Developer: Serenity Forge
Publisher: Serenity Forge
Release Date: October 2nd, 2015, TBA 2016 Consoles
Platform: PC[Reviewed], Mac, Xbox One, Wii U, Other consoles TBA
Pixel Galaxy is a tiny shoot ’em up that puts players in the shoe of a single pixel with only one goal: Survive. Between the massive amounts of enemies and vibrant colors on screen, Serenity Forge (The King’s Bird, Beyond Regret) have created a game that is not only challenging and fun, but incredibly addicting. However, this isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last minimalist shooter, and Pixel Galaxy goes to great lengths to give players an experience that they’ll crave.
While it may not come as much of a surprise, Pixel Galaxy is void of any real story. Besides a simple explanation of what players are (a single pixel) and what their goal is, the game doesn’t really have much of anything in the way of a plot. However, not every pixel in the game is nameless and faceless. Each boss, faced at the end a certain point in each difficulty, is named and must be defeated in a unique way. I had a chance to talk with my friends about the game and not just refer to each of the challengers as “that boss”. There is life that is breathed into the game by simply giving each of the bosses separate traits, giving a refreshing look on a very old genre.
Before each of the bosses show their face (or pixels?), a player must survive the chaotic galaxy. The goal is to collect as many pixels (by running into them and gaining their abilities) and survive as long as possible, but it’s not that simple. While players can go any route they wish in terms of surviving, it is very difficult to actually understand what is happening on screen, and I was often left moving around trying to pick up other pixels, and just hoping for the best. This leads to a sense that there isn’t a lot of skill involved during each run, and that there is an element of chance between winning and losing. Maybe I just suck, but never once did I feel like I was in control of what was happening on screen, causing a huge gap in the most important aspect of the game.
In addition to the six difficulty levels for players to survive in, Pixel Galaxy also features a mode called “Coliseum”, in which players can face off against any of the already beaten bosses, starting off as a single pixel. However, this game mode was never largely appealing, as the prospect of unlocking another level of difficulty seemed more intriguing. Despite this, “Coliseum” may be a great distraction for the future veteran player of the game to maintain their interest.
It should also be noted just how many achievements are available for Pixel Galaxy on Steam. While this may be an oversight when purchasing a game, it plays a huge factor in motivation during the playtime of Pixel Galaxy. Around every corner, I was unlocking a new achievement, giving me a rush of endorphins and a little push to continue playing no matter how many times I died. Achievement hunters will have their treasure, but even casual players will find reason to keep unlocking the small goals.
As each level opens, a single white pixel is placed on a black backdrop, showing simplicity at its finest. However, that quickly changed once enemies begin showing on screen, shooting countless bullets across the void, and illuminating the darkness with vibrant, breathing colors. Even though I was terrified of having my cluster of pixels obliterated, I often found myself stopping just to look at how beautiful everything was. Something about each of the colors fading in and out as if they had their own set of lungs was just pure eye candy. While the game doesn’t reach the same level of stunning as games like Geometry Wars, it is certainly nice to look at.
Behind all the colors is a soundtrack that matches not only the look, but the intensity of the game as well. Striking a line between ambient and techno, each track gives just enough of a sense that a player is floating through a lightless vacuum, and also fighting off an endless swarm of deadly, block shaped enemies.
One issue that may come up for the PC crowd is the lack of useful controls for keyboard and mouse. While many games are easier played with a controller, this may pose an issue for players who have not yet invested in a controller. While it was never a problem during my own play through, it should be a consideration for prospective purchasers.
Pixel Galaxy is certainly a nice new addiction for fans of the genre, implementing some subtle new concepts to push the genre forward. With simple and fun gameplay, Pixel Galaxy hooked me in for long sessions, often not releasing until I had professed several hours and unlocked countless achievements. There was something so natural about smacking the “A” button to retry the level, to the point of not even seeing the fail screen, but just restarting the level.
However, this is all under a gameplay that can sometimes feel out of control. While the play sessions may be long, they don’t always seem fair, leaving me feeling frustrated more often than challenged. For a game that can be so addicting, sometimes it felt like I was being held against my will, which is a shame in light of so many things Pixel Galaxy gets right.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Pixel Galaxy is a nice addition to any Steam library, promising hours of fun and frustration for buyers. However, with the looming gap in gameplay, it may be difficult to gauge just how prominent the addiction is for each individual player. While $9.99 isn’t much to ask for an indie title, it may be more wise to wait til Pixel Galaxy goes on sale.
Developer: Serenity Forge