Title: Adventures of Pip
Developer: Tic Toc Games
Note: A copy of the game was provided for review by the kind folks over at Tic Toc Games. We reviewed the Wii U version of the game
If you've been listening to our podcast, then you know at least one thing about me: I'm a huge Nintendo fan. I've always loved the classic platformers of the 80's and 90's, from Super Mario Brothers and Kirby's Adventure, to Donkey Kong Country and Earthworm Jim. Back in those days, developers were forced to work with limited resources, so gameplay was king. It goes without saying, then, that I'm thrilled these games have made a comeback in recent years. Great platforming adventures like Shovel Knight, Fez, and the Shantae series take those retro building blocks and sprinkle in new ideas for a fun and unique experience. Adventures of Pip is one such game. Developer Tic Toc Games has crafted a quirky, fresh platformer and, despite a few technical issues, there is a lot to love here. Adventures of Pip takes place in a kingdom known as Pixelonia, a land where individuals with more pixels live a life of luxury, while those with fewer pixels live humble lives. When a princess named Adeline is born with the ability to create pixels from nothing, the evil Queen DeRezzia becomes envious of her. On Adeline's 16th birthday, Queen DeRezzia attacks the kingdom, kidnaps the princess, and absorbs all the pixels. The only one brave enough to stop the evil queen is Pip, a single-pixel hero who then sets out to save the princess.
However, Pip does not stay a single pixel for long, because a ghostly knight named Elwyn bestows upon him the power of Bitstream, which allows him to absorb the pixels of certain enemies and evolve into more powerful forms. Each of Pip's transformations has inherent benefits and disadvantages. There are three forms in total:
Pixel Pip: In his original form, Pip is merely a red square that can only move and jump. Pixel Pip can only defeat enemies by landing on top of them. However, because of his diminutive stature, he can fit into tighter spaces than his evolved personas. Also, since he's lighter, he can bounce higher on trampolines and has a floaty jump. This enables him to glide to areas inaccessible to his heavier selves.
Agile Pip (8-bit): In this form, Pip can run faster and climb higher via wall jumping. He can also punch to attack, and grab onto ledges to reach otherwise unreachable areas.
Strong Pip (16-bit): In his most pixel-rich incarnation, Pip is strong enough to move heavy blocks and can attack with a sword. He can also crush stones that block his path. Additionally, Strong Pip is too heavy to get blown about by strong winds, and he can't bounce on trampolines.
You cannot only make Pip evolve by defeating special enemies, but you can devolve him at any time by holding down the A button. The levels are cleverly designed so that you will have to evolve and devolve many times in order to reach the goal. For example, occasionally you will encounter Bit Blocks which will obstruct your path. If you stand near these blocks and hold down the A button to devolve, it causes the blocks to shatter, allowing you to continue. There are 3 pixelated villagers for Pip to rescue in each level, and the means by which you reach some of them can be a challenge, requiring multiple changes of form. Many of them are cleverly hidden behind secret walls. In fact, there is no shortage of secrets to find in Pixelonia. I recommend trying to jump into every wall possible, because you never know when you'll find a hidden treasure chest or a lost villager.
The land of Pixelonia is comprised of four areas: Forest, Swamp, Caves, and Lava. Once these are complete, the final four Castle levels await Pip. There are 36 levels total, which took me almost 7 1/2 hours to complete with over 150 deaths. Some very challenging platforming segments are found throughout the game, as well as some very frustrating ones. However, the fun outweighs the frustration, as the novel form-switching mechanic makes for some awesome moments. Many times you must bounce on an enemy to evolve, and then devolve in mid-air in order to wall kick as Agile Pip or float down to the ground as Pixel Pip. Moments like these keep the gameplay fun and interesting.
This wouldn't be a fair review if I didn't point out the negative aspects of the game, and Adventures of Pip has several problems that hold it back from being something even greater. There were a few technical issues that detracted from the experience to some degree. For example, some frame rate issues and screen stuttering were very noticeable at certain times. It wasn’t enough to hamper the gameplay experience, but it was easily detected nonetheless. There were some sound glitches that I encountered, as well. At one point, there was a loud buzzing noise that started for no reason, and I had to reset the game to get it to stop. I also took issue with the fact that Strong Pip's attack button is the same button used to grab and push blocks. I can't count how many times I tried to grab a block only to have him swing his sword, often getting me into trouble. Couple this with the fact that you can't hold down the button and then walk up to a block to move it, and you have a recipe for frustration. You have to be close enough to the block and then press the button to move the block. This was an especially vexing issue during the Lava boss fight, where you must quickly push blocks off of a platform before it sinks into the lava. Only three buttons on the Wii U controller are utilized in Adventures of Pip, which means that there are five unused buttons. The developers could have easily designated a separate Grab button.
Speaking of boss battles, I felt like they were well-designed and engaging for the most part, but these battles were sorely lacking in the area of sound direction. For one thing, at least with the Lava boss, there is no unique music during the fight. You just hear the same music that has been playing throughout the rest of the level. Also, when a boss is defeated there is no victorious music, no angry roar, and no rumbling sound. The boss just disappears silently, making these battles feel very anticlimactic. Defeating a boss is supposed to be a triumphant moment at the end of a set of levels. I wish there was an epic score unique to each boss, as well as some sort of audio cue at the end of these battles to punctuate my accomplishment.
All of these issues aside, I thought Adventures of Pip was a great first outing in what will hopefully be a long series of adventures. The game brings an unconventional twist to the platforming genre, making it feel both new and retro in the same breath. The music is fantastic, but I would have liked a more epic score during boss battles. The story is cute and mildly humorous, but never made me laugh out loud, save for one line at the end of the game. Despite a few minor technical issues and frustrations, I enjoyed my time in Pixelonia. Hopefully, it won't be the last.
- Fun twist on platforming
- Sufficiently challenging
- Great soundtrack
- Some frustrating moments
- Technical issues
- No dedicated 'grab' button