The people from DotEmu were kind enough to provide me with a review copy of the now available mobile version of Little Big Adventure. LBA is available for both Android (Google Play, Amazon Appstore) and iOS. This review is based on the iOS version which I played on an iPhone 5. Given the fact that this site is dedicated to LBA I will not go into reviewing the game design, we already know it is an excellent game. This review will only discuss the differences between the original game, and the mobile version.
The mobile version is a straight port of the original game with a bunch of adjustments for touch based input. So it is the same story, same art, and more or less the same gameplay. This means that the voices are of the same quality as they were in 1994, it is not as clear as you would expect from modern games. You will also notice pixelated edges, and the movies are a bit blurry. LBA used music in MIDI form and a few CD tracks. The MIDI tracks have been converted a wave format, and it sounds quite good, as if it was not based on MIDI to begin with. But these lower quality assets should not stop your from having a great (re-)experience of the adventures of Twinsen. All the different languages from the original game are included. So if you want to play the game in German or Spanish instead of English it is possible.
On the gameplay field quite a few things have changed. DotEmu completely changed the control scheme to make it playable on a touch screen. Because of this the behavioral menu is gone. Behavior is no longer an explicit mode, except for the discrete mode. To move Twinsen around you simply press a location on the screen and Twinsen will move towards this location. There is no path finding, so Twinsen will move in a straight line and stop when he cannot continue. To run, you double tap and Twinsen will start to run instead of walk. Because the control mechanism is not as precise as the keyboard Twinsen will no longer hurt himself when running into obstacles. When you keep your finger on the screen after the tap or double tap Twinsen will keep moving to the location your finger is pointing. To jump, you drag Twinsen from his current location to the direction you want to jump to. A blue arc is drawn where Twinsen will more or less land.
Aggressive mode has been reduced to just attacking. Attacking can be done by double tapping a NPC. When an NPC is selected to be attacked it will get a red outline. Twinsen will keep attacking the selected NPC until its dead. Once you get the sword, Twinsen will always use the sword to attack rather than his fists. To just talk to NPCs you tap once, this will give the NPC a green outline instead. To abort talking or attacking simply tap somewhere else for Twinsen to move to. This will become useful in cases where you accidentally attack a friendly character you wanted to talk to. And just a hint, the soldiers and clones usually do not fancy a chat.
Once you get your magic ball you can use it in different ways. The first way, which I used the most, is by dragging Twinsen just like when you would jump, but then continue on dragging until the arc changes color. So jumping changes into throwing when you are outside of the jump distance. The arc draw for the ball will also indicate how the ball will bounce of the environment. This can be really useful to precisely hit the object you want. In the original game you often had to try multiple times to hit your target. Now it is a piece of cake. The other way to throw the ball is to swipe. If you swipe a NPC Twinsen will try to throw it at the NPC, or you can swipe in a given direction and Twinsen will throw the ball in that direction. Swiping will probably work better on a tablet than on a phone. I only used the swipe attack when I had to be fast.
Discrete mode needs to be activated manually using the two foot steps icon on the HUD. Twinsen will automatically hide. In this move Twinsen will move silently, and throwing the ball is still in a high arc. Double tapping will automatically exit discrete mode.
An other big change is the ability to zoom, or more specifically, zoom out. You can zoom out by pinching to see pretty much the whole scene. In my opinion they shouldn't have added this feature as it removes a lot of mystery.
The "action" command is somewhat gone. To rummage through bins, read posters, pull levers you simply press on them to walk to them and the action happens automatically. This is also the case with movable platforms. Because there is no longer an explicit action command they removed the mentioning of it from the text and dialogue. (But they did forget to remove the "H" button for the holomap). All the points of interest are highlighted with icons, but if you don't like it you can disable these hints in the menu.
As you could see in the above screenshots, the game now has a HUD, much like the PlayStation version had. There are 3 buttons: game menu, discrete mode, inventory. The inventory has had a redesign, but other than that, it's mostly the same.
That covers the changes to the controls. They have also made some changes to the gameplay. Due to the preciseness control scheme the enemies have become much weaker. When you can attack an enemy it pretty much needs a single hit to be defeated. But there are enemies which are stronger. Also, when Twinsen is walking or running a hit will not cause the "fall back" action, so Twinsen will continue moving, but he does lose health. It might sound like this makes the game way too easy. In some cases this is true, but in general you would not survive long without these changes. I am not completely sure, but I also think some timers were extended and thus giving you more time to react to, for example, a rolling log.
I do think the overall difficulty of the game has been decreased. Except for your first visit to White Leaf Desert and the Temple of Bu. This has never been more difficult. The problem is with the controls for jumping. Sure, you have an arc that shows where you are jumping to. But your finger is in the way to see the exact spot. Precise movement and jumping in the Temple of Bu is vital. It took me way too much time and tries to get through it. At some point it even became infuriating. But in the end, I managed to get through.
In the temple of Bu: I spent a lot of time here
Achievements. Yes, they have been added. There are a few achievements which hint to easter-eggs, there is a bit of grinding, and the usual achievements which you cannot get around because it is part of the game. I got them all except for the speed run achievement. It took me more than 4 hours to complete it mainly because of the Temple of Bu. Anyway, if you care about achievements, they are included.
In the end, it was great to play LBA again, and this mobile version was a good way to do it. I do think it works best on a tablet because your movement will be much more precise, but it is quite playable on a smaller screen too.