A Pixel Story (Xbox One) Review

By Nikola Suprak 03.10.2019

Review for A Pixel Story on Xbox One

These days, it is impossible to go into any sort of digital videogame marketplace and not start tripping over puzzle platformers. They seem to be the go to for any indie developer with an idea this generation, and, sadly, most of them aren't that good - they lack vision or polish or some sort of twist that would help set them apart. Fortunately, those aren't things that need to be worried about in A Pixel Story. It is another puzzle platformer, sure, but it has a unique, fun core gameplay element, and the developers clearly knew what they wanted to do when they made this. It falters in a few areas, but still manages to stand above a lot of other similar examples in the genre.

Pixels don't tend to live the most interesting lives. The story of one is usually summed up as "be a part of a larger digital image. The end." Fortunately, in A Pixel Story, the focus here isn't on just some random boring pixel, but one of the most important pixels in gaming. The game starts off with a visualization of the classic Pong, but then something goes crazy. The pong ball breaks out, crashes on a whole bunch of stuff, and lands on a beach before coming to life (and getting some very adorable overalls). Something is going on in the system, an overarching computer program, with all sorts of interesting and colorful characters. The heroic pixel must now venture out and try to set some things right, all the while learning more about the system it's exploring.

Screenshot for A Pixel Story on Xbox One

The story here is somewhat minimal and pretty unimportant to what is going on. What is more important, however, is the overall charm of the experience which the game has in excess. There aren't a ton of characters to talk to, but there is this clever humor running throughout it all, so the ones you do talk to will likely elicit a smile. It isn't the kind of thing that is going to keep you enthralled, but there are plenty of "heh, that's clever" kind of moments and the whole thing is very interesting. A lot of thought went into the world of this game, and it "evolves" as you go into new worlds, taking on a new art style at times. There is a nice, cohesive theme to the game that is very well executed, and there is always something to be said for a title that has a specific, unique vision like this.

At first things are fairly simple, and the pixel can jump and walk and that's about it. The goal is to collect memory fragments that are represented by gems. Some of these are story related, while others will require exploring a bit and solving more challenging puzzles. The first area is very basic, and there are some very predictable platforming challenges and that's about it. The twist this game has for the gameplay comes from our heroic pixel's hat. While Fez might want to cover its test more closely while A Pixel's Life is around, the mechanic here is actually fairly clever. Shortly after getting started, the pixel will find a hat which changes things up significantly. Like a forgetful toddler, we can just leave our hat behind wherever and whenever the opportunity arises. By pressing the same button again, the main character will instantly transport back to where the hat was dropped at.

Screenshot for A Pixel Story on Xbox One

This instant teleportation leads to some really clever puzzles in the gameplay. At first things are fairly simple as the game introduces the basic mechanics. Platforms will move back and forth, it will be impossible to jump from one to another, but if the hat is planted at the right time, it will become possible to teleport while the second platform is underneath it. It takes time for the game to ramp up, but when it does, it is definitely worth it. There are some really fun (and borderline devious) puzzles here. These can get a bit redundant at times, and for each puzzle that is solved, it feels like one or two just like it will be waiting a little bit ahead. That nagging sense of déjà vu can strike a couple of times per area, and it would've been better if there was a bit more originality in some of the puzzle design. It isn't that the game is completely bereft of idea, because there is a surprising amount of depth to what initially seems like a very straightforward mechanic and the game certainly gets the most out of the teleportation. Some of these rooms can be solved right away, but others will require you to sit back and just look for a while. Once the solution is puzzled out though, it feels really rewarding and there are a good number of these fun, challenging puzzles in the game.

Screenshot for A Pixel Story on Xbox One

There are a couple of different collectables in here, as well. The first, and most story-relevant, is the memory fragments, which typically require solving some puzzle or completing some task. There are also coins to collect which can be used to open and unlock new bonus rooms. This isn't exactly an open world game, but there is just enough exploration here to keep things interesting. There are a handful of memory fragments that need to be done to continue the story, but there are plenty of others hidden throughout the levels that will actually need to be tracked down and found. A bit more exploration would've been nice, and a lot of the exploration here basically boils down to moving over one room over and solving the puzzle found in it. Still, this sort of thing really plays to the game's strengths, and A Pixel Story is at its best when it allows for the player to just wander around, solving whatever puzzles they want to before moving on.

Unfortunately, the game seems intent on playing to its weaknesses, as evidenced by the challenge rooms. The core mechanics here are set up for a puzzle platformer, yet all of the challenge rooms ramp up to Super Meat Boy levels of difficulty, and want almost perfect precision-platforming to pull off. This is simply not built to be a precision platformer. The controls are not nearly tight enough, and the floaty, imprecise jumps might be good for puzzles, but they simply aren't good enough whenever you are expected to do a bit more. These challenge rooms are meant to be fun culminations of your skills in the game, with some truly devious obstacles waiting for you. They seem really well set up as well, and rooms like this would actually be a lot of fun given the right controls. Unfortunately, with the system that this game is working with, they are more frustrating than fun and most players will likely wind up skipping a lot of them entirely rather than endure the frustration.

Screenshot for A Pixel Story on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

A Pixel Story has the potential to be great, but falls just short of capturing that potential. The basic mechanic here is a clever one, and the developers to a good job getting a lot out of it. Unfortunately, they fall just short of elevating it to something truly special, and the final result is a bit more basic than expected. Puzzles are good, but repetitive, and exploration is fun, but simple. This combined with floaty, imprecise controls and an odd insistence from the game to focus on them, makes this fall just below the top tier of puzzle platformers. Fans of the genre might still want to check this out, but everyone else might want to see what other stories are out there.

Developer

Lamplight Studios

Publisher

Rising Star Games

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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