.PXL: A RETRO GAME FAN’S NOSTALGIC FEVER DREAM
Just by looking at the name, one can already begin to imagine what to expect from this month’s one of the newest iOS side-scrollers. .PXL comes to the app store in succession to this year’s other excellent app game of the side-scroller domain, Mr. Jump. And in doing so, it has a lot to prove in the way of establishing itself as both distinctly different as well as worthy of anyone’s time. Despite it’s juxtaposition with Mr. Jump, the game’s mechanics and feel most closely resemble the demon spawn of 2013’s iOS side-scroller development, a game that most anyone with an iPhone has either played or heard about by this time, Flappy Bird. Although the graphics may suggest that this game is nothing more than a stripped down Flappy Bird, the mechanics and complexity of the obstacle generation suggest that this game has more to offer than meets the eye.
The geometric design paired with the letter boxing of the game window is vaguely reminiscent of the 2011 Armor Games side-scroller, Space Is Key, which whether or intentionally or not, the game evokes. This type of retro nostalgia has been a rampant trend in iOS games, particularly the re-hashing and modernization of Atari or Konami design styles, apparent in iOS games like the recent Fist of Fury. The games color scheme combines simple black and white with vibrant neon colors across the spectrum. In general, this game is one of many following the recent trend of iOS games striving to make the most out of minimalistic designs. But what this game lacks in complexity of design, it attempts to compensate for in gameplay.
Let’s not mince words, this game is nothing short of difficult. It takes the original tap to stay in the air mechanic of games like Flappy Bird, but implements all sorts of nuances in the obstacles. As opposed to stationary pipes of varying heights, .PXL offers diagonal obstacles, moving obstacles, rotating obstacles, and an interesting reverse gravity function. This type of innovation avoids some of the standard monotony of most modern side-scrollers. However, I fear it will prove frustrating for many casual gamers who are simply looking for a time-passer.
The sound in this app, much like the design, is minimal, with the only real sound effect being a disappointing squeak noise as your tiny pixel friend breaks into several different pieces and disintegrates upon impact with an obstacle. The music is a single song that loops throughout your entire use of the app, starting from the menu to the game. The song gives off a sort of technological feel using atmospheric synthesizer and melodies played over an acoustic guitar. Though upbeat and complex, the soundtrack is a little odd given the retro feel of the game and doesn’t really evoke the graphics/design.
.PXL is a bold new addition to the iOS side-scroller genre, but at it’s core risks being nothing more than a trite, generic time passer. If anything, .PXL will entertain most and frustrate many.