What’s a robot to do when he (or it) wakes up after ten thousand years of slumber in a dark, dreary, and lifeless world? Going on an adventure would be the obvious recourse, and this is precisely the premise of the sublimely-designed game under discussion today. A flash-based game that’s as much a work of visual and atmospheric art as it is a point-and-click adventure game, Little Wheel hits players up with a unique visual style not dissimilar to that of The Nightmare Before Christmas. This is more of a dark sci-fi fantasy however, with an emphasis on point-and-click exploration that effectively pulls you in to become part of the game’s story-board-like narrative.
There aren’t many elements of Little Wheel that can be considered as belonging in the “gameplay” category, but what interaction you do have with the action comes in the form of point-and-click mini-puzzles. Most of these puzzles involves clicking certain items and objects in a certain order, often requiring a small thing-through first before deciding on the logical sequence in which to attack each of the conundrums.
Little Wheel isn’t a difficult game to play either. If anything, it’s almost a little too easy. Usually, point and click games will insist on making you hover the mouse over virtually every object on the screen to see if the cursor changes (see The House for a perfect example of this). This isn’t the case here. You’re treated to small grey circles on the screen, each pointing out objects of interest. Most of these circles will need to be clicked in the correct order for them to be solved. This simplicity is inviting, making the game very casual. However, players looking for more of a brain-based workout will likely find the gameplay of Little Wheel a little too casual.
There’s little point in complaining about the simplicity of Little Wheel however, since high complexity clearly wasn’t the priority for its developers. Instead, this game’s purpose seems to be as a piece of interactive art with mild puzzle/adventure qualities. The futuristic premise isn’t an original one, but the way in which it is presented certainly smacks of uniqueness. The wonderful idea of self-sufficient robots being bereft of their artificial life for thousands of ears adds to the eeriness of the concept, and the coming alive of Little Wheel only serves to deepen the mystery the game possesses as well as the emotions it has the potential to evoke in its players.
Talking of emotion, it’s pretty difficult not to feel something when playing this adventure game. And this isn’t only as a result of entertaining the notion of watching the only living (read: animate) robot in existence come alive. The visual style is also a thing of beauty in itself, comprised of largely dark and muted tones, with frequent flares of sepia in its colour. It’s the illustration that is the most compelling feature of this game’s look however. The entire world is presented in a mysterious silhouette style with well-defined edges acting in opposition to the blurred lines of artistry and gaming that developers One Click Dog (follow link for their Newgrounds page) have manages to perfectly pull off.
In the end, what’s not to love about an artistically-designed, wonderfully presented adventure/puzzle sci-fi fest? Though some players may consider the game to be rather on the easy side, it’s this simplicity that separates it from other point-and-click adventure/puzzle games, as well as the majority of robot games you’ll find out there lurking on the internet (one in particular, www.friendlyrobotics.co.uk, is worth a look-in due to its abundance of top-quality robot adventure/puzzle/skills games). After all, hovering over each and every pixel in your usual point-and-click games in the hope of finding the interactive item can get rather tedious.
The developers’ decision to include grey indicator circles not only removes this frustration but also allows for a more smooth-flowing, faster-paced adventure whose pace is perfect for the kind of simultaneously heart-breaking/heart-warming adventure that Little Wheel really is.