With me breathing a partial sigh of relief, the third Indie Games Uprising comes to a close with Ratchet Game Studio‘s Pixel (80 MSP), a first-person platformer that goes light on the puzzles and is all about agility, traversal, and getting the fastest time.
Sporting a clean (some would say bland) style that fits the clinical approach, Pixel tries to add some pop to the time-trial genre by introducing different attachments to your gun, such as slowing down the retraction rate of platforms (stasis), or extending an entire row in one whack (singularity). Coupled with the colored blocks that have different effects on you or the environment (orange extends or raises bridges, green works as a launching pad, etc.), it makes for a little more excitement than a dull, ‘point A to point B’ journey.
The game is careful to avoid contradicting its ‘speed-first’ policy too, keeping the gun-switching within the levels to a minimum. You can make it through most of the stages with the default ammo. Though even if you had the dexterity to swap guns in flight, you’d be fighting much worse than tricky platforming; Pixel is a textbook example of a platformer done in by its own controls. They are as loose and finicky as I’ve felt, and without a doubt, the game needed more time to work out the kinks.
Also distressing is Pixel‘s FOV (field of view). The gun takes up too much of the screen, which is mentionable but not terrible. You could get away with that in a strictly puzzle game. A first-person shooter or platformer? Not so much. Still, I could work around it. What I found jarring, and I’m sure many others will say the same thing, was the alternating depth / zoom of any given stage. Looking straight ahead at an open part of the level was fine. Get too close to a wall, or point down / up at a section of blocks, and it’s like you’ve instantly ‘zoomed in’, throwing off your positioning and giving yourself a headache.
Combine this with the touchy controls (too fast when moving, too slow when turning), and you’ll find yourself slipping off platforms and edges where normally you wouldn’t. The bad news continues. Glitches that force you to restart a level (stage 7, well-documented in other sites’ reviews), inexplicably falling from or passing right through certain pillars, as well as constantly overshooting or undershooting most of the jumps. Eight times out of 10, finishing a level was luck in my experience. Those aren’t the odds you want or expect from a reflex-tester.
The best thing you can say about Pixel is that it’s over quickly. I was able to breeze through it, loose controls and all, in about an hour, limping to the finish line with zero desire to ever visit it again. The effort is admirable and the visuals are to its credit, but they only mask a disappointing puzzle / platformer.