Higher quality than some full-priced games
In a time where high-budget blockbuster video games thrive, Arkedo Series - 03 PIXEL! is a breath of fresh air. Pixel comes from French developer Arkedo Studio, the team responsible for Big Bang Mini and Nervous Brickdown. Designed by a team of two people, the care that they put into this gem is evident. From the sublime music to the soft glow of the faux-retro graphical style, Pixel is well-designed game through and through.
The first aspect of Pixel I would like to cover are the faux-retro 8-bit graphics that is a key part of Pixel (and actually factor into the gameplay). Like Arkedo's other Indie Game presentations ( Arkedo Series - 01 JUMP! and Arkedo Series - 02 SWAP!, both of which I highly recommend), Pixel is stylized with a soft glow of the pixels. I only have minor complaints with this style. The hit detection can be slightly off at times, with Pixel hitting enemies where you wouldn't expect or vice versa. Often, it's not a big deal, but it has a tendency to throw you off.
Pixel plays like many other classic platforming games that we have come to know and love over the years, and it is this simplicity that makes up a large part of Pixel's charm. The game stars Pixel the Cat, who must travel through six levels to meet up with his lost friends. Throughout these six levels, Pixel can jump onto enemies, accumulating a more powerful "meow" attack, which decimates all enemies in the immediate vicinity. This simple combat is more of an afterthought than Pixel's more interesting concepts, but it plays out well enough.
The main draw of Pixel's unique gameplay are sequences where the player can actually zoom in to individual pixels on the level. Triggered by holding down the left trigger and scanning for areas that can be zoomed in on, these pixels are small, timed mazes that must be completed quickly in order to complete the puzzle (for example, zooming in on a tree allows the player to chop it down, forming a new path). While this is an excellent idea, these sequences tend to be a little bit more repetitive. With a little bit of variety, these sequences could have been executed much better.
Although the game does lack a variety unique puzzles, it more than compensates with excellent platforming portions. Largely linear, the player explores six different levels with varying themes and degrees of difficulty. Thankfully, the game has incredibly tight control, making it easy to time your jumps correctly, resulting in an almost nonexistent amount of "cheap deaths."
From the blithe "la la las" of the first stage's theme, to the faster beats of later levels, Pixel's soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. Again factoring into the game's overall presentation and style, the music fits the game almost perfectly. In fact, the aforementioned music from the first stage is one of my favorite songs I have ever heard in a video game, due to its incredibly catchy and simplistic nature. My only complaint about the music is that Arkedo has not made the soundtrack widely available online.
Priced at only $3.00 (or 240 Microsoft space money) on the Xbox Live Marketplace, Pixel's simplistic charm, refined gameplay, and excellent soundtrack more than make up for its lack of stages (at only six stages, the game is rather short), among other minor complaints. This game is truly one of the best games on the Indie Games Marketplace, and I, for one, would have been willing to buy this as a full priced Arcade game.