Things have been better in Pixel Kingdom. So small that it could fit in the palm of your hand, the kingdom, which is populated with hi-rez and lo-rez characters, has fallen foul of Queen DeRezzia’s never-ending lust for power.
When Princess Adeline is born with the ability to create pixels from nothing, DeRezzia is left to ponder her dastardly schemes for nearly two decades. Then, on Adeline’s 16th birthday, she attacks, absorbing all pixels from the world, which were once an indication of a person’s wealth.
Reducing the King and Queen each to a single pixel, DeRezzia kidnaps Adeline and warps back to her castle. It’s enough to strike fear into your heart, but, for one lowly pixel, the events stir enough courage in him to become the unlikeliest of heroes.
It is that delectable retro aesthetic that will ultimately lure many in for closer inspection, taking control of Pip’s modest pixel form as you set out on a heroic adventure. For Pip is the only one who can restore order to the land, and free the spirits of fallen heroes to the afterlife.
Despite Princess Adeline being adamant that she is “not a rez-ist,” Pip is regularly subject to
mockery by the characters that he meets on his quest. There’s a morale that underpins this pixellated fairy tale, in that anyone can overcome adversity to accomplish greatness. Born into the world as a single pixel, Pip defies expectation at every turn to succeed in what he is determined to do.
In order to achieve that, Pip can give thanks to Sir Elwyn for bestowing him the power of the Bitstream early in his tale. This lets you evolve into an 8-bit hero, and, later in the game, to a 16-bit hero.
Each evolution has their own benefits and disadvantages, including Pip’s single pixel form which can let him fit through smaller paths and slowly float over lengthy gaps. Meanwhile, 8-bit Pip can wall jump and run faster, and 16-bit Pip can push slabs and break blocks with his sword. Players can also lower their evolution level by performing a Devo Blast, which can kill nearby enemies but is regularly required as a way to destroy pixel blocks.
Tic Toc Games commendably piece all of these elements together, resulting in platforming challenges that can range from gentle to outright devious. But, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Pixel Kingdom’s citizens hide in every level, with players being challenged to seek them out. There are three to discover in each who will all race back to the castle’s nearby town that DeRezzia had once ravaged. More importantly, periodically on your journey you will save those that had owned businesses, such as a blacksmith and merchant.
These reward you with the chance to purchase weapon upgrades and items that will help on your quest. Whether that be seeing enemies drop more pixels, which is used as currency in the game, to crush blocks or see foes only deal half damage, they can ease the difficulty as it begins to climb.
It is the monstrous bosses that you will face at the conclusion to each of the world map’s areas that will pose the most challenge, pushing your skills to the test as you spot the weak point necessary to repeatedly bash to topple them. These deliver Adventures Of Pip‘s standout moments, and only get better as you progress.
The retro visuals are intentional and gloriously blocky, but I would have liked to have seen more variance between levels in each area of the world map. Far too many looked alike, and I was often holding out for the change in environment to bring a change to the colour palette. But, everything’s neatly rounded off in style by Shovel Knight and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge composer Jake Kaufman, who has penned the energetic score that accompanies your adventure.
Adventures Of Pip is an adventure packed with charm, challenge and retro appeal. There’s much to commend within its pixellated confines, and a refreshing concept that I hope will return in a successive quest.