Title: A Pixel Story
Platform: Steam, Windows

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
Players: Single player

Written by Bad Demoman 26th June 2015

I'll be perfectly honest, when A Pixel Story by Lamplight Games was presented to me for the first time it was met with instant, unrelenting cynicism. I've expressed before that sometimes, I feel like pixelated graphics are less an artistic choice of style and more a pandering grab at the hearts strings of nostalgic 80s and 90s gamers. At first view, A Pixel Story screams this. A fairly nondescript, bland looking character with an oddly familiar-looking red hat exploring an, in case you couldn't tell, pixelated world. Perhaps I should have remembered the old adage, never judge a book by its cover. Then again maybe its for the best I didn't, as otherwise I wouldn't have been so pleasantly surprised.

Your character starts life as a single pixel serving as a ball in a game of Pong. The humblest beginnings I can imagine, being hit back and for your entire life. This life is not to be for our hero (let’s call him Pixel for lack of a given name), as he starts to glitch out and warp around various places that differ greatly – very greatly indeed. More on that later. Finally, he ends up under a mysterious light, where he turns from a single pixel to a small, grey humanoid shape. He is then warped to the first generation where a robot named Search explains to him what will become the general point of the plot. Pixel is a chosen one of sorts, and it is his destiny to overthrow a tyrannical entity known as the Operator. And so the true meaning of the title becomes apparent – rather than a generic title stating that this game will have pixelated graphics, it's actually the story of this single pixel-turned-messiah. It's worth mentioning at this point that most things in this world are referred to in Tron-esque terms such as “program” for the various NPCs you'll meet. While far from the most unique of plots, it works fine enough for the setting. The setting itself is where the real meat of the interesting concepts come about. The world is split up into different generations. The first generation sees you trying to regain your very special hat from a seagull, after which you'll progress to the second. At this point, something very special happens – the graphics upgrade! As if you were travelling through gaming history itself, the graphical fidelity will improve as you progress through the game. It's an especially charming touch, as these generations set about a sort of class system.

 Earlier generations have inhabitants like hill-billies, monks and even the previous Operator before the current despotic one took control. Some of these denizens will speak of later generations with a sense of disdain, with one mentioning that a giant city is causing a severe lack of power in rural areas. It makes for great motivation to continue on your quest – to see the sights of the later generations and to end the reign of the Operator. Even so, every generation manages to be beautiful in its own right. Strangely enough, the first generation reminds me greatly of Cave Story, while the second is more similar to Cave Story+, especially in the designs of the NPCs. Believe me, if I'm comparing pixelated graphics to the ridiculously high quality of Cave Story, a game that I tend to claim did pixelated graphics the best of any indie game, it's high praise indeed.

Starting out as a fairly standard platformer, A Pixel Story gets a lot more interesting once you recover your hat. This hat has the power of transportation – you can place it down, and you will then be able to teleport to it. It's fairly easy to get quite creative with this. You could jump off that ledge, collecting all the coins, and then make your way back up. Or you could place your hat, jump off and teleport back up. In one fell swoop, a lot of the tedium and backtracking of collect-a-thon platformers is reduced. You can even use it as a checkpoint of sorts if you don't quite trust in yourself to make a jump. New upgrades and mechanics keep the uses of the hat fairly fresh, including one of my favourite upgrades and substitutes for a double jump ever – the ability to keep your momentum as you warp to your hat. So you can effectively double jump by placing your hat in mid air and then jumping and warping straight away.

 Some puzzles do seem a bit overdone and tedious at times – there seems to be an abundance, upon receiving this particular upgrade, of backtracking to springs to ascend vertical shafts. I had quite a lot of difficulty controlling myself in the air in some of these sections – one part where you need to hold left as soon as you begin your jump to prevent yourself from falling into saw-blades, I was only able to stop myself around about half the time for some reason. This may be to do with my ineptitude, as I will freely admit I don't seem to be too great at controlling things in a 2D space. It's not too long before a new mechanic is introduced, and puzzle fatigue isn't too much of a problem. It's surprising how many ways the simple idea of a teleporting item that can be placed can be switched up! If, unlike me, you excel at 2D platforming and use of the hat, various challenge rooms lie about the world for you. These are devilishly difficult, and I've yet to actually finish one. They'll need excellent timing, pinpoint precision and a well-versed understanding of various hat-mechanics to complete. (It fills me with glee that hat-mechanics is a thing I can write for this review!)

A Pixel Story taught me a lesson. It showed me I shouldn't be so judgemental of games based on their art style. While I've never considered myself someone who cares overly for whether games have intensely high-detail graphics, I've found myself taking a negative stance on games that fashion themselves after old-school conventions. A Pixel Story showed me that not only can such graphical choices serve a purpose, but that if a game is enjoyable on a mechanical level, sometimes it doesn't really matter what it looks like. Not to say that each and every one of A Pixel Story's styles were anything short of exceptional.

Multiple distinct and beautiful graphical styles,

Varied and fun hat-mechanics.


Some puzzles can get a little tiresome,

Not the most original of plots.

Final Verdict,
A Pixel Story gets an 8 out of 10.

Written by,
Bad Demoman

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