From pixel to hero
I’ve always been fascinated by games that tackle evolution. Not necessarily the scientific principle, but the mechanic — though a few titles like the brilliant E.V.O.: Search for Eden have managed to address both.
Adventures of Pip which features a tiny pixel that turns into a real boy, and then a hero, isn’t quite as groundbreaking, but it’s still fun to play.
Adventures of Pip (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)
Developer: Tic Toc Games
Publisher: Tic Toc Games
Released: June 4, 2015 (PC, Wii U) / TBA (PS4, Xbox One)
When Pip kicks off you’re introduced to a tiny kingdom fated to be saved by a princess who can create and control pixels — a sort of Star Wars-esque “Force” that guides the universe. Of course, an evil villain (the Skeleton Queen) wants it all to herself, and captures said princess, crafting the world in her image. It’s up to Pip, a lone pixel, to save the day. The premise is fairly cool because it’s not overly-meta, at least, not obnoxiously so as some recent games tend to be. It embraces the theme just enough to be adorable, and the queen in particular sports some very neat looking animations.
The actual game is a platforming romp, and it’s very quick to start. Pip will have to make do in his pixel form at first, which can jump and float, with the ability to kill enemies by jumping on their heads like Mario. Levels are designed with an SNES feel to them, mixing retro graphics, 8-bit, and 32-bit styles, which remind me of classics like Disney’s Magical Quest.
The main gimmick of course is the aforementioned evolutionary procedure. Using “Bitstream enemies” (read: glowing blue things), Pip can evolve into a boy. His new found abilities include punching and wall-jumping, and can be best compared to getting a mushroom in a Mario game. You can also devolve at will, sparking an explosion that does damage to enemies, and opens up certain walls. To get back to your boy-state, you’ll have to find another Bitstream foe — levels are designed around this concept so you won’t get stuck.
What I really like about this system is that it freezes the game when you change forms, adding a bit of tactical value to the act. Sometimes you’ll need to kill an enemy to evolve mid-air, jump over a bed of spikes, then blow up a wall to land safely. There’s also other nuances like the fact that pixel-Pip can bounce higher off springs, and so on. After several levels you’ll also earn the 32-bit version of Pip, which can now use a sword to deal more damage and break blocks.
Interestingly, 32-bit Pip cannot walljump — so you’ll need to devolve to the boy to solve some puzzles, and in turn, evolve again, and then revert all the way back to a pixel. It doesn’t really get old or tedious. It takes just the right amount of time to switch back and forth, and again, the levels are designed directly around this concept. It’s great.
As you progress, a bit of wear and tear will set in. You’ll save citizens from danger as collectibles of sorts, an endeavor that I tired of after the first few stages. There’s also a problem with the level layouts themselves — they’re generally not memorable. While there is a great deal of interesting puzzle-platforming situations, I really can’t recall any of them after completing the game, which takes roughly five hours to do.
There also came a point where I stopped even trying to locate and open jewel chests to earn the only currency available in the game. The main reason is that the item economy is completely off-kilter, as vendors charge an arm and a leg for everything — some items will take you an entire playthrough to earn, and they aren’t even gamebreaking or special, which is nuts.
Don’t expect a whole lot of extras or options either. The PC version just has a pair of sliders to tinker with the sound and music volume, the launcher has a few resolution choices and a windowed option, and it sports three save file slots. That’s it in terms of functionality.
Adventures of Pip is an inoffensive platformer that doesn’t do a whole lot wrong, but it won’t stand out in your mind a few days after beating it. While it does last though, it’ll bring a smile to your face.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]