It’s incredible to see how far video games have come, from the several pixels of pong to the graphics we have become so used to in games like Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn. A Pixel Story takes us on a journey through this history, starting from 8-bit onwards. It’s maybe not as exciting an adventure as the real thing, but it’s certainly an entertaining one nonetheless.
We start where it all began: Pong. Not for long though, 20 years’ worth of gaming history is skipped at the blink of an eye, and out of the squared off, white tennis ball comes out main character. He and his environment are in 8-bit form, so whilst still graphically pleasing, we start off in the late 70s and early 80s of gaming. After a brief introduction with a strange character who explains our surroundings, and a dressing up of sorts, we’re off to try and find our hat which was stolen by a bird; put your zapper guns away, this isn’t an ode to Duck Hunt.
Once we retrieve our hat we realise its magic potential; when dropped in mid-air it allows us to teleport back to the exact same location. This becomes key in our quest to progress through the chapters (aptly named generations) and their levels. Using this game mechanic and our puzzle solving brains, it is our goal to make it to the end of each chapter to the generation bridge, where we can again teleport into a future era of gaming. To unlock these gates crystals are required, some which require puzzle solving to reach, others held by locals who will supply them when certain missions are completed.
There are moments when A Pixel Story turns fiendishly difficult, yet mainly in the locked off areas for completionists. Though sometimes tough, the main story is a fairly straight forward one. The gameplay is easy to understand and the story easy to follow, although characters often talk just a bit too much. With different characters requiring your assistance popping up in each chapter, the game has branching storylines to keep players interested. The game mechanic of using your hat to teleport is an interesting one, and is used more and more ingeniously in the puzzles as the game progresses.
Graphics are an important aspect of the game – they are of course what the story is based on – and on this front the developers deliver up to a point. The initial few jumps do the corresponding changes in era justice, and the result is a genuine feeling that we’re travelling through time, through different systems and ages. The more recent generations aren’t graphically as astute as modern games as we know them, yet budget obviously had a part to play in this, and to criticise the game on this basis would be harsh. What the game does really well is represent the changes in graphics in the earlier consoles, those whose primary titles would have been 2D platforms such as this.
A Pixel Story is an interesting concept, and one that obviously has meaning. Although different game mechanics are introduced, the story itself and the 2D platformer style remain throughout; the only main change throughout is a graphical one. However much visuals develop, games remain, in essence, the same. It’s an idyllic and charming theory, but one that of course doesn’t necessarily ring true with a whole array of features that the 8-bit area didn’t have that more modern games do (to list them would be unnecessary).
Essentially A Pixel Story is an enjoyable platform game. No matter what message it attempts to point out, it’s an interesting game that doesn’t need to be taken too seriously, like all games of the genre. With the small budget provided, the developers have done a huge justice here, and created a game big enough to keep players entertained for hours. Just remember that when the puzzles get just a little bit too difficult, take it bit by bit.
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