Pip is so gawl-darned lovable and sweet that it makes me deeply, deeply angry.
The game's charming aesthetic masks a sinister beast. For despite the playful bounce of our square-shaped hero and the bright colors that surround him, this is a world looking to commit straight-up pixelated murder.
Adventures of Pip puts you in the shoes of the eponymous Pip ... or rather, it would, if only Pip had any shoes. Pip is a two-dimensional video game character who lives in a caste society where those with more pixels are higher in social status, and those with fewer pixels are lower. Pip, in his entirety, is just one single pixel. When an evil queen steals away the kingdom's pixels, it's Pip – a being without legs or fists, ironically - who decides to stand and fight.
Shortly after he begins his quest, Pip is granted the ability to evolve into a higher-resolution version of himself. By bouncing on special enemies' heads and stealing their pixels, he becomes something resembling an NES sprite. Should Pip defeat another enemy and steal those pixels, he'll become even more detailed and powerful.
Each form has advantages and disadvantages; single-pixel Pip can jump higher, glide, and squeeze into smaller spaces than his other selves. His middle form (which I call '8-Bit Pip') can wall-jump and run faster thanks to the addition of legs. Lastly, his highest-resolution form (or at least the highest we've seen) can break through tough barriers and push heavy blocks that other forms can't. By holding a button, Pip can de-volve to a form one step lower than his current one, blasting his pixels in all directions.
The build shown at PAX South kept things simple, introducing these concepts one at a time. At one point, I was challenged to run through a collapsing structure as quick as I could, periodically evolving and de-volving to make it past various obstacles. Overall the sprint was manageably difficult, and fun to witness. It was impossible not to be reminded of Genesis-era Sonic the Hedgehog games, where crumbling temples were commonplace and muscle memory informed jump timing.
These sections, however, were created as a tutorial for new players. Once I had finished, TicToc showed what lie in wait beyond the game's introductions. I watched as the game's senior director sped through a later level, jumping high as 8-Bit Pip, de-volving mid-air, floating to a far-off platform so that he could perfectly time a bounce off an enemy and glide up to a higher platform. Later, I saw a level where Pip needed to de-volve in order to blow open a path to a treasure chest, and then quickly run to said chest before the path had completely disintegrated.
TicToc explained that, while they hope the game will feel accessible, they still want players who grew up on 2D platformers to feel tested should they so choose. The game's 40 levels – split across five worlds – will get progressively harder, but those seeking extra challenge can seek alternate paths to nab extra treasure and rescue more villagers (think Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends' secret rooms and you're close).
Adventures of Pip's tutorial snared me with its huggable protagonist and inviting aesthetic. Now to see if it can challenge as well as it charms. It's coming to PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U in May.