As gaming continues to move forward with each new generation of hardware, graphics have advanced to new levels of enhanced resolution and fidelity. While the look and feel of the newest, biggest games can be impressive, there was a time when the most impressive visuals was a dot bouncing against two slightly larger dots. As far as graphics have come, there is always nostalgia for the classics, and its even better when a modern game can replicate the style of an older generation. Pixelot has managed to make the idea of a turn-based RPG with a retro pixel art style and given it a fresh modern twist, which is not easy to do for a 30+ year-old genre.
The Role you Play
When you start the game, you create your own hero and you can choose from one of six different classes: In addition to your main character, you constantly recruit new party members who each have their own unique abilities. These characters are always in your party and you can swap any of them in and out in-between battles, which gives you a lot of options when it comes to assembling a party that fits your play style or just by having a lot of variety to play around with. Pixelot has a very big ensemble of playable characters to choose from. By the end of the game, I had about thirty (30) characters in my party, and I might have had more if I had unlocked them by doing more side quests.
If you’ve played more than one RPG from the early 90s, you already know the plot of Pixelot. There once was a dark lord who brought evil to the world, but a group of heroes gathered six (6) crystals of different elements to seal the evil away, but now the evil is returning and it is up to you to gather the crystals and prevent its return. While I’m tempted to say that the plot has a simple feel to it like the rest of the game, it comes across as more clichéd. It’s possible to take a classic plot and add substance and depth, usually by having the supporting characters add to the overall lore of the world, but there’s very little build up to the major events in the game and you forget them as soon as they’re over.
At first, Pixelot comes across as a fairly straightforward turn-based RPG. You have a party of characters and each one takes turns attacking/defending/healing/etc. until the battle is over. That’s pretty typical of this style of game, but what sets Pixelot’s combat apart is that the combat moves quickly. It is easy to select a command with a number key and target an enemy with the mouse (or just rapidly click through the commands all at once and just attack) and it all happens rather quickly. All of the commands are laid out in big colorful icons that are easy to select.
One pretty cool feature of Pixelot’s combat is that all of the characters have the ability to learn follow-up attacks. After performing certain attacks or spells, the following turn, it will be replaced with a version that is more powerful and/or reaches more targets.
In spite of the game’s very streamlined design, there is still a lot of substance to Pixelot. There are four major areas to explore and each one of them is unique, bringing with it a lot of new challenges in terms of enemies to face and dungeons to complete. There are some challenges that are harder than others and it may urge you to want to take a step back and do some grinding. There are also a bunch of side quests that allow you to unlock new characters and acquire money and new equipment. In total, the game is about 15-20 hours long.
One of the first tracks I heard was in a grassy field, and it sounded very little like a typical forest level theme. It was minimalistic with a focus on wood blocks and more like I was about to have a showdown with a samurai. I thought this was going to be a sign that the music throughout the game would be unusual, and it turns out there was a good reason for that. While a lot of the music is good, all of it is sourced from creative commons sources and isn’t original to the game.
Most of the battles in this game are pretty straightforward and do not require that much thinking or strategy. That changes when you get to some of the later boss fights. Pixelot offers some of the more challenging boss fights I have ever encountered in a turn-based RPG. If a battle goes badly, you restart at the entrance of the same room you died in and you may end up having to rethink your strategy, your equipment or your party line up before trying again. The thought process required to beat some of these bosses is sometimes more comparable to a puzzle, but with all of the party members you end up with, you have a lot of options to come up with a solution.
The Talking Parts
A lot of the dialogue you hear is very expositional, simply telling you what your next objective is and where to go/what to do once you arrive. The other main source of dialogue is when you run into enemies on the different routes. When you encounter an enemy, they will say something to you before engaging in combat. Sometimes it will be a bit of information about the game or a vague threat, but a lot of the times the enemy will make some kind of pun based on what type of enemy they are. It happens surprisingly often and if you are into awful dad jokes, you will love it.
Z…We’ve Reached the End…Anything Else
While Pixelot is clearly a Japanese-style turn-based RPG and draws upon a lot of the classics of the genre, the game it appears to take the most inspiration from is the Pokémon series. Strewn throughout the world of Pixelot, there are enemies waiting along your path who will stop you to battle similar to the various Pokémon trainers along the different routes. Many of the areas have tall grass you can walk through that trigger random enemy encounters. There are also many puzzles in the dungeons that are very similar to the ones in the Pokémon gyms throughout the series that have you riding mine carts, connecting electrical lines and sliding along large sheets of ice.
Pixelot is a game that does a lot with very little. It’s well put together, challenging, and a welcome entry in a classic genre. While it can come across as a simple game on the surface, there is plenty of substance underneath its pixelated exterior and it’s definitely worth taking a look to see all the passion that clearly went into this game.
Final Score: 8/10