A Pixel Story released back in 2015 for PC, and it has finally landed on consoles. Fans of 2D platforming, comedic dialogue, and challenging gameplay will definitely be interested in A Pixel Story. It’s been out for a while, so I’ll cut right to the chase. Is it worth a revisit or first time play? I’ll be the judge of that.
The Story of Pixel Story
A Pixel Story is very self referential; it’s obviously aware that it’s a video game. Our story begins when a lone pixel gets pulled out of a game of PONG. This pixel soon finds himself on the planet “Generation 1”. The once lone pixel has evolved into a full grown program, and it quickly met by our guide, “Search”. Search tells our protagonist of an ancient power that is contained in game’s universe (known as “The System”). It seems that our pixelated hero is “the chosen one”, and therefore must wield said power to save the universe. An evil program known as “the Operator” has taken control of the entire System, and only you can stop him with your almighty powers.
An almighty power that takes the form of a innocuous floppy hat, by the way.
How Do the Pixels Look, Though?
Pixel art can be hit-or-miss most of the time, but A Pixel Story manages to produce great visuals. At first glance, the game reminded me of a mixture of Cave Story and FEZ in it’s style and presentation. The further I played into the game, the more this rung true. The game is presented well, and does so in a compact menu system. As you play A Pixel Story, you’ll encounter characters that need favors done. These quest locations can be easily found on your map, along with progression, options, and inventory. Everything is quickly accessible with only a few button taps, and I really appreciated that.
While the art and music are great, the best part of A Pixel Story is its sarcastic attitude and dark humor. The game has a great cast of characters that you’ll encounter throughout your adventure. These characters felt fully realized and lived in, not just hollow quest holders. This includes Search, the guide I mentioned earlier. In fact, everyone you meet in A Pixel Story is either weird, sarcastic, or generally an outcast. I really enjoyed the “collective misfits” cast, and while there isn’t much in the way of voice acting, I felt that they were presented exceptionally well. The game has some genuinely chuckle worthy dialogue. The sarcastic, dark humor offsets the otherwise bright and cheerful tone. It’s a juxtaposition that works great, and had me laughing aloud quite a few times.
Old School Platforming
A Pixel Story is a pretty basic game as far as controls and mechanics work. Disregarding the magical hat, the game is a simple 2D side scrolling platformer. After a few levels, you’ll gain the powers of the hat. This allows you to drop the hat and warp back to it, allowing for some cool puzzle elements. As you progress from level to level, you’ll gather large gems that reward you with “memory”. Think of these like stars in a Mario game. You’ll need a certain number of them to progress, and can be earned through questing or challenges found throughout the game. Gems can also be earned by completing challenge rooms, which you can unlock by collecting coins.
Normal gameplay is fine, and I really enjoyed the fun quests and inventive platforming. However, I absolutely despise challenge rooms. There’s a funny thing about difficulty curve; there should be a curve to it. Jumping into the first challenge room is like a giant smack in the face. A Pixel Story‘s challenge rooms don’t require skill, they require absolute perfection. Challenge rooms quickly degrade from a fun difficulty to incessant retries and frustration. Since dying is pretty much a moot point in A Pixel Story, your only restriction is your sanity. I gave up on most challenge rooms pretty quickly, mainly because they’re just too frustrating.
The normal game is difficult, but not unfair. Challenge rooms embrace being unfair. Unfortunately, these rooms are so difficult due to the base mechanics. Outside of challenges, controls are simple and feel good. Once you require several (almost) pixel perfect jumps in a row, the flaws in A Pixel Story start to come out. These challenges feel like levels from Super Meat Boy, but without any of the certainty of control. Jumps are too floaty, you can’t maneuver in the air appropriately, and the puzzles within are generally cheap. It’s unfortunate, since challenge rooms seem to be a big focal point of the game.
The Verdict on A Pixel Story
If you’re interested in A Pixel Story, you’ll probably find enough worthwhile here to warrant the purchase. It’s not a perfect game, but there’s a lot of reasons to stick with it. Besides being humorous and a refreshing experience, it’s fun to play and feels rewarding. If you disregard the challenge rooms, you have a very solid platformer on your hands. Unfortunately, there’s just a few problems that keep it from being great. Players who get easily annoyed might want to find another title; I found myself getting aggravated a bit too often. However, if you appreciate a good challenge, A Pixel Story does that well. It has a refreshing story, some pretty satisfying areas, and real charm. You just have to ask yourself if you’re okay with frustration.