Axel & Pixel

“Axel and Pixel are trapped in a beautiful but dangerous dream world. If they plan to get out they must solve its mysteries.”

I have to admit that when I first started the game, the word ‘beautiful’ was not what sprang to mind. Yes, there are some very nice pieces of layered artwork and pictures in place, but the effect of that layering along with the mixed perspectives caused by the use of 2D images didn’t sit well with my 3D attuned games senses.

Let’s start with the graphics, then, so I can move on to the actual gameplay itself. The backgrounds, levels, items and elements seem like they are are pretty much all photos of those objects manipulated and dropped into place. Sometimes this worked well – the background scenery during the buggy mission in-game was very nice, sometimes it was a little odd – the bone cellar and the tortoise creature spring to mind, and sometime it was just bad – the opening scene in Axel’s house is the worst example here. But we have to remember here that Alex & Pixel is not a mega-budget title, it’s an XBLA game and as such it needs to stand out, be a little different and make people talk about it. Well done, Silver Wish, we’re talking about it!

The game is principally a set of 20+ puzzles spread across 4 seasons; I’ll elaborate. An evil rat has transported our hero, the artist Axel and his faithful mutt Pixel, into a strange dream realm where they must – with your help – find their way through the seasons as they travel forward. Many obstacles stand in their way and these must be overcome by solving the puzzles, interacting with on-screen elements and generally pointing and clicking your way through. Each level allows three ‘hints’ to be used if you get truly stuck but I found this wasn’t necessary. Oh, OK I used one and then immediately felt like a twonk because I’d moused around the entire screen except the bit I needed to, ho hum. The evil red rat teases you throughout the game with the magical key you need in order to travel home. This key is recovered, of course, at the final battle and our plucky duo are transported back home, safe and sound.

I finished Axel and Pixel in an evening. It was actually more fun than it was a chore and there are some elements of the game which, although more challenging, actually for me felt more fun due to the skill factor involved. It wasn’t just about clicking the right things in the right order, it was about constant actions, corrections and perfect timing. Here I’m talking about the three vehicle-based levels which are then opened up as separate mini-games after you’ve completed them in the main game itself. The first is a simple balloon trip in which you control the height of the balloon as it passes through a tunnel. The second is a car-based challenge during which you control the speed of the car, a turbo button which you need to jump over chasms and a sort of front/rear weighting control which is vital for getting up (and down) steep inclines. The final vehicle is a small boat, which you steer and direct through the control of a fan which you move around the boat itself. Maybe it’s my predilection for vehicular-based gaming but these were fun!

The other element to the game which is worth a mention are the collectibles available along the way. Every so often you’ll be able to pick up paint tubes or have Axel make a quick sketch of something. These tubes of paint and sketches are then used by Axel at the end of the game to re-create the dreamworld he and Pixel have passed through. Miss any, and there are blank spots and missing colours. You have been warned!

So we have a 20+ level platform puzzle game with some nifty in-game action in vehicles and some unique graphics manipulation. I can honestly say that Axel and Pixel is the first game I’ve played to completion which looked and played the way this one does, because I’ve never played another game which looks and plays as this one does… NO! WAIT! There was this minor title on the PS3.. what was it.. hang on it’ll come… LittleBigPlanet! That was it.  Yes, this reminded me of LBP in its graphics and puzzle / level game style.

That can’t be too much of a bad thing, surely?







2 responses to “Axel & Pixel”

  1. Kat avatar

    I used a hint on the giant tortoise thing too! ^_^ I really enjoyed the game and the graphics were right up my street, something very Monty Python about them. Not even close to scoring over 1000 in the mini games yet.

  2. Walter avatar

    I saw this last night, it instantly caught my interest, I’m probably going to pick it up now. Thanks for the heads up 😀

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