Sunday, June 22, 2014

Indie Impressions - Pixel Boy and the Ever Expanding Dungeon

Pixel Boy and the Ever Expanding Dungeon

Now Available on Steam

from Giant Box Games 


I initially only expected to play Pixel Boy for a little while, but there I was three hours later hopelessly addicted and unable to contain my thoughts on it. The dungeon-crawling genre is one we've all come to know and love, but I can't even remember the last time one felt as fresh and unique as Pixel Boy and the Ever Expanding Dungeon. There are plenty of reasons why this stands out among the rest of the bunch on Steam;

My first moment with Pixel Boy is a relaxing one, with a slightly blurred image of the quaint little pixel town, Resolutia rolling by the title screen as I'm treated to the relaxing melodies of french electro artist Pyramid. I already feel like I'm in a most blissful state. However, this feeling of relaxation quickly ends, as I start the game    and am thrown into the confines of a dark, dusty old dungeon and a glowing trail of blue light as my only guide in this confusion. The game eases you into the mechanics using a humorous narrator that reminded me a lot of Professor Frink from The Simpsons. The lines are delivered infrequently enough to not be a hindrance and can actually be pretty damn funny.

A glowing blue pixel leads me to the town of Resolutia
  The almost Minecraft-like graphics are extremely familiar and nostalgic and work exceptionally beautiful in tandem with it's mellow, almost cosmic sounding soundtrack. You're introduced to the armor and pixel power crafting system which are incredibly dynamic and massive in scope when it comes to the number of possibilities and the diversity shown in their execution. Fiddling around with the vast amount of powerups you come across to see which new powerful attacks you can come up with quickly becomes an obsession.

The extremely robust and fun to use power-up crafting system.
After finding the RGB keys and making it out of the first dungeon alive, you're brought back to the pixel-y town from the title-screen which you learn is your base of operations. This base will supply you with a multitude of features including shops for pixel powerups, armor, crafting, a monster museum to keep track of the enemies you've encountered, and doors leading to each of the main campaign dungeons. There is also a mysterious and colorful fountain in the center of the town which seems to be the source of the bliss inducing melody you hear.

Relaxing on a pier in the peaceful town of Resolutia.
Once you're done with your introduction to the the town, you will quickly return back to the depths of new dungeons where the pace really begins to pick up, with the music being kicked up a notch going from mellow ambiance to heavy, pulsating rhythms that pump you up for the oncoming journey. The action itself is fantastically solid and fast paced, with an array of stylish monsters and crazy bullet patterns there is a lot going on on the screen at once and it can become a serious sensory-overload in the best way possible. The top-down action combat here is very reminiscent of classics such as 
Smash T.V. or Pocky and Rocky combined with a weapon combo system similar to Gunstar Heroes and that is a very good thing for old school gamers or fans of the golden age of gaming.

Dodging the arcade-like bullet patterns of one of the four bosses.
 The rogue-lite elements become strongly apparent here and are just right, with heavy randomized factors to the dungeon even involving a slot machine mini-game to help decide the mobs for your current run (A really cool touch to the randomized aspect of these games!) and persistant stats and gold that will carry over between your deaths, making each consecutive and seemingly impossible run that much easier. The dungeons become extremely challenging and you'll be forced to utilize every item you find and every shop you happen to come across, as well as chestrooms which contain useful power-ups for you to use (sometimes negative effects for the unlucky) if you're able to find or buy keys throughout the floor.

Three neon turtles protect some much needed power-up cubes.
Pixel Boy really hits that rogue-lite sweet spot and will feel right at home with fans of games like Full Mojo Rampage or Binding of Isaac who want deep replayability and even faster paced gameplay. This is an absolute must-have for any dungeon-crawler or rogue-lite collection.

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