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Pixel Ripped 1995

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: ARVORE
Release Date: May 12, 2020

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PS VR Review - 'Pixel Ripped 1995'

by Andreas Salmen on July 16, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Pixel Ripped 1995 will delight gamers with an nostalgia trip to the year 1995, a historical time when the first generations of home console players were maturing from teenager to adult, games were evolving from 16-bit to the 32-bit era, and from 2D to 3D environments.

Video games are at their most powerful when they evoke feelings and emotions. VR has pushed that bar by offering a variety of means, if leveraged correctly, to captivate the player in different ways. Pixel Ripped 1989 was small in scope, but it forged an interesting gameplay scenario that served as a fun callback to the old days of gaming. Its sequel, Pixel Ripped 1995, moves that timeline forward. Whereas PR1989 had us playing as a little boy in class who's desperately trying to distract the teacher so we can finish a game on our Game Boy, the sequel has us sitting crossed-legged on the floor playing our SNES in the family living room. PR1989 was a fun but sweet experience because it tried a few new and interesting things. Pixel Ripped 1995 tries to continue down that path, but it doesn't always hit the mark perfectly.

Whereas PR1989 had fewer games to lean on, Pixel Ripped 1995 starts its story at the tail end of the SNES era and eventually moves on to 32-bit and basic 3D experiences. If you haven't played the first entry, let's run through what to expect. Much like its predecessor, the sequel tries to recapture the feeling of playing classic video games back in the mid-'90s. It throws us into a variety of scenarios where we, a young boy named Daniel, play a variety of retro-inspired games that usually have references to real titles of the era. Unlike the first entry, Pixel Ripped 1995 has an overarching story: Our protagonist plays a video game that starts bleeding into the real world. The main antagonist, a goblin named Cyblin Lord, is causing chaos across a virtual world that is inhabited by the video game heroine Dot. We need to help Dot beat several games in a variety of locations to eventually defeat the evil creature.

The game begins with us on the living room floor playing a SNES game in front of the TV while our mom goes on about the rumored health disadvantages of playing video games. It's a fun little stage where we play a Zelda-like shooter hybrid while our mom is desperately trying to get us to turn off the console. Being the ingenious little pest that we are, we use an air gun to wreak havoc in the living room to distract our parents and prolong our gaming session. The first level sets the tone of Pixel Ripped 1995 by emulating Saturday mornings at home, including my parents' inevitable dismay when I spent the morning planted firmly in front of the TV.

Before long, the gameplay spills out from the TV and onto the floor in front of you. Pixel Ripped 1995 consists of six stages, each following a similar layout of letting us beat a level on a TV screen in-game, followed by a boss fight in the "real world." Given this reliance on games within the game, Pixel Ripped 1995 is only as good as the experiences that it lets us play — and there are a few of them.

Whether it's Mortal Kombat, Sonic, Streets of Rage, or similar games, Pixel Ripped 1995 has a ton of Easter eggs that are a delight to discover. If you grew up in the '90s, the game's three-hour runtime will trigger plenty of nostalgic memories. The little retro games that you play here are a far cry from the actual titles that existed back then. Since you're only playing a small segment of each game, the deficit isn't too bad, but some of the game sections can drag on a touch too long.

Another slight letdown is that these games are much easier than their real counterparts, making Pixel Ripped 1995 a short and an easy game to complete even in a single sitting if you wished. The game excels at emulating familiar environments where we would've experienced these games: the aforementioned living room, a video game store, or the arcade. It also adds several interesting game mechanics, similar to the parental distraction that I had mentioned earlier. Two standouts are a stage where we need to clear a level without making too much noise so we don't wake up our mom, but if we do, we need to switch off the TV as quickly as possible so she doesn't find out that we were playing games after our bedtime. Another fun addition is a scenario where we have to play two games simultaneously while at a video game store so we could carry over power-ups between the two titles.

It's moments like these where Pixel Ripped 1995 shines and creates an extra layer of immersion. We don't just stare at a simulated screen; we have to be aware of our surroundings. That creates most of the fun, since it has us multi-tasking both traditional gaming and small VR-style interactions like grabbing, shooting, and throwing objects. If you've played it once, you won't likely play it again, since there isn't much in terms of replayability, but the experience holds up for the limited runtime without hitting too many snags.

We reviewed the game on PSVR, which often plays second fiddle to other platforms in terms of technical ability and tracking. Fortunately, Pixel Ripped 1995 makes a strong outing on the platform with clean and sharp visuals throughout. It's also very suitable for beginners or those who can't play VR titles that feature heavy movement due to motion sickness. Since the player is stationary throughout the game and holding a controller, the game is only playable with a regular DualShock and plays well in most scenarios. The only exception is when we need to use our hand by pulling the triggers and moving the controller to grab and use objects in our vicinity. This never felt natural to me, and tracking wasn't great in these scenarios; we had to manually return the "hand" to the in-game controller, and sometimes, that didn't work as expected.

The game looks and plays stunningly well overall, so it is easy to complete it in a single sitting without even realizing the time has flown by. Your mileage will vary depending on how fond you are of retro games and whether you grew up during this period. If you did, Pixel Ripped 1995 may not be a masterpiece, but it provides an entertaining VR experience that you won't get anywhere else, and that's what makes it interesting and special in my book.

Pixel Ripped 1995 is a short but sweet experience that tugs on your nostalgia heartstrings in all the right ways. While it is very short and the quality of included stages varies, it is a distinct experience that's very much in line with its predecessor, Pixel Ripped 1989. If you were fond of the previous entry, getting the sequel is a no-brainer, since it mixes up the formula in a variety of ways while retaining its strengths. Its shortcomings don't detract from the otherwise wonderful experience that Pixel Ripped 1995 manages to create with surprisingly little effort.

Score: 8.0/10

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