The last time I got my hands on Tic Toc Games’ immensely promising Adventures of Pip was at PAX Prime. The game had just launched its second Kickstarter, and went on to be a dark horse highlight of the show. Now, with the game comfortably funded and headed for nearly every platform under the sun, I had the opportunity to dive into its latest build.
For those unfamiliar, Adventures of Pip is a 2D platformer built around a brilliant central mechanic. The titular Pip begins his journey to save the Pixel Kingdom from the evil Skeleton Queen as nothing more than a single pixel, capable only of jumping. But the hero quickly gains the ability to transform into 8-bit and 16-bit versions of himself by absorbing pixels from his enemies. Each version of Pip features its own abilities and weaknesses, and players will have to constantly manipulate the hero’s three forms to complete each level. The result is a mechanically diverse platformer with the potential for some really innovative design, and luckily the team at Tic Toc Games seems to possess the pedigree necessary to fully explore it brilliant concept.
Like its PAX Prime predecessor, this latest demo of Adventures of Pip featured only one level. However, this time around everything felt substantially tighter and more polished. The developers at Tic Toc Games have really kicked the game’s level design up a notch, and it was fantastic to finally get a taste of what the studio has in mind for its unique platformer. Gone is the tepid difficulty that held the game back at PAX Prime, now replaced with a perfect balance of fun and challenge. It was my first real look at the level design prowess promised by the studio’s ex-Wayforward members, and I came away mightily impressed. That singular level featured more moving parts, jaw-dropping environments, and clever secrets than in the already impressive PAX Prime demo, and it appears to be only the tip of the iceberg.
The level did a great job of teaching me visually, like alerting me to the presence of secret areas early on or forcing me to utilize Pip’s unique transformative abilities to progress through certain areas, and that design approach means players are not only constantly interacting with and learning from the world, but also that every success feels much more organic and rewarding. Adventures of Pip doesn’t punish players for failure or curiosity, either (at least in this first level); enemies respawn quickly to give you another shot at platforming puzzles you feel compelled to complete. There’s definitely motivation to check every suspicious area, too; Treasure chests and villagers are hidden throughout the level in places you’ll only find if you’re looking, and missing even one made me want to dive right back in and try again.
Of course, it’s always hard to judge a game based off a single level. Some games preview great, but end up falling short of their potential; others are the opposite, pleasant surprises after a series of poor previews. Adventures of Pip seems to reside in a third category, however, reserved for games that somehow manage to emphatically best themselves with each showing. It’ll be available on Wii U, PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and PS Vita this May, so mark your calendars — Tic Toc Games might just have a hit on its hands.