gaming class wrapped up in an elegant 2D platform adventure.
Little Saw review: 4/5