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Review: Life of Pixel

Posted by on January 15th, 2013 | 12 Comments | Tags:

Update

While we have a policy of not giving a game a new score based on patches released, we do like to inform our readers about changes made to titles if they massively alter how a game performs or plays. Such is the case with Life of Pixel. You can read Curtis impressions of the game post patch here, he now says “It feels complete in ways that I don’t think the original release did.”

Life of Pixel aims to take players through the history of video games. One could also say that it will take players through the history of broken and poorly designed games. If there’s one thing that Life of Pixel does succeed at it is that each console world in the game does feature graphics that fit the look of said console. It’s unfortunate that nearly everything else about the game is either broken or fails at creating any sort of compelling gameplay.

Life of Pixel puts you in control of the character Pixel who, while visiting a museum, goes on a journey through eight retro video game consoles (and one handheld). Each console contain eight different levels featuring a graphical style that represents games from that period. As Pixel you’ll platform through stages collecting diamonds to unlock the door at the end of the stage. Each stage also has a gem that is usually placed in a location that is a little harder to reach. Later stages also feature buttons that flip gravity sending you flying towards the ceiling.

Technically speaking Life of Pixel is a mess. After playing through about three stages you’ll notice the game slows to a crawl. It feels as if you’re moving in slow motion and it’ll continue that way until you completely exit out of the game and restart it. There is absolutely no excuse for this. It is completely insane to think that, in order to finish the game, I had to close out and reboot the game more than a handful of times. And even when you do go through this fix to make the game run at a normal speed again it only lasts for a few levels before reverting back slow motion city. On top of that there were numerous times where I got stuck in walls, fell through a platform, shot up through the floor, and there was even one instance where the game randomly kicked me back to the Live Area forcing me to redo the previous stage.

The problems don’t end there. Life of Pixel is simply a poorly designed game from top to bottom. It is filled with cheap deaths, some of the worst ‘leap of faith’ jumps I’ve seen in a platformer, controls that don’t always work when you need them to and flat out terrible level design. Throughout the game I found myself dying over and over again because I had to make a jump to a platform that was impossible to see. Sometimes I’d miss and in other instances I’d just hit an enemy that, just like the platform, was also impossible to see until the last second. Other instances I’d go to use a double jump and the second jump just wouldn’t work at all. It felt like about ten percent of the time my character would simply refuse to double jump which, as you might guess, resulted in my death. Levels are filled with jumps to no where, enemies that you won’t see until you’re already dead and a handful of other things that lead to a cheap and untimely death. This isn’t gameplay that hearkens back to a retro era. These are all things that we shouldn’t have to deal with. You can have a difficult platforming game without ‘leap of faith’ jumps and you don’t need to have cheap deaths. It starts at good level design and this game does not have that.

Life of Pixel is a difficult game but it’s difficult for all of the wrong reasons. It’s broken, poorly designed and, despite being less than two dollars, is not worth anyone’s money. And that sucks. As far as PSM games are concerned Life of Pixel had a neat concept that should have turned out much better. At the end of the day there’s no excuse for the technical issues that I ran into. Life of Pixel is broken and should be avoided.

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A copy of this game was purchased for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.

General Info

  • Players:
  • Game is broken in more ways than one
  • Bad level design
  • Tons of 'leap of faith' jumps / Cheap deaths
  • Having to close and open the game more than a handful of times just to make things playable.
  • A single song that repeats throughout the whole game that doesn't really fit the game at all
  • A double jump that doesn't always work

  • Chris

    Some of the leap of faith stuff I can understand, because that is how scrolling is implemented for that console.

    I just wish the game had music to match the stages. It seems that they are working on fixing this if twitter is anything to go by.

    The slowdown really is a problem though. When I first ran into it I though I was in a space level or something, that wasn’t the case though.

    If they can patch some of this stuff we might have to give the game a second look

  • richicon

    Oh dear :(

    We have resolved the slowdown issue now and are adding unique sound fx and music for each console either recorded directly from the hardware chips, or via emulation of the sound chips – to be as authentic as possible.

    We will be releasing an update soon with those changes plus a new machine with 8 new secret levels – the Sega Master System.

    We shall also ease some of the leaps of faith.

    • Chris

      I will add an addendum to Curtis’ review when the patch is out.

    • PSPenguin

      I’ll totally check it out when the patch is out.

    • lagunareturns

      richicon, please tell how can we update the game, psm games on vita do not have the refresh icon to download an update…. also where is the update, I mean these issues should have been fixed and implemented before release… DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME YOU DIDN”T TEST IT

  • RetroSteveUK

    I felt the leap of faith bits were part of the trial and error nature of learning each level. games in those days were full of that kind of stuff, and they’ve managed to keep that in in a positive way. The game is hard but rewarding. You juts have to get your head around the control mechanics (which are unusually deep for such a simple game). I’d have paid a lot more for this game than I did. I loved it.

    • PSPenguin

      For me it was the leap of faith combined with the slowdown and some other factors that just irritated me.

  • http://twitter.com/DevinTHudson Devin Hudson

    The gameplay issues don’t sound that bad (there is a fine line between challenging and cheap, but for $2 I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt), but I’m glad I decided to hold off on the game due to those technical issues. I’m definitely still interested in the game though, so hopefully these things get resolved satisfactorily in a timely manner so I can check it out.

    • KosmoCrisis

      I’d have to agree with you. I was super stoked to pick this up but I’ve jumped on a few PSM titles in the past and had been a tad disappointed, so I’m cautious now.

  • http://twitter.com/Ouren Wolfgang Wozniak

    The “first jump is always max height”, with spikes on ceilings put there deliberately to kill you due to this weirdly artificial control limitation is absurd.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mdrogers2 Michael David Rogers

    What a harsh review! I loved the game and for the price couldn’t complain at all. Yes the “leaps of faith” are cheap initially, but I guess you didn’t play games in the 80s. It was really nostalgic seeing levels like the games I grew up on. I’d have given it 3/5 with the fixes announced, if they resolve the issues, it’ll go up to 4/5.

    • Chris

      I slowdown was the biggest problem for me. Also there is one stage I can’t play because the enemies are always blocking a ladder