A Pixel Story is a challenging 2D platformer that shows the graphical evolution of platform gaming over the last 30 years, but what about the progression of the actual gameplay.
The game begins as our game character whose a simple ball in a game of pong, is slowly brought into the 8-bit world with visuals that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in the late 80’s. Soon enough our friend ‘pong’ as I’ve lovingly labelled him, is informed about the terror facing the ‘system’ and it’s obviously down to pong to save the gaming world.
Soon enough pong is chasing down a seagull who’s stolen the magical hat, and these early sections consist of learning the speed and balance of the game before you finally track down the hat, and obtain the ability to teleport to wherever you drop your hat.
It’s a novel idea, and works well as you progress through various levels passing gaps that you otherwise couldn’t, or using the hat as a respawn point for difficult jumps. It’s around this point when the diversity of A Pixel Story really starts to shine, while many will see it as a basic puzzle-platformer, that’s a genre that as become renown for running through room by room. Pixel Story places all of that in a game world, with an underlying story, and NPC characters for you to meet and greet as you progress.
Onto the generation leaps, and you’ll soon be moving on to more of a 90’s 16-bit theme, with clearer visuals, but a very distinct relevance to the earlier sections, this leap in generation isn’t particularly explained at first, and apart from the odd blurb or review, some gamers will head into a Pixel Story completely oblivious of the forthcoming generation leaps.
A good hour into the game and you’ll be working your way through, collecting large gems to progress and trying to progress onto the next stage of evolution which resembles the 32/64 bit era.
It’s fairly predictable, but the challenge rooms you’ll come across really start to throw up a challenge, many of these require a single run from start to finish, using the hat continuously to pass giant gaps or teleport past fireballs down a narrow tunnel. Some are a relatively easy gem reward, while others will absorb more time and frustration than all you’ve encountered before them, and while a welcome challenge for some, they’re just as likely to test the resolve of others.
Graphically A Pixel Story is obviously a mixture ranging from the early through to modern days. Movement is smooth and everything works as it should, but I can’t help feeling that jumping back and forth through generations might have been more appealing rather than making players wait until the closing sections to really see the best that A Pixel story has to offer. The same can be said with audio, most of the game revolves around text-based speech bubbles for communication, and while the sound carefully replicates the game world around you, that’s obviously not much in the opening areas.
It really would have been nice to see and hear more character about the characters you meet, rather than having to read about it, but it’s easy to forget that this is still a world apart from many modern-day puzzle-platformers in both the game world and it’s presentation.
One more negative point I’d like to point out actually comes from the generation changes, graphically the game steps up every so often, but the gameplay is near identical, it’s almost a slap in the face of platform gaming, standing boldly and declaring that it might look different but the 2D platform genre hasn’t really changed that much over the last 30 years.
Sure there’s more detail, more on-screen, and the occasional novelty feature such as jumping back to the location of your hat, but there’s only so many platforms and puzzles you can squeeze into a game, and many of them within a Pixel Story have been seen somewhere else and some are even repeated later on.
It’s a smart move trying to capture a 30 year evolution of graphics, but I would have liked to see much more variation on the types of challenges you’ll encounter too.
It’s safe to say with all the challenge rooms, there’s plenty to work through, and while It’s important to overlook the negatives, it’s also critical to remember that what A Pixel Story does, it does very well, many games would take a small ‘room’ and call it a level, but A Pixel Story places many of these within the game world and then saves the really tough ones and locks them behind progression inside the challenge rooms.
It’s hard to know how well gamers will take to pong (who I should point out is initially just a nameless character) but there’s still a fun and extremely challenging game for fans of the Puzzle platform genre.