There ain’t no Pip like an 8-bit Pip.
While a lot of games try to do a lot of things relatively well, it’s my opinion that a perfect game is a game that chooses to do only one thing but nails it. On this scale of jack-of-all-trades to master of one, Adventures of Pip sits well towards the latter end. It reminds me a lot of the early Mario games – some fun platforming where the ‘action’ part is limited to jumping on enemies’ heads. It’s a very simple but well-loved recipe that Adventures of Pip builds on with its ‘resolution’ switching mechanic, which adds a basic but fun puzzle element.
You play the game as Pip (no surprises there) a red square, or ‘pixel’, who is thrust into the jaws of adventure when his home is attacked by the evil Queen DeRezzia. In a genre-subverting twist that nobody could have seen coming, DeRezzia kidnaps the kingdom’s Princess. With complete disregard for the safety of his fragile, quadrilateral body, Pip takes it upon himself to rescue Princess Adeline and thwart Queen DeRezzia’s evil plot.
You can blame Thomas Was Alone for my pre-disposition to love any game starring an orthogonal red character; so starting as Pip, the red square, made the game immediately compelling to me. The comfort blanket of Thomas Was Alone flashbacks is quickly and cruelly taken away, however, when Adventures of Pip’s innovative resolution switching mechanic comes into play. By harnessing the power of the bitforce (by killing certain glowing blue enemies), you can upgrade to an 8-bit character and then again to a 16-bit character. You also have a button on the controller dedicated to downgrading at will, which also expels some bitforce energy to damage enemies and destroy pink blocks as if they were made of particularly fragile blancmange.
These three characters have unique abilities. 1-bit is small and light so can fit through gaps and glide as he falls to travel a greater distance. 8-bit can wall-jump to reach higher platforms and is the fastest of the three. 16-bit has a big ol’ sword for smashing brown blocks and bouncing enemies around. You’ll constantly need to switch resolution to progress through a level and the placement of chasms, wall jump sections, destructible blocks, bitforce enemies and so on provide a compelling puzzle element. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t fully capitalise on this mechanic and the ‘puzzle’ sections aren’t challenging. It would’ve been nice to see the game lean into this puzzle element more, but I respect the game for putting its platforming first and not diluting that too much with other elements.
Looping back to the ‘doing one thing well’ hypothesis, Adventures of Pip nails the feeling of its platforming. The controls feel tight and responsive. Whatever series of buttons you press, you can be confident that the corresponding actions are exactly what Pip is going to do on-screen. I often find platformers frustrating where the controls try to intuit what you ‘meant’ to do rather than following the buttons you actually pressed. Adventures of Pip has none of that and, like the nerdy kid in the back of physics class, other platformers should take notes.
The excellent platforming means you know every mistake and every death is entirely because of your own lack of skill, rather than the game being glitchy or unfair. With that in mind, I think the difficulty of Adventures of Pip is perfectly pitched. You can get through most levels without being stuck on a particular section for too long, which keeps the pace of the game moving on nicely. The checkpoint system is spot on, with around 3 per level. This leads to a nice balance. There’s still a punishment for dying, you’ll have to go back and get through the entire section perfectly before you can move on, but the spacing is just enough to avoid the game becoming frustrating due to constant reruns. Much like being told those plans that you were dreading have been cancelled, you’ll let out a heavy sigh of relief when you reach a new checkpoint.
Despite the difficulty being very well pitched in general, there are one or two difficulty spikes. Personally, I was stuck on the penultimate boss for quite a while. Fortunately, Adventures of Pip has an answer to this – money. Throughout the game, you get currency which can be used to buy upgrades, like temporary invincibility, healing, extra hearts, etc. That means that if you are stuck on a section, you can back out and buy a new upgrade to give you a boost. The game gives you currency quite generously, but you can always grind through an earlier level if you don’t quite have enough. It’s a nice system that means you always have an option to make the game easier if you really can’t progress.
Overall, Adventures of Pip is 90% formulaic but well-built platformer with 10% juicy, new, resolution-switching puzzling. It’s a good example of a pure action platformer, but there are an awful lot of games in that genre and the question remains whether the bitforce transformations are enough to make it stand out from the crowd. I enjoyed my time with Adventures of Pip and I would recommend it. It’s neither jack-of-all-trades nor master of one, it’s more like ‘proficient at one and a half’, which is good enough for me.