Arkedo Series 03: PIXEL shoots for platforming purr-fection

Review of Arkedo Series – 03 PIXEL! on XBLIG: Try
If you’re a fan of all things retro or kawaii, you’ll enjoy this interesting little platformer.

If you’re a fan of all things retro or kawaii, you’ll enjoy this interesting little platformer.

For those of you who haven’t played any other games in the Arkedo Series, don’t worry—they’re not sequels, but self-contained games.  The third game in the series follows the adventures of a cat named Pixel as he roams through caves, forests, space, and the city.

The retro-style visuals are the most striking thing about Pixel.  True to its name, the art mimics the look of an LED display or an old LCD device with large, prominent pixels.  On top of this, there’s consistent “cute” or “kawaii” cat motif.   Pixel is very expressive, and cat lovers will likely appreciate the amount of personality he has. (He even makes an annoyed cat-chatter sound when he dies.)

Arkedo uses this art style to introduce an interesting mini-game into the formula.  At any point in the game, the left trigger can be used to activate a magnifying glass that can inspect what’s on the screen at the moment.  Some blocks and objects trigger a maze mini-game, where each pixel in the object becomes a tile in the maze.  These mazes are well integrated into the gameplay—they’re often required to advance in the stage, and sometimes they’re surprisingly and brilliantly hidden.  Many of these mazes are timed and will damage Pixel if time runs out, adding extra pressure.

Overall, Pixel is a decent platformer.  The oversized sprites keep the screen from being too complicated, and the six stages are well-designed given this fact.  A few stages feature unique game mechanics that add some variety—for example, the lights go out in certain sections of the City, a snow machine in the Sky can be activated to turn water into ice and vice-versa, and poison mushrooms in the Cave temporarily reverse Pixel’s controls.

Difficulty increases gradually from stage to stage; early stages aren’t too frustrating and later stages are challenging enough to be fun.  Pixel has infinite lives and checkpoints in the long stages are plentiful and well-placed, so I never felt completely demotivated when I died.  Each stage also contains three Useless Relics hidden in special blocks, providing another challenge if the basic game is too easy.

I’m giving Arkedo Series 03: PIXEL a Try.  This is a solid platformer, and Arkedo has done a great job balancing the difficulty in this game (just as they did with 01: JUMP!).  It’s not incredibly challenging and it does feel a bit short, but it’s fun.  As a overly-serious male in his late 20’s, I’m not exactly the target demographic for the art style, but I can appreciate what they’re trying to do.  Even if you don’t otherwise like platformers, you should give this a shot if you like the “kawaii” art style.

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