Indie

A Pixel Story Review

A look at Lamplight Studios’ innovative puzzle adventure.

A Pixel Story on PC

With so much push, especially among indie developers, on retro-themed games and the stripped-down design that goes along with them, finding a fresh take on the idea can be tough. A Pixel Story begins with perhaps the most iconic retro reference: Pong. As players take on the role of a glitched Pong “ball” granted more substantial form by some mysterious system function, they must overcome a series of trials and tribulations set across several different generations. Despite the quirky and somewhat obtuse opening, A Pixel Story ends up delivering a compelling experience that features a huge cast of characters, a flood of puzzles, and just the right kind of humor to really sell itself as a potential great. With such focus on this retro look and appeal, though, does too much get lost in the translation to modern gaming?

A Pixel Story follows the exploits of a bizarre hero. As a pixel given a more complete form by a mysterious group of system helpers, our curious champion is sent on a mission to restore order to a system devastated by the machinations of an evil OS known as The Operator. As the “Chosen One,” our brave low-tech hero must make his way through a series of increasingly-complicated puzzles and worlds, aided by a magical Teleportation Hat and the wisdom of the system’s inhabitants. The early going makes for a pleasantly fun and light challenge as our star must first find a way to retrieve the magic hat, then learn to use its powers to press onward into further areas and ‘generations’ to confront the evil decaying the system from within.


A Pixel Story Magic Hat

In the game’s first big moment, our intrepid pixel recovers the magic hat from a flock of seagulls.

Once the hat has been acquired, the real fun in A Pixel Story begins. Players are given a brief introduction to the hat’s powers of teleportation. In its most basic function, the hat can be left anywhere that players can reach, and then can be recalled or transported to instantly. While this mechanic is pretty simple at its heart, the complex ways that players will have to use the hat to continue progressing quickly pile up. Find a jump that’s just a bit too high? Leap up, place the hat at the peak of your jump, then jump again and teleport as you leave the ground, using the increased height and fresh momentum to reach. Magically-imbued platforms can used to carry the hat past dangerous obstacles, and many more creative and puzzling ways to incorporate this unique accessory will pop up along the lengthy journey to save the system from The Operator’s twisted clutches. Many other puzzles will also seek to stop the pixel’s progress, and players will have to make use of a variety of tactics to get through to each new generation.

A Pixel Story Bedroom Generations

The Bedroom becomes a hub for our hero, allowing travel to any generation that’s been unlocked.

Speaking of generations, which are A Pixel Story‘s answer to worlds, they’re also one of the coolest features within the game. Beyond simply allowing access to new areas and challenges to chase, each new generation also brings along a graphical upgrade befitting the name. With each new generation, things get a bit more detailed and a bit more dangerous. Fast-travel within any generation is as simple as finding a spawn point; players can instantly travel from these to any other they’ve unlocked. Travelling between generations requires heading to the Bedroom, where hanging your hat is the given method for selecting a generation from those unlocked. This makes travel to any area that players have been to pretty simple, and there’s plenty of reason to take your new skills to previously-traversed areas in search of memory, side quests, and other goodies that can help you on your way — unlocking new generations requires not only finding the key, but also possessing enough memory to survive the journey forward.

A Pixel Story Later Generations

The game’s graphical differences between generations extend not only to the landscape, but to the pixel’s own form.

A Pixel Story puts together a great, complete package that has a ton of ingenuity and fun to offer. From pits of lava and deadly spike traps to bright landscapes and colorful characters, the story unfolds in a great progression that adds more challenge and more reward the deeper that players explore into each of the substantially-sized generations. While the game’s $11.99 price tag on Steam may be a bit more than your average retro-themed platformer, make no mistake: this game is anything but average. Responsive controls, perplexing puzzles, and a wide array of places to explore across both simple and detailed landscapes. A fantastic supporting soundtrack — available for purchase for $4.99 or in a $13.99 deluxe package — adds depth and ambiance to an already-great game, and anyone who’s been looking for the next great, innovative indie adventure owes it to themselves to check this game out.

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