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Indie Games Uprising III: Pixel

Pixel is a first-person free-run that exhibits twenty-five challenges split over four chapters. Each one contains its own musical theme, electronic beats and loops that suit the visual blueprint. It’s a short game that doesn’t take long to clear through, with replay value that only challenges you to beat your best times.

Each challenge places you at the beginning of a short course with the clock ticking. Moving from point A to B is ostructed by a number of colour coded blocks. To navigate these mazes in the sky you’re carrying a tool that can shoot projectiles which interact with the environment. This tool is upgraded with new augments as you progress, allowing different block types to be controlled.

White blocks expand when shot, orange ones slow down, blue blocks must be made to connect together to power later sections, and green acts a jump pad. The strong, bold colours are effective and it’s easy to see what’s happening. However, failed attempts are caused by the unrefined controls.

Upon looking around the first area it was like flying a helicopter; the axis inverted. Searching the menus there was an option to invert, which it already was. Left confused, I ticked invert to actually not invert and then continued on.

With that resolved the race continued, and, following a brief text introduction, it’s explained you’re equipped with a jetpack. Though it’s clear this is an excuse for the unrefined mechanics. You’re unable to hover or fly with it, there’s no noise when jumping or landing, and no shadow is cast making it hard to judge exactly where you’ll land. Essentially, it’s jumping in a low gravity environment.

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Combined with the loose movement it causes many missed leaps and plenty of fidgeting. Upon falling you’ll continue to plummet down until the puzzle appears below again, placing you back at the beginning with the clock continuing. This keeps things moving but makes restarting a chore.

Rather than hot-keying an instant restart, the game has to be paused, the chapter and level then selected again, with no marker provided for where you’re currently. Landing on platforms is made harder by an occasional collision glitch that’ll push you through the floor or stop you jumping from the last pixels of a ledge.

These controls and the occasional collision error don’t, however, result in a barrage of frustration and a train wreck. Pixel understands its main goal and achieves it, providing puzzles that can be speed ran for the fastest times. When replaying chapters and recalling the previous routes you’ll identify ways of leaping entire structures, skipping whole sections and activating blocks whilst in the air.

It suits the pass-by-pad mentality when playing socially, taking it in turns to best the previous scores and show off with daring leaps and sprints to cover as much open ground as possible. Which results in competitive laughter and verbal pats-on-the-back in equal measure as scores are beat and long jumps miss their target.

For all its control faults, Pixel is a short, honest blast that’s an indie free-run and puzzle-gun affair. Already enjoyable, it’ll have further legs in it if Ratchet Games are able to resolve the control issues, instate online scoreboards and provide further content via additional chapters.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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