The Pixel Kingdom is on the verge of destruction, and only one hero can save it. Enter Pip, a single pixel hero who is the one brave enough to take on the Evil Queen DeRezia. What can one pixel do against an enemy who has power over the very pixels that make up the world?
That is the premise of Adventures of Pip by Tic Toc Games; it’s a clever action-platformer with unique mechanics and light-hearted writing that strives to set itself apart in an indie market crowded with similar games. The question is, does this Kickstarted game shine in 32 bits, or should it have stuck to a single pixel?
30 Second Review
+ Ability to evolve into 16 bit and 32 bit versions of Pip and devolve back leads to fantastic platforming
+ Cleverly designed levels teach you what you need to know for the boss fights
+ Speaking of boss fights, they take full advantage of Pip’s evolution and devolution
– Upgrade system is nice, but it feels like a bit of an add on
– Final boss battle is a little counter-intuitive
1 Bit Hero
When Queen DeRezia kidnaps Princess Adeline from the palace, she takes control of Bit Stream, the force that powers the Pixel Kingdom. Using her new-found powers, she turns the king and queen into single pixels, along with most of the rest of those who are not able to flee. The only person who is unafraid to step up to face DeRezia is Pip, a single pixel himself and therefore unaffected by the evil queen. Only problem is he is limited by only being able to jump and glide as a one pixel being. To take on DeRezia and her minions, he will need to be able to do a lot more.
Fortunately for him and for you as the player, the ghost knight Sir Elwin, inspired by Pip’s bravery, gives him some control over the Bit Stream. The hero is given the ability to absorb the Bit Stream energy of certain enemies, allowing him to evolve into more pixelated, and therefore more able, versions of himself. Using this ability along with being able to devolve at will, Pip can change among three different forms:
- Single Pixel (Basic): Pip’s lightest form, allowing him to jump the highest and glide for a bit.
- 16 Bit (Agile): The fastest version of Pip, and the second lightest. Agile Pip can wall jump and perform a basic 3 hit combo.
- 32 Bit (Hero): The most powerful form of Pip. Hero Pip is the heaviest, jumps the shortest distance and cannot wall jump, but his sword attack can take out enemies and destructible boxes, and he has the strength to move crates around.
Using the strengths and even the the weaknesses of these three forms, the player must progress through increasingly difficult levels in an attempt to reach DeRezia’s Castle to defeat the evil queen and rescue the princess. Along the way, players will also run across villagers who need rescuing and chests containing pixels that can be used to buy upgrades to help with the quest.
The ability to shift among the forms is what helps set Adventures of Pip apart from other games in the genre. Tic Toc Games did a fantastic job creating levels that force you to get creative with the ability to switch on the fly. Levels may force you to devolve to Basic Pip to make a jump, hit a pixel enemy to evolve into Agile Pip, wall jump up to another to evolve to Hero Pip to take out some breakable boxes and them devolve back to Agile Pip to start wall jumping again.
While the evolution and devolution of Pip is a great mechanic, it would not mean anything if the player is not taught how to use it. Fortunately, the designers took care of that.
Ingenious Level Design
In order to best DeRezia, you will need to learn to use all forms of Pip to the utmost. To teach you how to master each form, Tic Toc has designed levels that introduce you to new mechanics slowly, showing you how to use them in combination, from the basics of wall jumping to the more difficult maneuvers including multiple evolutions/devolutions.
The game consists of 5 areas, each of multiple levels the player must complete before facing the boss. The levels range from forest to lava-filled caverns, and each presents a new set of enemies and challenges to overcome. As you progress through these levels, you learn how to handle these new obstacles, building upon the knowledge you have learned before. Seeing how an enemy or set piece reacts to the various versions of Pip allows for some creative puzzle solving throughout the game, leading to a true feeling of accomplishment when you complete a challenge you would have thought impossible just a few levels before. This build up makes you as a player feel challenged but empowered, even if you have to replay a section a few times to get the timing down.
What you learn in the levels as you make your way to the bosses plays into the battles against them as well. A great example is your fight against the Kraken in Area 3. Area 3 contains a lot of water, and you learn that the three versions of Pip react very differently to water: Basic Pip floats, Agile Pip can swim in it and Hero Pip sinks quickly to the bottom. You use this knowledge as well as the what you have learned in the previous areas to take down this seemingly unstoppable beast.
On top of it all, the writing is humorous without being heavy handed. Jokes and comments are made throughout by the characters you meet without any of it feeling forced. You can tell that Tic Toc Games realized early on that a light touch would be best, and it is something other indie designers could learn from this game.
Adventures of Pip has a unique mechanic, excellent level design and great boss battles that make you apply what you have learned throughout the game to beat them. Is there anything the game gets wrong?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes.
Not So Obvious
I mentioned earlier that the level design is done so well that you do not find yourself frustrated, even when you have to repeat an area several times to get the timing right. Unfortunately, there is one boss battle where that is not true: DeRezia herself.
The battle against DeRezia starts out much like many other boss battles. She uses different mystical attacks against you, and you must evolve and devolve at the proper times, biding your time until she gives you a chance to hurt her. After you do enough damage, however, she does something no other boss does: she evolves herself, taking on the full power of the Bit Stream to defeat you.
As you can guess, the second stage of combat against DeRezia is much harder. Her second set of attacks are much harder to dodge, and you have to hit her much more than you did the first time. It is a very difficult boss battle indeed, but that is not what frustrated me most about this battle.
Throughout the game, every boss has had a similar weakness: you have to hit them when they are vulnerable. Even the first half of the battle against DeRezia follows this script. So, when I got to the second part of that boss battle, I went to attack her while she was stunned as I normally would…
Just to find I did no damage at all.
At first I thought I had just done something wrong, but multiple attempts lead to the same result. I must have tried well over a dozen times, but I could find no way to hurt her. Finally, I turned to a YouTube video showing the battle, and I realized the answer was something obvious I had missed.
My problem with this fight is I feel that Tic Toc did not do anywhere near as good a job giving the player the clues they needed to finish it. Yes, there was one major clue left in plain site, but without giving away what it is, I can say that the clue had never been used in that fashion before. I may not have been as critical if the team had not done such a good job of training players throughout the game. This time, it just felt less polished.
One other thing that stands out as feeling tacked on as opposed to truly integrated into the game are the upgrades you can buy. Relatively early in the game, you save a weapon smith, and he offers to sell you different upgrades. While some of these are nice, they are not truly necessary to complete the game. They are a decent add-on, but they feel like just that and do not seem to have quite the polish the rest of the game has.
When it comes right down to it, Adventures of Pip is a masterfully crafted game that takes full advantage its unique mechanic. Even after I beat the game, I found myself going back and playing more, debating whether or not I wanted to 100% the game by finding all the lost villagers. I am not a completionist, so the fact I am even considering that should give you an idea of just how much I enjoyed this game. If you like action-platformers with unique gameplay, Adventures of Pip is the game for you.
The evolving/devolving mechanic can be little hard to explain in words, so I am including the gameplay I streamed when I first started playing the game. Check it out.
Full Disclosure: Everyday Gamers was given a review code for Adventures of Pip on PC.