Adventures of Pip is a 2D side-scrolling platformer from Tic Toc games, an independent developer. The game was a Kickstarter project; it was backed by 2,578 people and racked in $65,974. It’s a throwback and takes gameplay elements from classic 8 and 16-bit games. In Pixel Kingdome, each character is made up of pixels. The less pixels you have, the less you are worth. Some characters have faces that have no features at all, like from an old 8-bit Nintendo game. Meanwhile the rich and mighty have 16-bit faces with eyes, mouths, etc. However, everyone is still happy, the land is prosperous and they love their King and Queen. However, a witch named Queen DeRezzia has kidnapped Princess Adeline, who possesses amazing powers. Derezzia uses the princesses’ powers to create havoc and reign supreme over the land. It’s up to Pip, a lowly little pixel, to save the day.
Pip has very unique powers, he can harness the bitsteam. In the first level of the game you happen across an old ghostly knight who awakens Pip’s skills. When Pip jumps on a specific type of enemy, ones created by DeRezzia herself, he can evolve into an 8-bit version of himself. This version can run faster, attack enemies with punches, and most importantly wall jump! However, single pixel version of Pip is far from useless. He can jump higher off of mushroom springs and float slower, thus jump further, across platforms and into secrets. He’s also the shortest version, which means sneaking into small crevasses for goodies or passageways. Once the third world starts, Pip can evolve again into a 16-bit version of himself. This version can’t wall jump or even jump of off the mushroom springs, he’s too big and bulky. Nevertheless he can push heavy boulders and does wield a sword, which has the ability slice through rocks and is great at killing bad dudes.
To evolve from a single pixel to 8-bit and then 16-bit, Pip must kill a glowing blue enemy who has bitstream flowing through it. Pip instantly evolves once he kills one of them. To “devolve” backwards, for the sake of a platforming jump of a secret for example, you can simply hold the button down and Pip will go back to his lesser pixely form. Also when he does “devolve” a little explosion comes out of Pip; killing very nearby enemies and destroying pink colored blocks that are often in the way of his progression. The levels are designed to take advantage of each of Pip’s form. I was constantly evolving and devolving and it’s a lot of fun. For example there could be a line of pink blocks in the way of a secret passage. So I would need to simply devolve from 8-bit form and the explosion would blow up those pink blocks. Then after squeezing through the tiny tunnel in single pixel form, there could be few bad guys to kill, one of which was connected to the bitstream, which allows me to evolve back into 8-bit form. Now there could be a wall jumping section to get up to a higher spot, where one more bitsream enemy is waiting, once I kill him and go into 16-bit form, I could use the sword to destroy the rocks in my way and get the treasure chest behind it. All of the switching pack and forth feels very natural and not at all overwhelming; the clear differences between each pixilated form of Pip allows for fun gameplay without confusion.
Along with each of Pip’s forms being used for level progression and secrets, the evolution gameplay is also used heavily in platforming, and this is awesome. While controlling Pip I needed to analyze the situation and then quickly change back and forth on the fly to land tricky but enjoyable jump sequences. As the levels go on, the platforming gets more and more challenging, but never too frustrating or overly difficult. A perfect simple example of pulling off all the switches in one event happens in the very first level you unlock Pip’s 16-bit form. To jump high enough, I needed to first be in single bit form and jump off of a mushroom spring. Once launched in the air, I could land on top of a floating bitstream enemy, which evolved me into 8-bit form. Instantly after bouncing off of that enemy I needed to hug the wall and wall jump right off of it to jump far enough to land on the next floating bitstream enemy. Once I landed and bounced off of that bitstream enemy, I changed into 16 bit form and had to immediately slice away a rock wall that was blocking the platform to get to the next area. As soon as I performed all of this for the first time, I realized the special style of gameplay in Adventures of Pip. It’s unique and seriously cool. I wish the game had more of these brilliant platforming jumps, if the entire game was that alone, I’d be happy. The quick switch puzzley type platforming is what sets the game apart from the average throwback platformer.
