By: Matthew Striplen
Not so long ago, 8-bit graphics were the pinnacle of gaming. Now, those who grew up in that glorious, pixelated era look back at that graphical style with great nostalgia, and. as a consequence, the market has suddenly become flooded with 8-bit inspired titles. How does Adventures of Pip hold up against its competitors?
All platformers require ultra-tight and responsive controls, and Pip delivers. The d-pad provides a slightly better experience, but the analog stick works just fine, too — though players won’t be able to utilize the true “analog” capabilities.
One of the most impressive parts of Pip is how the developers manipulate the player’s sense of weight. Each of Pip‘s forms become progressively heavier, and the change is instantly apparent. The only shortcoming appears in the form of jumping. Many situations arise where Pip must jump on enemies to make his way across the stage, but the window for getting a strong bounce off the enemy is very small. This may leave players feeling like they’ve been cheated.
Pip falls into the nebulous category of 8-bit “inspired” graphics, meaning this couldn’t be ported to NES or similar system. Many liberties are taken with the 8-bit theme, which are used to great effect. The pixel art showcases the incredible detail put into every screen. The light and shadow effects are particularly effective. With a great atmosphere and tons of color, it’s hard to ask for anything more.
Musically, the soundtrack marks a complete departure from 8-bit chiptunes in favor of a full orchestral score. Although a synthesizer is used instead of a live orchestra, the quality is so high that few gamers will be able to tell the difference. Sweeping horn calls and lush strings match the grand scope and atmosphere of daring adventure laid out by the gameplay. If I had to pick, the soundtrack would be my favorite part of the game.
Our hero, young Pip, is born as the lowliest of souls: a single pixel. When the evil Queen DeRezia kidnaps the Princess and reduces the beloved (and high-resolution) King and Queen to single pixels, however, only Pip has the courage to confront DeRezia. Although the game follows the tired “rescue the princess” formula, the top quality writing and twist of having everyone aware of their pixilated nature provides just enough charm and wit to hold the player’s interest.
As Pip begins his quest, he acquires the power of Bitstream, the most important ability in the game. By defeating certain enemies, Pip can gain higher resolution forms. All three have their advantages and disadvantages, but you’ll need a combination of them to save the princess.
Low Rez is the lightest and gives the highest jump, while Mid Rez allows for wall jumping and punching, but sacrifices jump height. High Rez is by far the heaviest and loses the ability to wall jump in favor of increased strength and a sword attack.
The first two forms have plenty of uses and are super fun to use, but the last form offers minimal advantages over the second. I often found myself downgrading to Mid Rez because the High Rez form became too difficult to use. That being said, the concept of changing forms in this manner adds a tremendous amount of depth to the platforming and should offer tons of enjoyment.
Level design almost always takes advantage of Pip’s morphing ability to great effect. Witnessing him gain new abilities for the first time was exciting and had me wanting to experiment more. With the last transformation, I was still excited to see what he could do, but soon the effect wore off.
Since both forms are awarded relatively early, I expected to continue to get more. Although plenty of unique and challenging platforming elements come into play as the game goes on, it still felt like Pip played all its best cards too quickly, thus letting the experience eventually get a little stale.
Each level is populated by three villagers, which Pip can choose to rescue. Most of the time, the villagers don’t have any real purpose, but sometimes a villager opens a new shop in the castle, which allows him to buy items and abilities. Like the villagers themselves, only a few items and abilities prove useful in the end.
A few minor technical issues pop up every now and then as well. Occasionally, the game hiccups for no perceptible reason. Although this doesn’t have a huge impact, it happens frequently enough to be irritating. Also, frame rates drop significantly when changing scenes. This is very consistent and is not masked by transition effects.
As far as difficulty is concerned, players will encounter challenging moments, especially towards the end, but it’s nothing that seasoned gamers couldn’t handle. Each world is topped off with a boss fight. These usually make use of whatever new mechanic was introduced, but most end up being too easy. All follow a strict pattern that, once memorized, can be quickly exploited.
To answer my earlier question, Adventures of Pip definitely manages to stand out of the crowd. The clever use of form changes as a platforming element and gorgeous soundtrack gives the game a strong identity, but it isn’t perfect. Previously engaging aspects end up getting old by the end, and the technical issues, while not game breaking, are a constant annoyance. That aside, Adventures of Pip is sure to provide a good time for the price.