At first glance, The Adventures of Pip seems like another 2D, side-scrolling, adventure game; however, this delightfully postmodern fairy tale, is a deft, intelligent action platformer that takes the age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh. You play as Pip, a one-pixel hero in the world full of 32-bit characters, and the only one brave enough to rescue the princess kidnapped by the Skeleton Queen and her minions. As the synopsis reads, “moved by his plight, the ghost knight, Sir William bestowed upon Pip the power to harness the bitstream.” The Bit Stream is the life force that fuels the Pixel Kingdom and the twist that makes Pip a beautiful tribute to the 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit era that used to be.
While our protagonist, begins as a single pixel, he quickly gains the unique ability to evolve into three different forms. There are many games out there that go for that retro aesthetic, but what sets Pip apart is how players must skillfully switch back-and-forth between these three forms in order to pass every roadblock, and defeat every enemy along the way. The game pays homage to the classics that we grew up playing and features a quirky cast of characters, a great soundtrack, amazing sprite art, and the potential for sequels down the road. As single-pixel Pip, you can jump and float, and kill enemies by jumping on their heads, much like everyone’s favourite plumber. And as one pixel Pip, he is also able to slip through small spaces and jump highest when leaping on a trampoline. Pip gains a human-like look in his 8-bit form, and the ability to gain speed, wall-jump (ala Ryu in Ninja Gaiden), and punch enemies who get in his way. More importantly, you can also devolve whenever you like, creating an explosion that opens closed-off sections on the map. Evolving again – Pip turns into a 32-bit hero, who wields a sword and has the strength to smash blocks and push heavy platforms. Every version of Pip has its advantages and disadvantages and often, players will have to evolve and devolve in quick succession – even in mid-air – in order to pass the game’s more taxing platforming puzzles.
There are six stages, the first five contain eight or nine levels each, and the last is essentially an extended path to the final boss. Each world provides a wide range of environments (a forest, a swamp, a cave, a lava pit, and a castle), and the puzzles become increasingly difficult as you progress. In addition, the game map is more or less a rendition of that found in Super Mario World. Stages are bursting with secret areas, hidden treasure chests and three villagers that you can rescue. As expected, Pip offers up several boss fights reminiscent of classic NES classics including (and more surprisingly), the Contra series.
Adventures of Pip is a serious contender for the title of best indie game of the year. If you’re a fan of sidescrollers, platformers, and puzzlers, do yourself a favour, and pick it up.