by Jonathan Fortin
previewed on PC
Pixels! Pixels everywhere!
Pixel Boy, while viewed from a top-down perspective, uses 3D models as opposed to mere pixels. Yet the title is no mere red herring as the game's aesthetic style is very reminiscent of pixel graphics. From vibrantly colored bullets to the look of the enemies and the groovy soundtrack, Pixel Boy is a trip back to the past.
Its core gameplay revolves around the player battling through five acts worth of randomly-generated dungeons. In each dungeon the player must collect the Red, Blue, and Green pieces of a key to make a "RGB" key in order to unlock the next dungeon. Each act features a town that serves as a hub where the player can purchase armor and new weapon powers and culminates with a boss battle.
Combat is fast paced and can very easily get hairy in a hurry. Large groups of enemies sometimes threaten to overwhelm you, causing sudden spikes in the difficulty curve. The combat mechanics themselves are simple and entail running around, pointing at targets and shooting them down. There's absolutely no strategy involved and it makes the game oddly reminiscent of a top-down Metal Slug - though never as over the top.
Pixel Boy's randomly generates content, though in the Alpha version this does not extend beyond rearranging nearly identical-looking rooms in slightly different ways for each new game. Different acts each have their own visual motif too. The AI has some enemies shooting at you from afar and others using melee attacks. They all have a tendency to charge you in as big a group as possible, but hopefully the final version adds a little more variety to this pattern.
One of the game's more unique features is that various weapon powers can "stacked", allowing you to pick up a Split Shot power and combine it with a Big Bullet power. The game boasts over six thousand possible combinations, but once a combination power has been made, the player cannot break the different components apart again or add additional components. You will also find lamps that you can change the color of. I initially thought these color changes did nothing at all but I eventually discovered that they can be used to open otherwise inaccessible doors. Clicking each lamp over and over again to hunt for secrets brings a bit more variety to the game, and when a lamp turns into a beacon and leads to treasure, it is very satisfying.
As a debut title from a two-man team, Pixel Boy is shaping up to be a pretty interesting title. The core gameplay is fun and addictive, ramping up the challenge with each new dungeon. The game’s mild RPG elements have you gain XP by killing enemies and when you level up you get to upgrade your characteristics such as health, damage and firing rate. There's an almost Diablo-like vibe that I can imagine some players could find very addictive and in a game like this, that's honestly what matters most. There are some notable flaws but one cannot expect perfection from a game in Alpha stage either.
While I am sure the guys at Giant Box are feverishly working on finishing Pixel Boy, I also wonder what they could do with more experience and a bigger budget. I for one am as curious about the final version of Pixel Boy as I am about what their next project will be.