While most games have set their sights very much on the future, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare for example, there are others that have a more humble approach. A Pixel Story is one such title. It guides us on a pixelated adventure, from the early days of gaming to the more modern 2D platformer.
A Pixel Story starts off, pretty much, with your character washed ashore. The result of seeing a single pixel grow and develop and then traverse some notable points in gaming history. The opening scene is, more or less, straight from a game of Pong, and you briefly get to play until the pixelated ball flies off-screen, travelling through games and history. Once settled on dry, pixelated land, you embark on a quest, with your trusty teleportation hat to try and stop the evil OS.
In essence, A Pixel Story is a puzzle platformer. This isn’t like Mario or the more speedy Sonic from years ago. This is all about solving puzzles in order to progress further along in the game. But the game delivers this in a unique way, by taking you through the various stages of gaming history. The early levels are fairly basic, and vaguely reminiscent of times when all that was around was the Spectrum 48K or the Commodore 64. Okay, maybe not that basic. But it’s a graphical step back. But don’t worry, it’s all part of the experience. You get to see the visual evolution of games, though this is limited to a purely platform environment, so don’t expect to suddenly appear in something akin to Quake or Gran Turismo later on in the game. But the journey is an interesting one and somewhat nostalgic.
As previously mentioned, progress is achieved by solving puzzles, such as trying to open doors by collecting certain objects. Or negotiating the numerous hazards that fill the levels. Your teleportation hat also comes in handy. Unfortunately, a seagull makes of with it early on, providing some early motivation as you attempt to catch an annoying flying rat (hey, we were all thinking it). Some of the puzzles are really quite easy, but others do require considerable thinking cap time.
Visually it’s fairly basic, even in the more modern interpretations of the levels you aren’t thrown any graphical curveballs. And that’s what’s intended here so don’t be disheartened. But the tiny animations on the characters certainly have a charming quality, maximising every minute pixel in order to provide each character with, well… character. And it does a great job of this. It also sounds great, too. The almost Bitmap Brothers-esque approach is nostalgic to say the least, and even reminded me of other titles such as Manic Miner. But despite the aesthetic differences with each level, they essentially perform the same function.
The game is a wonderful throwback to the days of old, which should appeal to young and old audiences alike. It’s simplistic yet inventive approach should engage younger audiences who will find the puzzles challenging, while older players will most likely think back to their Spectrum 48K computer and the challenging art of loading a game via a tape cassette for ten minutes or more. But it’s definitely a game that does more than just provide a means to play. It’s historic throwback is a nice touch.
All in all, A Pixel Story is an accomplished little platformer, with plenty of challenging puzzles to solve and a story to finish. The only downside is scarcity of game saves. All though I’m pretty sure there was no such thing as a save on Manic Miner all those years ago. Though each level could be a little more varied in design, rather than just aesthetic differences, it’s an enjoyable caper.
Out of 5 stars I give A Pixel Story…
Flugel Meister (Dave) is a longtime video gaming fan, who's love for all things pixelated began way back in 1980, when he ventured onto his brother's Grandstand console before progressing to a Dragon 32 and then a Spectrum 48K. That's right. he's old. When he's not gaming, he can be found swimming in the country's reserves of cheesecake.
Follow him on Twitter: @DavidPMcDougall