Adventures of Pip Review | Not Quite Pixel Perfect

Adventures of Pip

Adventures of Pip, through rough patches and a flat sense of progression, raises its sword gallantly enough for old school platformers.

When 2D platformers were coming into style, there was Mario, Kirby, Samus and, to a certain extent, Link that each brought their own unique gimmicks and styles to a simple design paradigm. Nintendo was the place to go for platformers for most of the 2D-only times and now reigns supreme in 3D examples of the genre among the big three companies. Indie studios have drawn endless inspiration from the Nintendo well, bringing about new ways to tackle a lot of the same. Enter Pip, who stars in a game that might as well be an interactive Power Point presentation on which platformer trope to use in which situation, but does bring a new gimmick that pokes a pixel or two out from the shadows of the old masters.

“Adventures of Pip does represent a blending of art styles fairly well in character models…”

Adventures of Pip
One of the few, Zelda-like shops.

Entertainment

Adventures of Pip stars a single pixel named Pip in his quest to free to a princess from an evil overlord. While that bass line sounds really, really familiar, the game is aware of this complete trope and does what it can to spoof a lot of classic lines and situations. At one point, the princess approaches Pip with something important to tell him, but then completely backpedals in a humorous, self-aware way that gives a more realistic answer than you’re probably used to hearing in a game. The overall plot actually comes across as a commentary on the genre’s evolution, and while it’s not ground-breaking in itself, it’s the self-aware humor and the apparent effort that sinks in the plot hook just enough to drag you along.

Originality

Besides the aware plot, there is only one other original idea to speak of in the eight hour adventure. The ability to change size, and generation of visuals, is the essential cog that Adventures of Pip needed to float at all. You begin as a single red Pixel, capable of jumping the highest, floating down instead of dropping, and fitting into tight corridors. Eventually, your other two forms – 8-bit and Sword you can call them – offer unique abilities and give you some choice about how to tackle situations. Pip himself has physics based upon which form he’s in; you won’t be able to bounce as Sword, 8-bit can wall jump, Pixel can rubber band himself to higher places out of water and so forth. Players can go backwards through his forms at the hold of a button and can go forward by taking Bitstream energy from crystal monsters, but the game was always spot on with preparing Pip with his proper form for the next area.

The similarities to other titles from platforming’s past seem way too obvious to pass over. None of the level designs have a speck of originality from the platforms themselves to the music and aesthetic. In the early levels, it really does feel like a Power Point: Mario jump practice section, Kirby absorb section, Metroid secret wall there, Zelda short attack here and here, change the slide please. There is a sweet spot around the second world where you just get your Sword form and the game feels ready to deliver its full arsenal of designed challenges. The three worlds that follow never come to that promise as the degree of difficulty seems to flatline after the second world boss, only some elements swapping out for new obstacle opportunities in subsequent zones.

Adventures of Pip
Pixel racism is funny racism.

Gameplay

But Adventures of Pip is not necessarily a poor amalgamation of those gameplay ticks. Jumping is reliable for the most part and even those early partitions feel fluid despite their familiarity. It’s when all three forms are at your disposal the game hits its peak and, to the game’s credit, stays there long enough for you to be comfortable with which Pip should enter which situation before the last world. Fighting the last boss does feel like a boring, poorly designed chore though when you’re not really forced into using Pip’s various moves that you’ve honed the whole game but just using a punch and jump strategy over and over.

That familiar design falters in the checkpoint system as well with markers coming not after lengthy, timing-heavy sections but only after a half or third of the stage has passed. It makes the whole level feel disjointed when a flat, practically easy section can lead to a checkpoint while a fully involved wall jumping section over lava can often just lead to a similar gauntlet. Chests and denizens of your hub world are also littered between checkpoints, but only saving some of the three people per zone is remembered between deaths. Any treasure gathered is thrown back into the chest from whence it came, making a lot of those available deathtraps undesirable roadblocks after an attempt or two. There is also an issue with saving the townsfolk as the order they’re collected in isn’t remembered, again taking away a chunk of the desire to sweep back through zones.

Environment

Adventures of Pip does represent a blending of art styles fairly well in character models, but never so in levels or backgrounds. You won’t see an 8-bit boss character or any deviation in the light, colorful art style. That works as a visual aesthetic but perhaps not so much in delivering the fact that this world is supposedly on the verge of great peril. Some framerate drops were present as well, although none affected the experience greatly, and there was an issue with the Xbox One controller on the PC version, but the keyboard worked just fine. There are very few options and next to no epilogue to the entire experience as well as you are simply kicked back to the start screen after the final boss and a short slide show.

Having some of the same pieces as those that have come before you doesn’t necessarily mean you have nothing new to offer, and Adventures of Pip represents that well enough. Any longtime gamer has run across platformers that run the idea of Mario and the like into the ground with a single gimmick. Pip pushes off those original concepts just enough to come out an enjoyable experience, but certainly could’ve used another pixel or two in its repertoire to make this adventure worth taking over and over again.

Final Thoughts

Even though Adventures of Pip has far too few new ideas, the skeletal system we’ve played in other games still holds up under a new coat of pixels.

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