When faced with a sequel, it’s become a default criticism in the gaming world to cast aside consistent follow-ups: “Unfortunately, it just didn’t add any new gameplay.” That word “new.” Like a non-negotiable bar. And yet in the case of a game like Little Things Forever, whose serene hunt-and-find style is based on the nostalgia of analog games like Where’s Waldo, the essence of play is very much making what’s old, new again.
So, yes: you can argue that Little Things Forever doesn’t make strides past its predecessor, offering instead 101 different challenges inside the same formula: track down colorful objects inside larger tapestries. If that’s your biggest concern, I would argue that this isn’t your type of game anyway. Developer KlickTock arguably created the I Spy novel of the digital era with his first release. Getting frustrated at the idea of shelling out three dollars for the sequel is like refusing to buy a new hunt-and-find book because it’s “just the same thing all over again.”
With that out of the way, however, what you’re left with is a delightful experience on a number of levels. Foremost among them? Its simplicity. Each of the game’s many larger images feel hand-crafted and injected with TLC, even in their digital state. The colours of each iconic picture (a goldfish, a domino) are used to maximum effect, with Klicktock littering the playing field with miniature objects whose design perfectly complements the color chosen for them. As a result, hunting through each picture is an exercise in joy. Every object seems to have a story to tell, and Little Things Forever emerges as a reminder of a type of gaming where the experience itself is the reward.
Which isn’t to say the game doesn’t challenge and keep you on your toes. There’s no time limit per se, but the faster you find each item on the list, the better chance you have of completing the level in “excellent” standing (versus doing just “ok”). None of the records are kept anywhere, of course, but the knowledge alone was enough keep me pushing to improve my time. What’s more appealing to me, though, is what each rating represents: an already-present self evaluation that sits at the heart of Little Things Forever. Because the task is so universal, and the solutions are quite literally in front of your face, you’re driven to prove yourself. Not by artificial achievements, not by arbitrary leaderboards, but by that gamer’s itch honed by the most classic gauntlets.
And what artificial constraints do exist? They contribute to a genuine sense of discovery. Every completed challenge earns you one puzzle piece, bringing you one step closer to unlocking a new meta-puzzle to solve. Sliding on-screen blocks into place and matching up the obvious, but disjointed objects in each picture reveals a new beast, household item, or toy to hunt through. Puzzles within puzzles within puzzles. Like an inception of constant childlike play.
In the best way possible, it’s hard to say much more than that about Little Things Forever. There are lots of subtle improvements here that take advantage of how long it’s been since Little Things came out, including crisp retina graphics, more dotingly crafted images, and most excitingly, an internal server that will allow Klicktock frontman Matthew Hall to push new puzzles live without requiring a pesky update. At the end of the day, however, that’s not what will make or break your decision to lay down your cash on this one. This is a game for anyone drawn to, excited by, or nostalgic for the kid-like experience of hunting through simple imaginary worlds.
But honestly? For three dollars (or five in HD)? This is a game for everyone.