A Pixel Story
It’s easy to be cynical about the great wave of retro-styled videogames that have been released in recent years. However, every so often a new game is created that validates developers’ fascination with bygone days. The BAFTA nominated A Pixel Story, from Lamplight Studios, is one such effort.
Following the plight of a simple pixelated hero, A Pixel Story spans four graphical generations. Players are tasked with exploring six large, free-form zones whilst interacting with NPCs in order to reach the core of the system, and stop the evil OS threatening the world.
Along the way, progress in the game is aided by the use of a magical teleportation hat. By leaving their hat in a particular space on the map, players can save their previous position then, using the same keyboard command, they can return to the exact same area on cue. It's a unique mechanic that contributes significantly to the game’s charm.
One example of this in practice is an early platforming segment which requires the player to save their position on a moving platform. The player in this instance must wait and use the ability to return to the saved position once a new platform has moved beneath it. By repeating this process, the player can travel along the platforms in the level and therefore access the next area.
A Pixel Story is a great blend of platforming and puzzle solving that continuously rewards players with a sense of satisfaction once a task is completed. Its efficiency in doing so hearkens back to the experience of playing challenging NES and SNES titles in that it's difficult yet still feels achievable.
The game’s world itself is lively and crammed full of humour. At one point, the player is forced to wear an obvious disguise to get past an enemy checkpoint. This begins a hilarious scripted event, featuring a diverse cast of characters, which results in the player having to outrun bazooka blasts as they scroll sideward. There are many spectacular moments in the game exactly like this; situations that make you smile ear to ear as you become invested in the world.
Despite its many successes, there's still the odd flaw here; the first of which is the absence of a strong central character. Our pixelated hero is not given a distinctive enough voice in comparison to other characters in the game which could very well be an intentional move on behalf of the developers, in order for players to project their own attributes on the protagonist. However, this is made unclear and given the amount of character injected elsewhere in the game, it’s a shame the developers couldn’t focus some of that attention on their lead.
Another minor disappointment is the music. The chip-tune soundtrack is by no means bad, but it fails to inspire in the way other areas of the game do. At the very least, it doesn’t detract from the wonderful experience to be had playing the rest of the game and does manage to serve its purpose well without being repetitive or annoying.
A Pixel Story is an otherwise nicely executed indie, which will make many a gamer reassess their opinions on the current wave of retro-themed titles hitting the online marketplace. In that regard, A Pixel Story is well worth investing your time in.