A single pixel is sometimes mightier than the sword.
On the surface, The Adventures of Pip looks like another 2D, side-scrolling, princess-saving platformer. Looks, however, can be deceiving. And in the case of this Super Mario-inspired indie, they can be devolving too (more on that in a moment.)
Our protagonist, Pip, is a single pixel. Literally. The tiny red block of a hero could pass for a cube of jello. As I quickly learn during my hands-on time, however, Pip doesn’t stay a pixel for very long. On a quest to defeat an evil queen and, yes, rescue a royal damsel in distress, players must evolve and devolve Pip to progress. Or, “evo and devo,” as creative director Marc Gomez shorthands.
As single-pixel Pip, I’m able to move about and jump much like I would in any platformer. But stomping on glowing blue enemies and absorbing their pixels evolves the character to his 8-bit form. In addition to being graphically superior, Pip can now run, wall-jump, and generally pull off acrobatic feats he couldn’t previously accomplish. Evolving again – by borrowing another baddie’s pixels – turns Pip into a full-on 16-bit hero, complete with shiny sword. On top of wielding a weapon, my up-rezzed hero is now bigger, stronger, and blessed with the ability to smash blocks and push heavy platforms.
My play session slowly introduces Pip’s evolutions, allowing me to get comfortable with his trio of forms and their accompanying powers and abilities. A bit deeper into my demo, however, I learn that devolving the character is just as important as ratcheting his resolution. While the most powerful Pip might seem like the obvious choice for beating the game, all his forms – big and small – are integral to progressing. Besting enemies, solving puzzles, and platforming through the world require regular management of his three forms.
Pip can only evolve when he absorbs pixels from specific enemies, but I can reduce him to his previous forms on-the-fly with a push of the DualShock 4’s triangle button. The first time I’m called upon to “devo” Pip is when I’m tasked with crossing a spiky chasm by catching a ride on a mobile platform. As it turns out, my ride is actually a walking creature that won't move if saddled with too much weight. The simple puzzle sees me jumping on the monster’s back as 16-bit Pip, then devolving him to his tiniest form so the beast will ferry him to safety.
This small feat is just a warm-up, though, to the demo’s final stretch: a series of fast-moving, reflex-testing platforming elements. As the action propels me to the right side of the screen, I’m forced to react quickly to navigate jumps, crushing blocks, closing walls, tight squeezes, and various other obstacles that call on all of Pip’s forms. Upon catching my breath, Gomez tells me this challenge is only a taste of what’s to come. Apparently, evolving and devolving in quick succession – even mid-jump – will be a regular part of the game’s more taxing platforming puzzles.
Pip’s inspired gameplay stole the show during my brief demo, but the game’s charming presentation came in a close second to its imaginative take on the genre Mario built. Broken into six themed worlds – including forest, swamp, cave, lava, and castle areas – the colorful universe is brimming with the sort of personality that should appeal to anyone who’s had their passport stamped in the Mushroom Kingdom. The detail present in Pip’s latter two transformations is especially cool, as you see him grow from a single pixel into a cow-licked, Link-like hero.
Managing pixel, 8-bit, and 16-bit Pip through a balanced mix of puzzling, platforming, and light combat was a blast. What’s really got me excited to revisit his retro world, though, is the prospect of swapping between his three forms to best the game’s world-capping boss encounters.
Sign up here with your email