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Adventures of Pip

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, WiiU, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Tic Toc Studios
Release Date: Aug. 18, 2015


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PS4 Review - 'Adventures of Pip'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 18, 2015 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

When darkness covers the kingdom, an unlikely hero will evolve and devolve to save the day in Adventures of Pip, an epic 2D side-scrolling adventure.

We hear a lot about the massive Kickstarter successes: the Bloodstained and Shenmue of the world. It's easy to forget that there are Kickstarters that don't make millions of dollars and still manage to turn out a solid game. The Adventures of Pip is one such game. It earned a comparatively low $65K and is a great example of a low-budget gem.

Pip was born in a kingdom where social status is determined by your number of pixels. Alas, poor Pip was born as the only single-pixel person in the world, so he's the lowest of the low. However, that same condition gives Pip the chance to be a hero. The evil Queen DeRezzia wants to be the highest res of all and kidnaps the local princess, who has the power to manipulate pixels. She uses the stolen power to turn most of the kingdom into single pixels, including the royal family. Since Pip is already a single pixel, he's the only one who can stop her. He ventures across the land, seeking out the kidnapped villagers and proving that even a single pixel can be enough to change the world.

Pip can transform and has three distinct states: single-pixel, 8-bit and 16-bit. These effectively translate to light, medium and heavy and have their own strengths and weaknesses. The transformations are triggered by defeating pixel enemies in the environment, thus allowing Pip to absorb their pixels. You go up in graphical fidelity as you do so, but it's a one-way trip. You can release pixels and downgrade, which causes a minor explosion necessary to solve puzzles but leaves you in a different form. The forms are all equally important and aren't like Mario power-ups, so single-pixel Pip isn't inherently worse than 8-bit Pip.

The single-pixel form has almost zero combat ability. It can hop on enemies, and that is about it, but it's by far the lightest of the three forms and can traverse obstacles that nobody else can. You can float in the air, bounce on objects that are too small for the other forms, float in water, and various other advantages. It's also the smallest form and can squeeze into small areas that nobody else can.

In 8-bit form, Pip has arms and legs and makes good use of them. He's slightly faster, and he's heavy enough that he can't use certain pathways, but he's not so heavy that he can't utilize special pathways. The addition of arms and legs makes him more mobile: He can climb ledges and wall-jump, which allows him to scale cliffs. He can also punch, giving you more flexibility in combat and eventually allowing you to break certain blocks with an upgrade.

In combat form, Pip has access to a sword and is the most powerful in combat, though it can be further upgraded to become even more so. More importantly, in his max-pixel form, Pip is too heavy and slow to use many of the common paths. He can push blocks around and smash obstacles to reach paths that the other characters can't access. Despite being the most combat-capable form, you don't want to consider this to be the default form, since there are many areas where mobility is more important.

You constantly swap forms in The Adventures of Pip. Most screens tend to involve at least one form swap, and you'll swap between two or three forms pretty regularly. You'll bounce off an enemy with single-pixel Pip, transform into 8-bit Pip to bounce off a wall, transform back into single-pixel pip to float over a gap, and then it's a double transformation into sword-wielding Pip to smash some blocks. Often, you'll do this in a long chain with multiple transformations in a single go.

The level design is quite good. The earlier levels are a little boring, but that picks up once you unlock the third transformation and the game takes off the kid gloves. It's at its absolute best when it is taking full advantage of Pip's three forms, and it's the dullest when you stick with one form. The more the game ask you to swap, the more enjoyable the platforming and puzzles are. You'll never get stuck  because there are always pixels around when you need them, so even if you swap to the wrong form, it only means a few seconds of time.

The Adventures of Pip has a boatload of collectibles to find. There are hidden villagers in every level who need to be rescued, and there are tons of hidden chests and loot caches throughout the game. The hidden bonuses often ask you to travel on paths that you'd normally ignore. For example, you may need to use the heavy sword-wielding Pip in a difficult jumping segment to reach smashable blocks. There are a lot of hidden secrets to discover, and they encourage you to learn the various mechanics.

The difficulty level is quite reasonable. It's very easy to die among the abundance of pits and traps, but you'll never go very far back. Checkpoints are plentiful, and the punishment for death is minimal. You lose any gems you collected after the last checkpoint, but you can collect them again on your next pass. You even keep other collectibles, such as rescued villagers, so you can avoid some of the tedium of playing the same area over and over again. Occasionally, the game can be punishing, but generally, it's a fairly relaxing platformer, and players of all ages should have little trouble with it.

Unfortunately, there isn't much gameplay time. You can probably blow through the game in a couple of hours and do everything it has to offer in a short amount of additional time. It isn't badly paced, although some of the boss fights go on a little too long, and you encounter new things pretty regularly. Despite the short length, the gameplay diversity was starting to wear pretty thin by the end, and I felt like I'd seen most of the game's tricks. It probably couldn't have sustained another world with the existing mechanics.

The artwork is quite charming. The mix of the three different art styles works wonderfully, and there are a lot of cute little details. It's simplistic, and there is a bit of recycling, but it's a very cute game. It doesn't quite stand up to the style and variety of other similarly styled retro games, but for a low-budget effort, it gets the job done. What really helps it stand out is an excellent soundtrack featuring music from Jake Kauffman. It's full of energy and a delight to hear.

The Adventures of Pip is an example of a perfectly fun platformer. It doesn't do anything exceptionally well, but it's a solid and well-made game. The only things really holding it back are the short length and the unavoidable feeling of repetitiveness that sinks in toward the end. Anyone who is a fan of platformers will find a lot to like here, and the core gameplay stands well enough on its own that I enjoyed the game from almost beginning to end. A little game with a lot of heart, The Adventures of Pip is easily worth a playthrough.

Score: 8.0/10

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