Ever dream of a pixelated puzzle platformer adventure in a universe full of parody? A Pixel Story gives you just that and grants you control of a magical hat that lets you leave it somewhere and then teleport back to it in order to traverse a fun filled land. None of these traversal puzzles feel like mysteries. You’ll always know how to solve them. Its just performing them requires timing. The teleportation puzzles go from easy to timing perfect jumps and warps to make it deeper into the game. You don’t start with the hat, or even clothes for that matter. You’ll quickly obtain the hat once you get it back from a seagull that steals it. As for the clothes, you’re given those pretty quick.
There’s a good sense of size and scope when the camera pulls out to show you how big an area is. A Pixel Story is almost MetroidVania-esque, because it feels like an open world, but you won’t obtain any abilities to get to new places outside of using your hat. The game is split into sections each with two “worlds.” To travel back between these sections, you can warp back to your bedroom where you can leap between the sections as time periods. You’re not allowed to have your hat in the first section, which is a shame and a missed opportunity. Each world has a theme everything from a bland grassland, to a lava pit and even the Bat cave. The game makes a lot of parodies of Batman, Gordon Freeman, and even the Terminator. These comical cameos are pretty entertaining and shocking to see. You’ll give a crowbar to Freebird and see a bat signal only to have it fly away. There’s a lot of comedy, charm and dialog boxes here. In fact an over abundance of dialog boxes when nothing needs to be said. You even have a helper that consistently appears with tips or even to talk about pancakes.
The graphics start out pretty basic with retro aesthetic and minimal colors, but get better as you progress because the game has you traveling through different eras of video game history. Everything continues to look more detailed. The backgrounds start to stand out more and more from simplistic to rich with beautiful fidelity. Your character stays nearly identical from start to finish. He consists of only a head, body, feet and hands, but no arms. So he’s similar to Rayman, but feels like a country bumpkin with his magical red hat, overalls and the fact he starts out helping farmers, moonshiners and even a KFC Cornall whose band plays in instrumental “What is Love?” Again this game takes liberties with its parody.
The game amounts to collecting enough gems (memories) to get transported to the next world. Each world has eight gems that you’ll find either by looking hard enough or completing a quest. There are a lot of quirky characters that give you quests, the silly thing is they’ll ask you to accept it or not. Well why wouldn’t you accept the mission? Then you’ll have to obtain an item and bring it back to them. Of course between you and the item, you’ll need to flip switches, jump on moving platforms, and springboard yourself from point A to point B. It feels like an old school role-playing game with this many fetch quests.
A Pixel Story plays pretty simple on your keyboard or 360 controller. Other than your menu, there are three major buttons; a jump, a leave your hat and recall your hat button. Once you leave your hat, you can teleport back to it by using the same button. Using the teleport leads to more interesting jumps such as at the height of a jump, leaving your hat, then with your next jump, immediately teleport at the start of the jump to appear at your hat and jump higher. You’ll use that mechanic a lot with spring boards or even to save yourself from falling into a bed of whirling gears. It doesn’t get more complex than that, but it becomes about angles and hat positions as well as your warp timing. If you ever leave your hat somewhere and travel out of sight, your hat gets its own little window to show what its doing.
Your hat hovers in the air when you leave it, so its a good way to get over and under moving platforms or even get through shifting walls. The further you progress, the more tricks each world will have, such as gravity platforms that will hold your hat to them as they move. So the platform can take your hat through gears and you can teleport to your hat. Its a nice twist. Later, springboards get replaced by bounce wire. If you walk on it, you won’t bounce, but if you fall on it, you maintain the height of your bounce. You can then use your hat jumping technique to increase the height of each bounce. Its a good way to keep things interesting late in the game.
There are no enemies, its all one hit hazards that kill you. Its still a forgiving game, because with every death, you’ll respawn at your last checkpoint. These checkpoints are quite frequent and they even allow you to fast travel to previous checkpoints. This makes any backtracking a breeze, but I didn’t feel like there was any backtracking except when I wanted to find all the gems. Your map also shows you where your objective is and you’ll unlock sections of the map as you visit them. Even if these maps are somewhat big, it doesn’t feel like there’s all that much exploration. There are still secrets like walking through walls.
As you go through the game, you’ll find coins scattered here and there. These coins unlock special challenge rooms. I took one look at each insane room and left. Each one seems to be a single screen full of cannons, conveyer belts, grinding gears and everything else you can imagine. You wind your way through to get a gem at the end. There are no checkpoints, because then you’d never be able to make it back to the door. At least these are optional. I know there are a lot of hardcore players out there, but I would have much preferred a bonus room or something more interesting than something as intense.
Some switches are timed so they turn into races for you to do what needs to get done before the switch resets. It puts pressure on you in what is otherwise a relaxing go at your own pace game. Once you get toward the end, you’ll get pushed to act fast when there’s a death beam following you up a vertically scrolling Recycling Bin.
There are a few moments that break up the puzzle platforming, such as taking a dive down a chute full of gears. At first you’re following someone down that warns you when things are coming. Soon enough he breaks off and you’re on your own. You’ll have to weave your character down narrow corridors lined with deadly metal. That’s a good way
While the game didn’t feel like the game has many issues, I noticed specific worlds such as the Forest and the Bat Cave had lag or slow down. I assume from the detailed backgrounds. Turning my resolution down helped, but it was still noticeable even with V-Sync off. It did also crash to the desktop once in the six hours that I played, but the game auto saves pretty often just in case. Sometimes death forced me to get the coins I had just collected, other times it didn’t. There are several grammar errors in the hundreds of dialog boxes, but I’m probably guilty of that as well.
A Pixel Story is a fun little game in the early worlds before it gets more difficult than fun. The challenge is never out of reach though as long as you put some effort into your timing. A good way to see the difficulty is to look at the achievements and see how drastic the drop off is between the achievements. The real enjoyment is from the surprises that come from cameos. I’d like to thank Tom for gifting me this game.