A low-res adventure with almost high-res gameplay
There’s little in this world as unheroic as a single pixel. A solitary dot on your screen isn’t an image, and it certainly isn’t an entire video game. So Adventures of Pip is a true underdog story, where a lone pixel named Pip rises to save a kingdom in turmoil and make a game interesting all on his own. The game is a well thought-out platformer with some tricky puzzles employing a clever change-form mechanic. It’s unfortunate then that the game lacks difficulty and memorable game design.
The story behind Adventures of Pip is nothing worth mentioning. It’s your classic, uninspired damsel-in-distress premise, and while there’s a clear attempt at punny comedy throughout, the writers aren’t about to win any awards.
So let’s focus on the gameplay and that change-from mechanic the game is known for. Pip really is a lone pixel with hardly any powers. He can jump on an enemy’s head to defeat it and — well, that’s about it. He jumps high, falls slowly, and has great maneuverability.
But early in the game Pip gains the ability to transform into an 8-bit child. Later on, he’ll be able to add even more pixels and reach a high-resolution third form. Each time he evolves, he gives up speed and maneuverability in exchange for increased power and new abilities. Pip can devolve back to older forms at will, but can only evolve at certain locations throughout each stage.
It’s a solid premise that allows for clever game design. The blue enemies Pip has to defeat to evolve into a stronger form appear frequently, but only when you actually need to evolve to progress. This way, the developers can restrict the mechanic, keeping you in your single pixel-form at certain points in the game to up the difficulty. Figuring out what form you need to be in makes up a large part of the gameplay. Once you figure it out, it’s all a matter of your platforming skills.
Changing forms is quick and easy, and at times you’ll use all three forms within the arc of a single jump. You might jump high in pixel form, land on a blue enemy to change into an 8-bit boy, use your new arms to grip a wall, launch off in the opposite direction, land on another blue enemy to enter your final form, swing your sword to break a stone wall, land on the other side, devolve back into a pixel and wiggle your way into a small passageway.
Action can really be that fast paced, and, while it’s a mouthful to say, it can actually be all too easy to execute. For the first half of the game or so (the entire game takes maybe four to six hours to beat), there’s really very little that adds much variety.
But you can optionally deviate from the main path and take on slightly more challenging platforming areas. These areas are hidden, so you’ll have to explore carefully to find them. If your skills are up to par, you’ll be able to rescue a lost villager, one of over 100 in the game. There’s three villagers per level, so if you miss one there is incentive to replay the stage. However, there’s no reward for saving the villagers; it’s just a pride thing. It was pretty rare for me to not find a villager, too.
In the second half of the game, levels ramped up the difficulty — some. They employed ingenious mechanics like wind and moving platforms that really made me rethink my evolution ability. Pixel Pip had no resistance against bellows of air, for example, while high-res Pip was heavy enough to resist the gusts entirely. His second form had just enough weight to float steadily in an updraft. Coupled with more enemies, traps and spikes, the second half of the game was more interesting than the first.
These later levels still felt repetitive after a while, however, when the same mechanics turned up again and again. Instead, I focused on collecting pixels from hidden chests and enemies. These could then be exchanged at stores for a variety of very helpful power-ups, such as potions, new attacks, extra health and increased pixel drops from monsters. These power-ups were extremely expensive though. I was only able to afford a small number during my play through, and I focused on buying power-ups that made pixel collecting easier.
Throughout the game, the controls were seamless, although there was no option to map actions to the buttons you want. The game’s physics were clean and seemed to work flawlessly no matter how I jumped, fell or fought. There were no bugs that I could find.
The art style isn’t something I would call beautiful outright, but it isn’t bad either. It lacked depth, pizazz and grandeur, but the mix of 8-bit and 32-bit graphics was certainly interesting. The game was obviously 30 FPS, which was jarring the entire time; that frame rate is too low for a modern action game. Music-wise, the title theme in particular I thought was masterful. The background music for individual levels wasn’t as terrific — the songs were safe, fit in well with each stage and were largely forgettable.
Pip is still an underdog. It’s hard for a single pixel to fill an entire game. Pip tried, and succeeded in many areas, particularly in the latter half of the game. But the hero fell short where it mattered most, leaving me wishing the level design was bumped up just one more notch. For Tic Toc Games’ first console experience, Adventures of Pip has already outperformed the work of many indie developers out there. I’m excited to see where they go from here.
Review copy provided by Tic Toc Games