A Pixel Story is a devious 2D puzzle platformer that charts the evolution of video games from the very beginning of the 8-bit era. A prototype version was originally nominated for a ‘One to Watch’ award at the 2012 BAFTAs. Lamplight Studios went on to win a Channel 4 Award and £25,000 in prize money plus a publishing deal for the final version reviewed here.
A Pixel Story revolves around the actions of an innocent pixel that by chance is sent winging on a quest to wrest control and freedom of the world from the tyrannical control of the ominous villain known as “The Operator,”. As the pixel it is your journey and your continually uphill battle to charge forward across six separate terrains each with its own set of side quests, collectibles, and graphical differences. Each of the levels, known as generations, fill in part of a backstory involving an epic generation spanning war that saw the downfall of an old operator and the rise of this new mysterious, evil, perfidious, no good bad guy.
The game grips right from the start. In generation one you are set upon by a ravenous seagull that flies off with the games most powerful artifact. A red floppy hat, that just so happens to allow you to instantaneously transport yourself from wherever you fancy to stand to wherever you suppose is best to have left a hat that was given to you by a complete stranger with no legs and only one eye. I enjoyed that the game took the time to show you and explain to you all of the things you can do with this new power and how you can use it to solve the forthcoming trials. Pay attention however because you will only be shown once and there are no hints. This game expects you to think critically. So put your thinking caps on, you’ll need it to see this one through to the end.
A Pixel Story is described as devious 2D puzzle platformer. It is certainly devious, however I would almost posit that a more apt description is grueling. The puzzles and at some points of this game aren’t just challenging, they’re a nightmare. That being said, they are not impossible. These puzzles will not break you, and after a while they won’t even frustrate you. The game lets you know pretty early on that death has pretty much no meaning. This is good because you are going to die, often.
The most accurate description I can think of is that you have the bouncy, springy, jumpy, flingy, flying fun of super meat boy mashed together with half of Portal’s infamous mechanic. It’s all topped off with pithy meta dialogue and witty nods to other popular video games. You will need surgical precision and more than a little patience as you find yourself repeatedly threading the needle in increasingly more elaborate and challenging puzzles. This game leaves very little room for error, and just a fraction too far left or right can spell certain doom for your hapless little hero.
The levels are well thought out and elaborate. The environments all utilize a very creative color palette that fit the feel of each new generation’s look like a glove. You’ll find yourself wanting to get to the next level not just for the sake of the story but to find out what the next area is going to look and sound like. The lively music of each generation fits perfectly and really helps to set the overall tone of each level so be sure to give a listen when you’re there. What’s really impressive about this game is the use of its graphics. Not just in the games ability to keep in with the theme of each generation but how fully it uses them. This game had several opportunities to walk it across the plate and label it retro or in keeping with a theme. The attention to detail and the blending of the pixels really shows their commitment to bringing the best game possible to the table. As you pass through each generation the pixels and level of graphics improve marginally to fit the aesthetic of the level giving you a sense of both advancement and a look back at what previous video games looked like. The vibrant use of colors combined with artistic use of graphic parameters of days gone by really set this game apart. All in all they took this game in an entirely unique direction and not only tried to make a quality 2d platform game but to refresh the entire genre, which they did beautifully.
I cannot recommend this game enough. If you’re looking for a funny, engaging, refreshing game that isn’t afraid to challenge you and reward you for rising to those challenges then this is absolutely the game for you.
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