Created by: L.B. Bryant/ Samantha Ferreira
What They Say
Big Eyes, Small Brains is the third installment in Attention Span Games’ 2D6 based, Pocket RPG Series. It’s a meaty, standalone RPG that’s linked to other installments by its base mechanics, and is designed to mix and match with the rest of the line.
Through Big Eyes, Small Brains, you’ll be able to get your anime in your hip hop, or your metal in your otaku goodness.
Or, if you’re not feeling that, you can just set out to enjoy the scenic vistas of the all-new realm of Abika as they are.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Let’s get something very important out of the way first: this game is very a stripped down Dungeons & Dragons at its core, with very familiar and similar mechanics to that more famous game all throughout the book. Now, that’s not an inherently bad thing, mind you, but it should give a good idea of what you’re getting into here. That, of course, means that this is functionally sitting on a fairly solid base, so my review here will be much more about what you’re getting with this product, rather than the actual nitty-gritty of how the game plays.
So, let’s start off with the big, obvious element that sets this game apart: the theming. This is clearly meant to be aiming towards anime fans, and so the question becomes how well it succeeds? Well, unfortunately for this review, my copy was not provided with most of the images that will be in the final product, but the ones there honestly look to be somewhat on the amateurish side, and don’t quite capture the “authentically anime” look you would want from this kind of product, which is a shame. That said, that’s only a small part of the product here, and what matters more is the writing itself composing the book. First off, you oddly get a half-hearted story kind of running through the book which turns the setup of how you play into a weird sort of isekai where the dungeon-master is a god (er, “kami”), which is… well, it’s okay and kind of cute enough, but as I’ll come to later, those pages really would have served the game better by actually offering something directly relevant to play. The bigger thing, though, is that this game unsurprisingly reaches its “anime” quota mostly by throwing out nonstop straight up references, and I suppose it will come down to your tastes whether or not that appeals to you. Personally, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea, but I could see it working for some folks… but with that said, I feel like it strays a bit more than it should to throwing out things like references to things like, say, Austin Powers, which isn’t exactly fitting to the theme.
With all that out of the way, though, there are some real issues with the content provided. You see, being that it functions as a simplified D&D (for example, the only dice you use are two D6s, and the stats are notably stripped down), you would figure the target audience would be anime fans who are less experienced in that realm. Now on the player side, that may still make some sense… but I have serious problems with the resources provided for the dungeon masters (er, “kami”). There ARE surprisingly extensive sections on each area of the world, for example… but there isn’t even a hint of so much as a single example scenario, or hell, even a basic combat example to get players started. I mean, sure, you get a few enemies for each area (though frankly, I’d say both this and the items provided are rather lacking in quantity compared to what you would want from a book such as this, as you’ll run through everything rather quickly as is), but the book seems to be relying entirely on an experienced player to run the game from scratch in a great many aspects, with no real way of easing them in. Or for example, there are elements like time and distance that matter for combat, but I have to imagine players not familiar with D&D or similar games would have trouble figuring out exactly how those should play into things, since the book just kind of throws it out there as a given that items hit however many feet away, but doesn’t even bother telling you to set up some kind of game board in the “what you need” to keep track of positioning.
Or take items like the “Harem Whistle.” It summons “1D6 + Luck people who are attracted to your Avatar to help you out in a pinch such as during a fight where you’re desperately outnumbered.” That’s all well and good… but you’re explicitly saying you’re summoning these people, but giving absolutely no indication whatsoever what sort of damage they’ll do, or how much they can take, or if they have skills, etc, which are all immediately relevant questions in the one specific use they threw out there in the example. And I mean, sure, a skilled dungeon master can handle all that and can throw something together to make it work… but that seems to go against the product’s seeming positioning as an entry-level game. Because I mean, if you’re talking about a playgroup accustomed to such games, I have trouble seeing why they would want to go with this stripped down version over all the other more full-featured and better-supported options on the market. So as a result, you’re left with a product that I suppose only really works for a group that has an established dungeon master but novice players who explicitly really, really want the anime-flavored base offered here.
In my time with this game, I’ve ultimately found that it seems to be a product that just doesn’t feel fully fleshed out for what its market reasonably should be, leaving it a very awkward release that likely won’t quite satisfy most folks. It’s very much a stripped down version of Dungeon & Dragons and its ilk at its core, so if you can get it running, well, it’ll run fine enough because it’s obviously working off that well-established base. But the issue is, hardcore players well into those types of games will likely be turned off by the simplification here. Then that leaves new players of course, but there’s a distinct lack of some key resources and examples provided by the book, as well as a number of poorly explained elements, that will ultimately give anyone but a real experience dungeon master a hard time getting things running, here. And frankly, while the section on locations feels decently fleshed out, the other bits about weapons, items, villains, and the like just feel rather thin on content, more like a starter pack of ideas to work off of than a fully fleshed out game in its own right. That said, if you really like the theming and have someone up to the challenge of stitching together a campaign out of all the bits and bobs here, I think you could still have a good enough time. But sadly, I really struggle to see how most folks out there wouldn’t be much better served by any number of similar products out there on the market.
Content Grade: C+
Released By: Attention Span Games