Indie Spotlight: Lil Big Invasion

Herding flies is actually much more rewarding than it sounds...

Indie Spotlight: Lil Big Invasion

Developer Andreas Britten

My kids loved playgrounds when they were little, one in particular. It was so massive that we rarely survived a visit without someone getting lost and crying, usually me. One day, I met a mum with quintuplets, all five of whom were wearing bright red hats. She was totally just sipping her coffee, keeping a vague count of her brightly coloured progeny as they played. She was the smartest, most relaxed, mum I’ve ever met. When I accepted a key for Lil Big Invasion I was expecting a puzzle game but what I got was a very cathartic experience.

Lecturing one’s children over getting lost isn’t really the done thing, after all. But dammit, green flies, I just need you to flutter still for a few seconds while I charge my light. Flutter. Still. But, no, you’re all going helplessly around in circles, getting trapped by foliage and not even remembering which direction we were going in. I just need a damn moment to flip this switch and then we can all bask in Mummy’s warm glow as I herd you to safety. Again. Why are you down here in the dark anyway? There is clearly a sign that says, “no flies.” 

The game sets a remarkable pace, while still sitting firmly within the puzzle genre. Your diminishing light lends problem-solving a sense of urgency and you have to think fast in order to remain in control of the situation. Challenges get incrementally harder, too. You’re initially just managing wayward flies, charging points and switches, then wormholes (passages created by worms) and wind. Eventually, they compound, like with wind blowing flies into sticky spider webs. Charging through mines is also a sure path to getting horrendously lost. 

I nearly gave up at the first boss, who is a whirly, spikey plant-monstrosity that you have to defeat because it traps your flies. The developer provided me with a few hints about its movement but I didn’t actually need them. I just needed to take a break. There’s something about that “walk away and come back later” feeling with games that highlights a thoughtful challenge. It’s as if the designer intends the tricky bits for players who are fresh. There’s an odd sense of needing to play while at your best which matches the parental exhaustion Lil Big Invasion evokes. 

Similarly, and this is going to sound weird, I found my character’s facial expressions very motivating. The art is simple and too brown, but the cross-eyed ridiculousness as my light started to sputter, changing to steely determination while charging, reminded me of my sacred duty to the flies.

A few minor inconveniences aside, like the mouse interface feeling a little too loose, where a touch screen might have better-suited play, and I found I was really enjoying more and more of the same. Within the five worlds, you are scored for each mine based on speed and flies rescued.

Ultimately, I started loving Lil Big Invasion most of all when I realised I could progress even if I didn’t collect all of the flies in each mine, if I could forget that they were alone in the dark, anyway, crying for help. I mean, I’m sure even the quintuplet mum left one or two of her children at the playground occasionally. She had spares. (This just got real dark - Ed.).

This is a game parents will intimately understand and enjoy yelling at but, thankfully, imperfection is also built in. If Freda the Fly got eaten by a spider, well, the rest of us escaped anyway. Mummy needs a nap.

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