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Adventures of Pip Review: Hello Again, Platformers
A trend has been developing recently, primarily in the indie wing of PC gaming. Once upon a time (so, a few months ago) Steam Early Access was literally drowning in survival games. Now, it is platformers, and tons of them are filling the market to the brim.
“I don’t really like platformers, they’re just not my thing,” a friend of mine said a few weeks back. This was a sentiment I related to until recently. Everyone and their cat has been assaulting the platformer scene, leaving me, as a gamer, overwhelmed by choices and in turn, unsure of where to start. My change of heart this time was at the hands of Adventures of Pip, a 2D platformer from developer Tic Toc Games.
Adventures of Pip tells the damsel-in-distress story all over again, with a compelling twist. You play as Pip, a young boy consisting of a single pixel in Pixel Kingdom, a land ruled by 32-bit characters. The princess (as she is exclusively referred) is captured by the evil Skeleton Queen, and you are tasked to save her as you were the only one able to use the force – wait, sorry – you were the only one able to harness the power of the “Bitstream:” a magical force controlling all pixels in this universe.
The main selling point of the game is its toying with the concepts of pixilation. As you progress, you unlock the ability to become 8-bit and 32-bit versions of Pip, each with their own range of pros and cons. You “level up,” if you will (transform into a more pixelated version of Pip) by destroying small crystalline creatures, and level down by releasing pixels from yourself in a forceful explosion. The game makes exceptionally fluent use of this shapeshifting mechanic, with puzzles requiring multiple transformations within seconds of one another.
There are five worlds in the game, the first four (as the final is preceding the final boss) offer eight levels a piece. Each world provides the player with a wide range of environments, and more importantly, puzzles as you progress. The game does follow the standard “grass level, water level, fire level, boss!” formula, but makes up for it with intuitive level design. The games map is more or less a rendition of the classic Mario Bros. maps, most accurately Super Mario World.
A major issue I found myself having whilst trying to crack the shell of recent platformers has been bland level or puzzle design. Monotony is almost exclusively what turns me away from these types of games, but Tic Toc did an excellent job at keeping me engaged for the six or so hours I sunk into Adventures of Pip.
Another check on the pros side of my imaginary checklist is the sound design and animation. The sound, on the one hand, had me excited from the get go. It not only had a catchy soundtrack which worked seamlessly with the pixelated design, but every slash, jump and impact was satisfying. Hand in hand with the notable sounds were the animations. Little things like pixel dust running off you after a shapeshift or the eye-wobbling death animations brought the world significantly more to life.
An important thing to note before proceeding is that this game, as many others with a Kickstarter history, is not a perfect one. Although set to be officially released on May 15, it was pushed back to June, so the version I played was technically still early access despite the entire game being available. With that in mind, my criticisms are still holding the actual technical parts of this game to my usual standards, but I am bearing in mind that there are still revisions to be done.
Adventures of Pip tries to implement two things primarily that didn’t seem to make sense to me. The first of which was a collectibles system which consisted of every level in the game having three hidden residents from Pip’s town in them. Besides a shop keeper here and there, they didn’t seem to actually serve any purpose past returning to town where they would have a single speech bubble thanking Pip.
The second, was the town’s shops. I couldn’t seem to find anything signifying that there were more, so I only unlocked two of them after finding their keepers in the world. The currency in the game is pixels that you collect from chests and enemies, but the amount you get from each level made the purchases almost completely out of reach or pointless. By the end of the game I had collected about 8,000 pixels, but the most expensive item cost 7,500, and it was the only one that actually had any functional use. Toward the end of the game I found myself ignoring chest and townsman alike as they were more hassle than they were apparently worth.
Tic Toc Games is aiming for Pip to see light of day on not only PC, but also WiiU, PS4 and Xbox One. I think that because of this, the game is much easier played with a controller (in my case, a wired Xbox 360 controller). The keyboard controls are weird and clunky, and although this is a minor qualm, it should be noted.
The game also suffers from some optimization issues, but it seems that Tic Toc Games are active in addressing player concerns, so that is likely to be fixed. Besides a few lag spikes here and there, I only had one truly bad experience. Not to spoil anything, but there is a sequence at the end of the game that began lagging every time I entered it, and did not cease until the actual end of the game. This resulted in about 8 unnecessary deaths and a now broken joystick on my Xbox 360 controller.
All in all, this is a really solid game, and it speaks volumes to its merit being the game that finally got me touching platformers again. I like to think that the gaming industry is a meritocracy, and it is cool ideas like the ones expressed in this game that keep me going. If you’re a fan of platforming games, or are looking for something interesting and intuitive to kill some time, the 15$ price tag isn’t bad at all.