As a challenge of perfection with a touch of suffering, A Pixel Story is dedicated to being a platformer that seeks to challenge the player’s skill and push it to the limits. While the start of the game tricks you into thinking the game is rather easy, don’t be fooled! This game seeks to match the difficulty of similar games, like Super Meat Boy.
At first the game seems easy. There is no falling damage to suffer by, making repeated level attempts feel less intimidating. However, soon The System, the world of A Pixel Story, reveals its traps, enemies, and hazards. As you progress through the world, optional areas become accessible and are much more difficult than the main game, often frustratingly so until you can flawlessly execute every task. Checkpoints are plentiful, a necessity given that the game is so difficult. Every section of the game, including challenge rooms, is technically possible to complete; however, many parts of the game function as puzzles that require near perfect execution of moves performed in a specific order with near perfect timing. Expect many deaths, especially in situations where hitting a switch and causes an unseen action that all but forces retries.
Even as you work to save The System, beating it is just as important. Learn to skip hazards by taking advantage of how active keys follow you through checkpoint teleportation. Use the ability to see see far off locations for safer travel. Make heavy use of the map to find missed areas. Each of the game’s mechanics can, and should be, abused.
Many areas may seem inaccessible at first, but getting there requires a bit of extra thinking and clever use of the environment. Often, the order in which tasks are performed is important given their puzzle-like design. Unfortunately, outside of taking advantage of what you have, there are no powerups or abilities to unlock that will make the game easier. Eventually, you gain access to game changing effects, such as penalties for short falls or inverted rooms. Such effects really don’t make the game any easier. On the contrary, the game is harder because of their use.
Many players may find it difficult to progress far into the game because of its difficulty. Expect feelings of frustration after dying during an almost perfect run through a tough section. Expect further frustration when you move after respawning and find the controls to be briefly sluggish as a penalty for death.
While there are very few bugs, the most obvious issue stems from how objects are detected. It is possible to accidentally teleport inside moving objects. While the completed teleport usually results in death from being caught inside a hazard, it might stick you in a wall or unharmed within an object. Fortunately, it is a simple matter to restart the game or return to your bedroom, the game’s hub, and teleport to the nearest checkpoint. Unfortunately, you may lose several minutes of work through no fault of your own.
Contrary to its title, there isn’t much to the story of A Pixel Story. The plot is a simple and rather classic one, you are the Chosen One who exists to save The System. The story is merely a means to guide progress and tie itself to different generations of gaming throughout the years. Sidequests reveal optional areas to explore and serve as a homage to the older days of gaming and popular media. The story has its dark tones, but is generally rather joyful, with many jokes and parodies scattered throughout the game. Yet, even in these jokes and parodies, you can sense the darkness, as if the game were hinting to something a bit more sinister with how it treats death. And indeed, death is normal and somewhat unavoidable. To reach certain locations, you will almost certainly die and the game uses this to reinforce the idea that dying is indeed normal.
As you progress through levels, you may notice that the game initially resembles video games from yesteryear, with its use of low resolution graphics and retro chiptune music. As the game progresses, the resolution become higher and the music too seems to evolve, giving the player a sense that they are truly progressing through the Generations. Truly, the story, level designs, graphics, mechanics, and sounds of the game work together to give the player that feeling that the game is slowly evolving before their very eyes. This works to give the feeling of a heroic adventure through multiple game worlds.
While the main story is rather short, there are plenty of optional areas and these make up a large portion of the game. Expect to spend hours of dying over and over as you throw yourself at various challenges until you finally beat them all.
A Pixel Story is a game that grows progressively harder as it teaches you to be faster, more accurate, and more accepting of the inevitable. It molds you into a perfect Chosen One. Even for a skilled gamer, this may prove a difficult task. You are given the power to succeed, but even The System you seek to save strives to stop you. Will you lay down your hat or persevere until the end?