Developer Tic Toc also made some smart moves when it comes to the design. One of those smart choices was how they handled enemy respawns. If you kill a normal enemy, he dies and doesn’t return, unless you leave the ”screen” and come back into that room. You won’t need to do that often, so not allowing the enemies to respawn instantly makes sense, while still giving the option to bring them back once you leave the screen and return makes sense too. Conversely, bitstream enemies DO respawn. In just a few seconds after killing one, the bitsream enemy will come back to life, almost like a dry bones from Mario. Why is this so important? It allows the player to take chances and test out little theories when it comes to the evolving and devolving puzzle type moments. Let’s say I had to get to the top of the platform, and to do so I needed to evolve Pip a few times in very specific ways. Well, I can just go for it and play while having epiphanies on the run without the fear of totally screwing it up. Because it I did mess up, those bitstream baddies will just reappear and I can have another go. But if they didn’t and I killed the bitsteam enemies without making it to the top of the platform, then what would I do? I’d have to kill myself or run backwards to “reset” the screen. The frustration of having to do that would be a major turnoff. Not only that, it would have changed the way I played. Instead of letting the game feel free and natural, and allowing for minor mistakes, I’d be forced to play the game slow and get seriously annoyed every time I missed a jump. How much would Portal have sucked if the blocks you had to place never respawned or if you had to get a new gun every time you took a couple shots? A lot! It might seem like a simple thing to do, but it could have been easily missed. And the fact that Tic Toc made normal enemies NOT respawn while bitsream enemies DO tells me that they thought hard, tested the game, and developed the game correctly in a pivotal moment.
Tic Toc also made the game a lot of fun to explore. Each level is filled with secrets. Walls you can go through, tough platforming high spots that utilize the different Pip’s jumps, and hidden places that can be opened up with the each pixilated form are everywhere in the game. Some of the secrets have chests with money; other secrets have civilians to save. Every level has three civilians that need saving, and finding all of them is the perfect mix of challenging without being daunting. And the gameplay is just fun enough that I always wanted to see what walls were hiding what and which leaps of faith could take me where. There is also a hub world, the town, that gets more and more filled the more civilians you save; I thought this was a really cool extra touch. The town also has shops, which can only be unlocked once you save the shopkeeper civilian of that specific shop in the levels. One shop may specialize in potions or heart pieces. Another shop could give you special armor to allow for less health to be lossed when hit by a bad guy. Some of these things are extremely over priced, there are single use items that show you if the screen has hidden stuff, but for the cost it’s not worth it. Meanwhile saving up for another heart piece or more armor is totally worth it. It just sucks that it takes so long to save up that money. The average level will give you 300-500 pixels, the games currency. But the shop items themselves, at least the ones worth buying, cost 3k-5k pixels. With 5 world and 8 levels in each, you can only really buy a handful of those good items on your first playthrough.
Speaking of the worlds and levels, this is an area that could have used a bit more work. The lava and castle type levels later in the game look really cool. But the first few worlds are lacking. The first world is a forest, the second is a swamp. And they are far too similar. Each level in each world usually didn’t have enough diversity either, every level looks the same. It would have helped, for example, if say the forest level had a level that looked like it followed a river, another level that seemed to be deep inside a massive tree, or other cool places that totally would fit in a forest world. As opposed to every level in the forest world kind of just looking like the same green forest with minor changes.
The graphics overall don’t impress. Of course it’s a classic 8/16-bit game. But I’ve seen many of those that totally blow me away. The enemy design, the world and levels visual design all seem flat. There aren’t too many wow moments to the eyes. There’s nothing visually distracting either, it’s just maybe too simple. One thing about the graphics that is really cool is the maintained art-style throughout the different pixelated characters. It’s interesting that an 8-bit character with little detail can still look unique and can fit into the world right along side a fully detailed 16-bit character. The music also seems out of place. At times it sounds really awesome, but more fitting for a classic Japanese rpg or that kind of game. It doesn’t really fit with the visual style or gameplay. Overall the music gets a bit monotonous.
The boss battles at the end of the eighth level in every world are underwhelming. They seem less about skill and fun flowing gameplay and more about trial by error. They also just aren’t enjoyable to fight. Instead of creating bosses where the goal was to jump on its head three times typical Mario style, why not have running bosses or collapsing levels where Pip needs to evolve and devolve fast through the levels and make it to the exit alive. That would fit the gameplay much better in my opinion.
Adventures of Pip is a fun game. The second to second gameplay is distinctive and exciting. My favorite moments were when I was forced to use all of Pip’s different pixel versions in one awesome platforming sequence. I honestly wish there were many more of these. The bosses could be dropped from the game and it would probably benefit, although a new climax would be needed instead. The text between the characters is filled with chuckles, as the humor often revolves around making fun of Pip’s single pixel form or pixel related puns. The graphics and music are fine, but if the game had a more distinctive and beautiful art style it would have propelled Pip to newer heights for sure. Secrets are plentiful, but buying stuff in the stores just costs too much. Overall evolving and devolving to make jumps, find secrets, and eventually save the princess and Pixel Land is a whole lot of fun; Tic Toc should be proud.
1) Unique new evolve/devolve gameplay
2) Packed with secrets
3) Good ol’ fun
1) Weak boss fights
2) Bland graphics