Adventures of Pip

When I started this gig, I was wide-eyed and innocent. I saw the influx of pixel art games as a great thing; a call back to my childhood. Frankly, I welcomed the style with open arms and enjoyed it as I got it. As my tenure here expanded in length, I realized that this style is often not adopted out of reverence for the classics of old. No, many developers took it as a free pass for artistic laziness, making something that, even in the past, would be lackluster. The retro horse is starting to bleed from the eyes, folks. It is deceased. This is an ex-horse. Can we stop flogging the poor creature, please? (It only took me a year to become this jaded. I weep for my future self…)

It is with this mindset that I once again approached TicToc Games’ Adventures of Pip. I loved this one when I wrote about it from the demo I played at PAX. It really was one of my favorites from the show. Would my decreasing appreciation for this style hamper my ability to enjoy this? It is with a profound elation that I can answer “no”. While it is not perfect, Adventures of Pip is a joy to play.

I  might be ascribing to much to TicToc Games here, but I get the impression that they might hold the same view as me. The over-abundance of lazy pixel art is a plague on indie games, but there is still value to the style. That is why they wove a compelling reason for this look directly into the narrative. Adventures of Pip takes place in a fantasy kingdom where the higher res a person is, the higher up the caste they are. So, Atari 2600 style block people are the serfs, 32-bit folks are royalty. Then a princess (I know. Stay with me.) is born who can create pixels out of thin air. With this power, nobody should need to be low res. Then, a witch kidnaps her as a teenager, steals her power, and uses it in reverse to start turn royalty into low res blocks. Only Pip, a lowly pixel, is brave enough to give chase.

Through his journey, Pip discovers that he has the power to upgrade his resolution by jumping on or otherwise defeating crystalline creatures. Each version has different abilities. As a pixel, he can float and jump higher off of bounce pads. Eight bit Pip can wall jump and punch. The 32-bit version has a sword that can destroy special walls.

Using these powers is key to solving Pip’s many platforming puzzles. A typical challenge might be to wall jump, devolve to hit a pad, and then land twice in succession on two enemies to evolve back to sword form an knock out a wall to proceed. It’s great stuff and tons of fun. The classic platforming with a twist on offer here is worth the price of admission alone.

As the look of the game is integral to the plot and tone of the game, it helps that the graphics are very well done. The environments pop with color, the enemies are detailed, and it’s really easy to follow the action. The real star of the show has to be Pip. His 32-bit form is expressive and the eight bit form is spot on. My favorite is block form. The fact that the artist managed to imbue a “one-pixel” block with so much personality is remarkable. I defy the player not to smile as they witness pixel Pip standing in place, dancing back and forth to a song only he can hear. Whatcha grooving to there, Mr. Blockguy? My theory: a medieval style rendition of a mid-90’s KMFDM track.

With a name like "Lute Joint Jezebel" or some such nonsense.
With a name like “Lute Joint Jezebel” or some such nonsense.

That said, I cannot describe this as perfect. For my tastes, there are some pacing issues. It felt like I was repeating a few of the same puzzles with minor tweaks over and over at times. It also took longer than I would have preferred to have the high res version of Pip introduced. This might be simply because I am impatient, but I wanted all the meat and veggies on the plate sooner. You can teach me how to play with my food after.

I also wasn’t a fan of the music. To me, it ventures from unremarkable to annoying. I also hope that they try to add more up-tempo battle music for the boss fights. Having the same sweet, almost lullaby type tunes from the levels playing as I struggle to take down a big-baddie just wasn’t fitting.

It also didn't mesh well with my stream of curses as I struggled to beat this thing. This is only the first boss.
It also didn’t mesh well with my stream of curses as I struggled to beat this thing. This is only the first boss.

As this is an Early Access game, it should be noted that the music might be fine tuned in the interim. TicToc Games has stated, though, that the mechanics and levels are in place. They are simply looking for community feedback to dial in the perfect feel for the platforming and make sure it is balanced properly. This status is also used to denote that there may be some bugs. With that, I have to report that I did not experience any bugs at all. Everything ran perfectly smooth, with no hitches, crashes, or non-intended impediments to progress. Considering how many titles receive a full release to Steam that can’t claim this, I have to admire the dev’s care for their audience and attention to detail in trying to qualify this release.

They needn’t be so humble, though.  Whenever I do an Early Access impressions piece, I feel like there is always an unstated understanding that only the patient or genre fans should purchase now while everyone else waits for the completed release. I can say with confidence that this is not the case here. Adventures of Pip is worth your money and time right now. While I am curious to see what the “completed” product will look like when it’s done, this is a complete and worthy experience as is. If you have ever enjoyed a 2D platformer, pick this one up.

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After being bitten by a radioactive chimney sweep, J.M. Bohn and his trusted friend, Baron Stacheforth, took to the streets to reenact Mediatonic’s Foul Play. (No theater would have them.) The results were…less than ideal. His current whereabouts are unknown to keep his loved ones safe. Love/hate mail can be sent to jasonmbohn@gmail,com.

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