I’ve come to the realization that watching a game develop from an early alpha build is very much akin to watching your child grow. You peak in on it every now and then to see how it’s coming along and offer criticisms so that it may better itself. Like a child, however, parental/consumer advice has a tendency to go unheeded by developers, and the end product can usually still play host to issues seen in early builds. Indie developer TicToc Games seems to have eschewed this tradition of voluntary ignorance with the full release of their action platformer, Adventures of Pip.
Recovering from a blocky start
As some of you may recall, I actually previewed Adventures of Pip many moons ago, back when my cynicism nearly outweighed my oversized ego. I recall actually liking the game, but harping on the fact that the storyline and platforming elements strode dangerously close to the pitfall of unoriginal thought. The plot, revolving around a lone underdog protagonist taking on a world full of baddies to rescue a princess, obviously still toes this line (I wasn’t expecting them to head that far back on the drafting table), but I actually noticed some deeper elements now that the backstory and additional characters were fully developed.
Chief among these observations was the blatant life lesson of classism. Yes, even in the 2D world of the Pixel Kingdom there are those at the top (32-bit) and those at the bottom (1 lonely pixel). Pip, a young boy in the lowest caste, is tasked with rescuing a princess from the evil Skeleton Queen, who plots to use the power of the Bit Stream to destroy all order and bring balance to the world. What follows is your typical rise-to-the-challenge character growth as Pip shows the world that even a single pixel can save the day (though one wonders why he didn’t just let the Queen bring everyone back to square one…).
This isn’t even my final form
While the plot may not draw in a large enough crowd on its own, Pip‘s unique twist on traditional platformer gameplay certainly will. Though the game still clings to typical “jump-double jump-wall jump” mechanics, the ability to evolve and devolve Pip’s form to better suit the environment adds a much needed breath of fresh air. Throughout each level, certain ledges, puzzles, and enemies can only be reached, solved, and destroyed (respectively) while in a certain evolution – one pixel, 8-bit, and 32-bit. The single pixel form can jump higher and glide, the 8-bit evolution can punch and jump off walls, and the final 32-bit form can use a sword and push heavy objects.
Each of these evolutions serve a specific purpose, and while it may appear as if the game is handholding at times (by providing you with a constant source of evolution-granting monsters to kill), there’s still a bit of challenge to be had when the pace picks up. Quickly devolving from one form to another to bash open a barrier and cling to a wall before falling in a lake of lava takes skill, thus preventing this new mechanic from coming off as gimicky. The final build also provides players with a chance to upgrade their weapons and purchase special abilities and potions using the pixel gems collected from each level. While I didn’t actually use any of these perks till the very end, their inclusion in the game added just the right level of customization needed in a platformer (that being minimal).
Gotta kill ’em all
One of my quibbles with the preview build was the frustrating lack of challenge when it came to obstacle and enemy elements. TicToc Games certainly amped up their efforts on this front for the final build, however, because now players are faced with a slew of crazy monsters and dangerous traps, each of which add a unique bit of substance to the game. Where before I was stuck maiming slow-moving turtles, now I’m running from flying bombs, poisonous amphibians, and a few monsters that act as reverse vacuum cleaners (psychedelics are a powerful tool in the hands of graphical artists).
Along with a larger cast of standard baddies, Adventures of Pip also offers up several boss fights at the end of every section. While it takes no more than three hits to kill every boss (save for the queen), the Mario/Contra-esque attack patterns and arena design bring back all those nostalgic feelings that the internet can’t stop going on about. These epic final battles are a nice change of pace from the linear Point A to Point B levels, and the change in scenery – be it a green meadow, dank cavern, or boiling lava field – continues to add a healthy buffet of appealing visuals. The typical chiptune soundtrack and effects accompany the visual aesthetic, and while they don’t add very much in the way of value, they aren’t annoying enough to cripple the experience.
You can check out a bit of gameplay (including the first boss fight) in the video above, and browse through some screenshots below!