A Pixel Story, from developer Lamplight Studios, is a new indie PC game brought to consoles. A side-scrolling platformer that pulls its story and design from the history of video games, A Pixel Story is a comical trip down memory lane and a thumb-destroying workout. Players control a pixel, or the “ball,” that has escaped from Pong and travels from game to game in “The system.” The graphics evolve as you progress to reflect the changes that some of us lived through, blocky at first and then eventually smoothing and shading come into effect.
Our hero, Pixel, is helped by a snarky robot who will provide tips and teach players A Pixel Story’s play mechanics. He tells Pixel that he is the “chosen one” and that his quest is to defeat the evil OS known as the “The Operator.” The first level teaches players how to control Pixel and slowly introduces more challenging obstacles. The real fun begins when Pixel finally chases down his hat. This adds the power of teleportation, and is where A Pixel Story starts to set itself apart from other platformers.
Pixel’s hat allows players to drop the hat somewhere and then later instantly teleport to it. This is used in a majority of the puzzles that players will run into. Gameplay in A Pixel Story is all about timing. Players must learn to time their teleports to moving platforms, and timing your jumps is essential. Many tricky obstacles will require fast hand-eye coordination and watching your surroundings. Pixel has a very clunky standard jump, and it can be frustrating, though. When using the bounce pads, players must use control even more to time and place the landing. It’s rather difficult.
A Pixel Story is very challenging. If you enjoyed Super Meat Boy, you will likely enjoy the challenge and probably yearn for platformers like this. There are all kinds of rewards for players willing to keep trying difficult challenges. Pixel can unlock challenge room doors with the coins he gathers, which lead to even more difficult areas. It can be frustrating, but if you enjoy the satisfaction of finally getting that well-timed jump after trying for 20 minutes, this is the game for you. My thumbs still hurt.
As Pixel progresses he will encounter checkpoints. These are essential and will give players a respawn point and allow them to fast travel to other checkpoints. The map is always available and very useful, like in Metroid and Castlevania: SOTN, as players must go back at times to pick up power ups, finish up quests, and collect missed coins. The levels are massive and very well done, with designs to reflect the era of gaming that it represents.
The character design in A Pixel Story is fun and many of the NPCs I encountered made me smile. Make sure to talk to everyone to pick up extra quests and catch all the retro game jokes. A Pixel Story is a great homage to Mario, Sonic, and all who came before. It’s fun and very challenging, with a surprising amount of content to explore. Seeing the the graphics enhance as you progress is a nice reminder of how far we have come as gamers. For $11.99 MSRP in the PlayStation store, retro gamers, and new players alike, should pick up A Pixel Story. Just be sure to ice your thumbs afterwards; you have been warned.
A Pixel Story is available now for PS4, Xbox One and PC via Steam. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided for that purpose.
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