Thursday, January 29, 2015

Indie Impressions - Pix the Cat

Pix the Cat

Now Available on Steam (Also on PS4, Vita)

Developed by Pastagames

Nothing beats the bond between a video game cat and their army of rescued ducklings in this trippy descent into the never ending layers of a television screens circuits - the pixelated blue mascot running, sliding, and kicking its way through each exceedingly flashy and bright stage of navigational chaos.

The game starts you out being greeted by our adorably rotund cat hero and his or her admirable bedroom of awesomely geeky references to the likes of Where the Wild Things Are, Godzilla, King Kong, and Ultraman. This nostalgia inducing bedroom acts your base of operations and where you'll be choosing from the four very different modes, starting with the very important main Arcade mode where you'll ease into your new digital life of aviary rescue.

The rules seem simple enough; navigate a seemingly never ending series of Pacman-like mazes while collecting the carefully placed eggs within its labyrinthine halls of neon twists and turns. For each egg collected an awestruck duckling trails behind in a line, eventually adding up into one long chaotic conga-line. Hitting the tail of trailing ducks ends your combo and loses you the line you've collected which severely reduces your score (this is about where I ragequit every time), so planning your route quickly and on the fly is especially important as you gain momentum with each success.

Once ducks are collected they need to be returned to their rightful targets on the current floor, which with the time limit taken into consideration becomes a mad dash against against the clock forcing you to pinpoint the quickest route to collect each one while avoiding running into your trail or walls. There are plenty of small tricks to toss into your routine once you've got movement down including wall slides and quick dashes around corners when your turns are timed to perfection. In the end what you have is one of the most hyperactive combinations of classic Snake maneuvering combined with the flashy, fast and addictive pathfinding of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX with even more split-second precision required.

Aside from the immense feeling of satisfaction, reaching different landmark scores in each of the three wildly different Arcade levels (from Beginner to the appropriately named Dessert stage) will net you some pretty sweet rewards in the form of new music jams to jam, new announcer voices ranging from rad to hilarious, tons of adorable concept art, and of course the different obtainable modes.  Though score is your main driving force in perfecting your zig-zag routes throughout each stage, this vast amount of awesome and usable unlockable content is sure to keep you going even deeper.

Arcade seems to be the real meat of the game, and all of your endeavors in other modes are just practice for when you come back to it and compete for the highest score on the boards in classic arcade fashion. Laboratory mode gives a sleek and almost even more cartoon-y look to the game and features a much more logic driven play style, facing you with a very limited amount of moves in each puzzle oriented level.

There's the vintage flavored Nostalgia mode, where Pix himself bares an uncanny resemblance to the late, great Felix the Cat and faces a variety of action and puzzle stages in classic black and white. Last and certainly not least is the hectic multiplayer Arena mode, where you and friends can duke it out in an action packed local four player match of cat jousting action.

Pix as a character is just way too damn cute and suave in a creatively simple way, a way that the most iconic and memorable of gaming characters are portrayed. He's one of those video game personalities you don't easily forget, and stands out as a classic and memorable character just as much as the gameplay itself. Even cuter, possibly, than our retro mascot are the lines of saved ducklings and their attitudes matched only by the badass-ness of their savior cat, and in a game with such an overwhelmingly sharp and cool style they're just the icing on the cake.

The varied visual themes of each stage provide some serious eye candy for something of such a simple nature. Subtle changes from complex motherboard patterns to cold steel monochrome textures breathe life into the twisting mazes around you, as the eggs and ducklings you collect change with it. Crazy multicolored squares light up in rhythmic sequence like some kind of insane Disco Dancefloor set to hyperspeed, all the while the heavy and bass-y beats of Xavier Thiry's soundtrack pulsate in your eardrums. Despite its retro nature, Pix the Cat is a real assault on the senses.

Every dumb little mistake you make is for the better in Pix the Cat, because this is all about practice, endurance, and getting better all the time. With each new invigorated and admittedly rage-inducing restart of a level you come back with a clear vision in your head of what caused your downfall the last time and your new found perseverance will carry you to even higher scores, and in turn even crazier and harder modes. With the addition of a Ghost mode to play against your own past runs or runs of the developer, there's a whole plethora of ways to practice and continue bettering your score for what is the most endlessly replayable game around.

If Pix the Cat were an actual arcade cabinet at a pizza parlor I'd be flat broke by now and already exchanging my life savings for fistfuls of quarters. When it comes to modern arcade score-chasing obsessions, Pix is as good as it gets

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