A Pixel Escape

There’s nothing wrong with ambition, and there’s especially nothing wrong with trying to be original.  However, in the land of video games, you have to tread lightly.  Not every idea is capable of working, no matter how ambitious or original.  For example, A Pixel Escape combines puzzle-platforming with first-person gameplay.  Despite moderately decent graphics, the result is the biggest disaster in “it sounded good on paper” since the Lakers landed Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

The idea is you’re a single pixel trying to escape from a monitor.  Gameplay takes place on an entirely 2D plane, but you control the pixel from a first person view.  This was not a good idea.  Movement feels loose, jumping feels imprecise, and judging distance can be tricky.  Overshooting and undershooting platforms is a common hazard, and the landing is slippery enough that sometimes you can hit your target and still coast off it and into your doom.  I have never been a fan of first person platforming, because even fully funded major studios can’t seem to get it right.  A Pixel Escape feels like the Frankensteined version of all previous attempts.

Unfortunately, bad play control isn’t the only problem with A Pixel Escape.  The game has a problem with being overly complex.  There’s thirteen different colors you can change into.  You can create blocks with each color or use a color-specific super power.  This gives you dozens of different things you have to keep track of over the course of a game.  Brevity would have served this game well.  The developer should have limited the amount of colors to four, chose the best powers to center puzzles around, and refined the way those powers were used.  Having so many powers all at once makes the game feel overwhelming.  It doesn’t help that activating powers is clunky as hell.  You have to hold both triggers to use block related powers, Y to use the power on yourself, I think one of the bumpers to pitch the powers out, you have to click the left stick to change the map, X knocks on the glass, just one trigger to throw a punch at enemies.. you know what?  Thank Jesus Christ Almighty that XBLIG developers aren’t given Kinect support, or the guys behind this game would have probably made you hop up and down on one leg while doing all of this.

If that doesn’t sound bad enough, just wait, because there’s more.  Every power you use takes up Red-Green-Blue energy.  You have to constantly keep your source of this replenished.  Every color tells you how many points of each prime color is required to activate it.  If you fuck up just once, chances are it will necessitate a level restart.  With the controls as poor as they are, requiring this level of perfection is guaranteed to raise your frustration level through the roof.  The only way to refill the R-G-B energy is to destroy blocks.  However, doing so causes darkness to appear where the block was destroyed.  If that happens, enemies start to spawn in.  The enemies tend to move faster than you do, and they hone in on you like flies on shit, quickly draining away your health.  Your only defense against them is a clumsy punch that seems a bit hard to line up.  Granted, the enemies aren’t overall too bad.  Most of the your deaths will come from missteps in platforming, but with all the crap this game makes you go through, this bit seemed a little like overkill.

This shot comes later in the game. Not sure if you can go deeper or not. I actually gave up playing the tutorial, tried the main puzzle mode, quit that due to flaky controls, and then got a third Code-3 game crash. I took it as a sign to walk away. FYI, the developers are working on the crash issues. Not sure how they’re going to fix everything else, but I’m keeping the faith.

If something about A Pixel Escape could go wrong, it probably did.  Even with all the large problems above, it’s the little things that really drive a stake through it.  Some of the colors look too much alike, like Red and Orange.  Or the fact that the exit isn’t more clearly marked on the map.  In order to find out where it is, you have to knock on the glass and wait for the computer user to tell you which direction to head.  Why?  It’s cutesy, but it makes the game less fun.  Besides the fact that the graphics are not horrible, I can’t think of anything nice to say about A Pixel Escape.  Somewhere in here is the germ of a really cool game.  The idea of a pixel trying to escape a TV is solid, but the execution of this concept was completely botched.  It’s a shame because I really wanted to love A Pixel Escape.  I actually feel that it wanted to love me back, but could only express that by giving me half-eaten chocolates and kisses that tasted like an acidic fart.

A Pixel Escape was developed by Kunga Brothers

80 Microsoft Points said “oh well, still better than anything shown at E3” in the making of this review.  I bet that one gets quoted out of context.

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