Retro style 2D platformers seem to be 10 a penny at the moment (quite literally on some Humble Bundles), so I was initially a bit dubious when loading up A Pixel Story. Thankfully, by my time with game was, I’d been taken on a tour through decades of gaming, leaving me with a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling, although peppered with the occasional moment of pad-crushing frustration.
The plot of A Pixel Story sees your posited as the savior, ‘The Chosen One’, of this system, which is under attack from a nefarious OS known as ‘The Operator’. While somewhat light on actual story, there’s enough there to push the game along and the game’s narrator, a seagull, and the cast of supporting characters are well written and, more often than not, deliver their lines with genuine unforced humour.
While not as punishingly pixel-perfect as something like Super Meat Boy, gameplay in the main part of A Pixel Story takes the form of precise platforming action, with some added puzzle solving thrown in alongside. To aid your travels, you’re in the possession of a Magic Hat which you can take off a leave elsewhere, before teleporting back to it. This mechanic is needed to progress through levels, with areas unable to be reached or jumps impossible to cross without some clever teleportation work. For example, if a ledge is too high to reach you can place the hat at the apex of your jump, and then take a running jump in the same direction. A quick press of the teleport button sees the character warp to the hat while still carrying the momentum of the previous jump, allowing you to reach the previously inaccessible area. It’s a cleverly implemented mechanic, and I enjoyed the problem solving elements it brought to the game.
Alongside the main gameplay are a selection of special challenge rooms, all of which I played reminded me of Super Meat Boy in the best and worst way possible. These super challenging areas are devilishly difficult, needing a combination of second-perfect timing and usage of the magic hat to beat. I’ll be absolutely honest, there was more than one occasion when I simply had to take a step back from these in the fear that my frustration was about to bubble over
Progression through A Pixel Story is explained as your character moving through generations of gaming. Starting off as a mere sprite in a Pong-esque world, you’re transformed into a pixelated character in an level reminiscent of early 80’s era gaming, moving through 4 generations until coming to something closely resembling modern 2D platformers. The soundtrack also moves along with the generations, moving from 8-bit chip tunes to something much more ‘full fat’ at the back end. Each level is rendered gorgeously and anyone who’s gamed for a while will raise a smile when moving into the new areas.
One major frustration I had was with the checkpoint system, which seems to constantly throw you a bit further back than you would have wanted to be, although I assume this was a deliberate design choice based on the difficulty of the game in general. Still, a niggle none the less.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with A Pixel Story. A combination of the guided tour through my history of gaming, a challenging difficulty and some ingenious puzzle solving do much to counter a slightly weak story. While it could be argued that it doesn’t necessarily do enough to stand on it’s own two feet and instead relies too much on making you reminisce, it’s still a game well worth picking up, especially for those pining for the platformers of old.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Format: PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of A Pixel Story by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of one week. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.