Adventures of Pip review for Wii U

Platform: Wii U
Also On: PC, Mac
Publisher: Tic Toc Games
Developer: Tic Toc Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Today the gaming sphere is filled to the brim with first-person shooters, but if you were playing videogames in the late-?80s through the mid-?90s, you?ll most likely recall a time when there were countless action platform games hitting the market. Some of them, like Mario and Sonic, still live on today. Obscure titles like Mick and Mack Global Gladiators, Dynamite Headdy, Aero the Acrobat, and Little Nemo brought new and exciting ideas to the genre, despite less than stellar sales. For every great game were five also-rans harboring boring game design and clunky controls. This glut of subpar games and the advent of 3D gaming systems like PlayStation and Nintendo 64 led to a huge reduction in 2D platformers being released.

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It really hasn?t been until recent years that we?ve seen resurgence in the popularity of these old-school games. Most have been polished up to look a bit better than what was capable on systems back then, but the core principals of what make a game exciting and fun still hold true. Releasing a game to simply cash in on nostalgia won?t move units. Luckily, there are some developers that understand this and we are seeing quality games like Shovel Knight and Adventures of Pip make it to the market.

Tic Toc Games is a company I had never heard of until they announced Adventures of Pip on the Wii U. I watched a short video and thought it looked compelling enough to give it a try. The premise is a mix of old and new ideas. An evil witch has come and turned the King and Queen into pixels and kidnapped the Princess. It?s up to Pip, a lowly single pixel, to venture forth and navigate the strange landscapes to rescue the damsel in distress.

In his red block pixel form, Pip can move around just fine and when he jumps he slowly descends back to the ground. Early on, it?s discovered that if he jumps on certain crystal enemies, the energy is released and he is transformed into an 8-bit boy. In this form he has new powers, like wall-jumping and the ability to attack the enemies with his fists. A bit further into the adventure, he can transform into a bigger 16-bit sprite that gives him even more abilities. The levels are designed in such a way that in order to navigate them properly, Pip must transform back and forth between the different entities many times in a single level. As the game progresses, players will notice areas of a level that seemingly can?t be reached, but a few screens later will be a crystal enemy, allowing Pip to transform and gain access to the untouched portions.

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The level designs are well thought out and the placement of the enemies allow for fun exploration. There are hidden rooms to explore in almost every screen. Most of the time there are hidden treasure chests containing pixels that can be collected to buy power-ups back at the main city. Each level has three people that need to be rescued, and doing so will result in money and many will show back up in the town. The game is so stuffed with hidden little areas that the reward for discovering them soon begins to vanish. After finding your fiftieth secret area by level three, they become less and less special and almost tedious. There?s a huge lack of variety in rewards (usually just money), but many times the secret paths will need to be sought out in order to locate the missing villagers. When I play a game like New Super Mario Bros. on Wii U, even by the end of the game it?s exciting to discover a secret area as they are less repetitive and the rewards can range from coins to a power-up to 1-Ups to a Warp Zone. I feel the rewards in this game don?t justify the exploration.

Another problem with the game is the lack of variety in a world. There are about 8 stages per world, but they often overstay their welcome. The backgrounds are often very similar or identical to the prior stages, and the enemies are very similar and become dull by about the fourth stage in. While the different worlds do look different, it takes too long for a change of scenery to pop up. Toward the end I found myself rushing through stages and just going through the motions to get to the next area.

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On the bright side, the soundtrack is great in this game. It?s upbeat and memorable and the tunes are bound to stick in your head. They almost seem a bit too epic for a game like this and more suited for a Zelda adventure, but it still works fine in this game.

I had fun playing Adventures of Pip. It?s not quite up to par with a Nintendo release or a game like Shovel Knight, but the game has some clever level designs to play around with. Unfortunately, the lack of power-ups and the reliance on a plethora of secret areas that really don?t feel special, cause the game to overstay its welcome rather quickly. By the third world I was fatigued and found myself just going through the motions. More variety in the backgrounds and some truly surprising areas would have benefited this game greatly. As it is, it?s a competent action-platform game that is enjoyable to play, but won?t ever reach the status of a triple-A must-play experience.

Grade: B-