You could make a case that the retro-style indie game is turning into an overused cliché, but The Adventures of Pip goes beyond appearances and crafts a clever story out of its style. The game’s opening looks like a pixelated storybook, telling the tale of a tiny kingdom where the hierarchy is determined by pixel count. The kingdom’s royals are all 32-bit sprites, while the peasantry can only afford to be lower resolutions. One day a princess was born with the power to create pixels out of nothing, but on her 16th birthday she was kidnapped by the Skeleton Queen.
The demo, which was playable at PAX South, took me through the opening level of the game. Hero Pip begins as nothing more than a 1-bit red pixel, escaping his town as it’s attacked by the aforementioned evil queen. It looked like an extreme version of Thomas was Alone, as Pip jumped his way through a crumbling landscape as the world burned in the background. It’s a fun introduction, but nothing more than standard side-scrolling platformer gameplay. Boy, did that change quickly.
After reaching the relative safety of the woods, Pip met a friendly ghost who granted him the power of the Bit Stream. At this point he was no longer a single pixel; he was a real 8-bit boy. With this new “Agile Pip” evolution, I was able to easily run, punch and wall-jump through the forest. As agile as the new Pip was, he eventually found a high ledge he couldn’t quite reach. Holding down the B button let him shed pixels, returning him to his original state. The 1-bit form does have its strengths, as it can bounce higher and crawl through tight spaces. Killing a certain enemy type will let you evolve, and they always seemed to be around right when needed.
Later, Pip again met the ghost, and this time he granted him yet another evolution. This one made him a 16-bit “Strong Pip” with a sweet sword. He is at his slowest and least agile when in this form, but Pip gains the ability to break certain blocks and push others. Once he had all three transformations the game really opened up, as progression relied on the ability to use each form at the right time. Sometimes it was as simple as becoming 1-bit to clear the ceiling on a moving platform, or evolving into Strong Pip to push a block onto a button. The evolution mechanic essentially rolled three characters into one during the demo, and the end result felt fluid and satisfying.
No better was evolution showcased then at the final stretch of the demo. After falling into a long hallway, the left wall starts closing in, and the ceiling starts to collapse. This part was perfect for Agile Pip, but he could only run to the right so far. Eventually the path became too small to fit through, so it was up to 1-bit Pip to squeeze his way through. After reaching a more open area, the path was blocked yet again, this time by literal blocks. Killing some strategically placed glowing enemies evolved Pip into is strong form, allowing him to break the obstructions. Finally, it was back to Agile Pip for the final dash to safety.
My time with the demo was short but sweet, taking me through a beautifully pixelated forest filled with giant trees and ancient ruins. I was collecting treasure, saving villagers and finding secret paths wherever I went. The demo served as a great introduction to the game, as it felt like the first step toward what will hopefully be a grand adventure.
The Adventures of Pip is coming to Xbox 360 and Xbox One this May.