Another day, another retro-styled platformer hits the Xbox One via the [email protected] program. That's not necessarily a bad thing when the idea behind the game is as compelling as the one that features in Adventures of Pip, though.
The evil Queen DeRezzia has kidnapped the Pixel Kingdom's princess and is hell bent on destroying the entire place, to boot. Our hero Pip is nothing but a mere single pixel, but the ghost knight Sir William has shown him how to harness the power of the Bitstream in order to evolve and devolve between states. Indeed, the main mechanic that's being used here is one of transformation and it has to be said that it works very, very well.
In his initial single-pixel state, Pip can get through smaller gaps and be propelled further by bounce pads, as well as having the ability to float down slowly after a jump. When he leaps upon an enemy which has the light of the Bitstream within them, he becomes the 8-bit version of himself. In this form, he can jump from wall to wall, slide down rock faces, still get fired into the air (although not as far) by those bounce pads and now he can punch enemies. Hit another Bitstream-filled foe and he becomes 16-bit Pip, complete with sword and more complex animations. Now bounce pads won't work, but he can chop through certain blocks and weigh down mechanical systems due to his increased weight. At any point, you can switch back to the previous evolution by holding down the left trigger or B button. This blast back can also be used as an attack, or to destroy purple obstacles that block your way.
The different properties presented by these three alter-egos mean that as well as your relatively standard platform fayre, with Adventures of Pip you get light puzzling included for your money. Working out at which points to change between Pip's versions and planning your way across and through the various obstacles is something that can be extremely rewarding. You may need to use 1-bit Pip to be able to sneak through a tunnel, hit an enemy to change up to 8-bit Pip to be able to wall jump your way up to a platform that's too high to reach with a single bound, switch back to 1-bit to get blown across a lava pit by a breeze, then while in mid-air, hit two enemies in a row to get to 16-bit Pip so that you can cut through the stone blocks that are in your way. Some of the screens you happen across will seem absolutely impossible when you first see them, but time and again you'll find yourself saying "Oh, that's clever!" out loud as you find that the game has thrown something new into the mix to create a genuinely innovative solution to the puzzle.
Early on, the game can be somewhat frustrating, given that you begin life with only three energy hearts. The massively annoying warning sound that plays when you get down to a single chunk of life is enough reason to try to preserve yourself, though as you pick up an extra heart every time you beat a level, it becomes less of a problem. You can also use the pixels that you collect from treasure chests and downed enemies as a currency, purchasing more hearts or other more minor power-ups.
As you proceed through the levels, you're tasked with not only reaching the end as usual, but also with saving three stranded folks from the kingdom. It's entirely optional of course, but this is something that will keep players coming back once they've made their way through the game's five worlds. Plenty of achievements are on offer for saving them all and some of the stricken friends are in very tricky places to reach, so you can expect to the game's playing time by at least a couple of hours.
That's handy, since the main game itself isn't what we'd call overly long. Neither is it overly difficult. Anyone with decent platforming experience will find that they'll likely breeze through the majority of the levels – including the bosses – without needing to restart sections more than a couple of times at most. While the ideas may be clever, the difficulty curve doesn't ramp up enough for the overall experience to be described as anything more than a gentle platform puzzler that will occasionally throw you for a loop.
But that doesn't mean that Adventures of Pip isn't worth the investment. Far from it, in fact. The game – whilst not a massively challenging affair – is extremely fun more often than not and the visuals are spot-on for what they are. The soundtrack needs to be singled out too, since you don't usually expect games from small teams such as this one to be breathtaking orchestral scores.
The main idea behind Adventures of Pip is one that truly does keep on providing. By necessity, the level design needed to be as clever as it is so that the evolution mechanic didn't become dull very quickly. The team at Tic Toc Games have done a great job here for sure, but we just wish that there was either more volume to it in general, or more of a challenge to what is provided. It's definitely an enjoyable enough way to while away a couple of hours.