[Review] Adventures of Pip – Nintendo Switch

Written by Shehan Amarasekera
  • Developer: Tic Toc Games
  • Publisher: Tic Toc Games
  • Release Date: 10/09/2020
  • Price: £7.69 / $9.99
  • Review code provided by Tic Toc Games

Introducing: Adventures of Pip Switch Review

Platformers are my bread and butter. It’s what I grew up with, and as such it’s the genre I have the most experience with, so I’m always up for giving one I haven’t played a shot. And when it comes to the indie scene, there’s been a wave of fantastic platformers as of late. So when I picked up Adventures of Pip, there was one thought on my mind: would it join the list of platformers that I love?

From Humble Beginnings

You start off as a single pixel named pip – and rest assured, the game’s story makes sure to go for the “pipsqueak” pun at one point. Regardless, the general synopsis of the story is pretty generic (something which will become a running theme…) A royal princess with the ability to create pixels is born, and one day, the evil Queen DeRezzia (see what they did there?) comes along and steals her away to make use of her powers.

It’s up to Pip to put a stop to DeRezzia’s plans to turn everyone into a single pixel (and to be honest, I’m not sure why it’s up to him exactly.) This leads to the other facet of the story – how high in society you are is determined by… the amount of pixels you have. Royalty are all “32 bit”, while Pip can only go up to 16 bit once he attains the power to change forms.

This ability is also the main gimmick of Adventures of Pip. Very early on, you get the ability to gain more pixels when jumping on/attacking glowing blue enemies. You can downgrade at any time by holding ZL, and each resolution carries different benefits. Pip’s… 1-bit form (let’s pretend that’s a thing for the sake of convenience) can glide, weighs less, and fits into small spaces. His 8-bit form can wall jump and do basic attacks, and his 16-bit form can’t wall jump (he’s too heavy and as such slides down), but has a sword he can strike specific enemies and/or blocks with).

A Blast From The Past

It takes a bit of getting used to – only being able to upgrade through enemies felt weird at first, but in every scenario you need to upgrade, there is always a blue enemy. It’s fun and confusing – by the end, you’ll be constantly changing forms, e.g. in the middle of the jump you may need to transform to destroy blocks, or maybe you jumped on a blue enemy, and as need to quickly switch back to your previous form so you can wall jump. I think it would feel better if the switch was instant, instead of pausing movement for a split second, but that’s only a minor gripe I have, compared to my other issues with the game.

First off, movement feels very… inconsistent. You don’t have any horizontal momentum, which isn’t the worst thing I suppose… except you do have momentum when wall jumping. Naturally then, it feels like you have to change your mindset on the fly every time you perform a wall jump, making any sort of precision involving it (which in later levels is very often) pretty difficult. The game is split up into 5 worlds, each containing 8 levels, barring the final world which has 4. Each level has 3 optional villagers you can save, which will then appear in the town (which you can revisit to pick up various power ups).

The first couple of worlds are pretty harmless – very generic, easy stuff, but the game is still trying to ease you things. I thought the level themes would get a bit tiring after 8 levels, but you’ll have moments halfway through a world where you enter a structure, and the rest of the world is themed around that, or you may even notice that as you get further from the town, the world gets higher resolution. Those are genuinely neat touches.

What’s Old Is New… Again

My main issues however, stems from the boss design and later level designs. In my eyes, the bosses are consistently bad. They’re all pathetically easy once you know what to do, but sometimes figuring that out just involves wasting a few lives until you realise how to hit the bosses’ weak point.

For instance, there’s one boss that does the same attack infinitely, while enemies spawn. One would think that, like most other scenarios, you can either hit it in the middle of the attack, or it will do something different after a short while – but no, for some reason, killing all the enemies makes stalactites fall (for some reason…) and hit the boss. What?? I mean sure, I eventually killed all the enemies because it was annoying dealing with them, but that’s a pretty unintuitive way of showing a bosses’ weak spot, especially since enemies appear in all the other bosses but only serve as stepping stones.

But the level design is a whole different beast. Let me clear something up: I love hard platformers. What I don’t love is how this game goes about its difficulty. The very frequent checkpoints becoming more infrequent is a touch annoying, but once you know what to do the levels are pretty short, so that’s not the issue. The issue is long (and extremely slow) moving platforms over bottomless pits/instant death lava, irritating enemy placements, and frustrating gimmicks, all of which unfortunately become pretty common towards the end.

As Generic As Can Be

But the biggest offence by far is how bland it all is. Sometimes the harder levels are well designed. Sometimes the puzzles don’t feel unnecessary. But even in those occasions, nothing really sticks out about this game. The main gimmick is somewhat neat, but for all intents and purposes is the 2D equivalent of Knack‘s main gimmick. The moveset is the bog standard run, jump, walljump and attack – nothing more. I never felt like transforming distinguished this game from other platformers, it just felt like an extra step and the solution to any puzzles. Nothing more.

Even the art and the music are generic. To be fair, like with some of the levels, they’re perfectly adequate. They don’t ever become bad per se, but the problem is there’s not once catchy tune in the game, and despite the worlds becoming more detailed later on, it never looks especially pretty. It may be harsh to compare it to other platformers, but when this game essentially prides itself on being a modern retro game, it’s hard not to.

The final issue I have is with the technical side of things. This game has been out on many platforms – not just PS4, Xbox One and PC, but even Wii U! And yet, despite being a pixel art game, it runs at 30fps. Now, I obviously don’t have the tools to check, but the issue with it is that it feels so… juddery. Maybe it’s due to the background and certain effects updating at 60, or maybe the game simply handles the cap badly, but it never quite feels right, especially when compared to other 30fps games.

Who Needs Blast Processing?

Maybe framerates and graphics don’t bother you – if that’s the case, fair enough! Unfortunately, that level of unpolish seeps into the gameplay too. For some reason, in the first boss and the first boss alone, after finishing it you can miss the heart upgrade and ending dialogue completely. Meanwhile some sound effects are way too loud. I had to set my TV volume from 10 to 1 in one particular world, as the lifts in that level made my ears bleed.

On top of that, there are also occasions where enemies which are required for a particular puzzle can get stuck, moments where Pip can clip through small pathways you are meant to shrink down for, and even some dumb issues like how when a lift is moving down, you don’t move down with it, you instead just fall and land on it constantly.

I should stress though, beyond the consistently uneven feel the framerate gives, the game is not a broken mess by any means. While I would say it’s unpolished, there weren’t (that many) occasions where I died and felt it was the game’s fault. And of course, no game’s perfect, so while there are technical issues, they certainly aren’t enough to make me think less of the game by themself.

Conclusion

In an age where retro-revival platformers are plentiful, I feel Adventures of Pip does not do enough to stand out from the pack. At its best, the platforming feels generic and uninspired, and at its worst, it can be frustrating and unpolished. If you’re absolutely craving a new platformer, you might get some enjoyment from this, but there’s plenty out there which will provide a much more fulfilling experience.

Pros

  • Occasionally funny writing
  • Decent replay value

Cons

  • Extremely generic
  • Rather unpolished
  • Unintuitive bosses
  • Occasionally frustrating level design

Verdict
This is an okay platformer and nothing else, completely lacking any strong selling point

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