Mento's May Mastery: Day 04: Life of Pixel

Finally, we're away from that megalomaniacal crackpot putting everyone around him through psychological and physical torment for his own twisted amusement. But enough about Dave Lang on the Premium BLLSL feed (I finally watched the rest of it), it's time for some more fashionably late Mento's May Mastery. For a daily feature I've put together for the fourth year in a row now, I'm certainly not being very diligent with it.

By a happy coincidence, the last game I played hit the three day limit at the same time that I was able to beat it. I can now pass onto the next game in my randomized list of high-priority backlog items, and you can rest assured that this a two-day game at most. Still interesting though.

Life of Pixel

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I feel like the "self-reflective and partly satirical journey through the history of video games" framing device may well become its own category on Steam soon enough. Indies love being meta, after all, and with so many games that already hearken back to earlier eras of game design, it's only natural we'd get a few fourth-wall breaking takes on exploring multiple technological milestones. I suppose the most notable exemplar of this framing device would be Evoland, a game that ran the gamut (game-ut?) from rudimentary 8-bit black-and-white RPGs to the PS1 era of Final Fantasy VII JRPGs and its kin. Vinny and Alex recently looked at another one: A Pixel Story (which I actually mistook for Life of Pixel at one point).

However, while the references from those two games didn't exactly fly over my head, I didn't get quite the nostalgia boost from those that I did from Life of Pixel. Possibly because it appears to have been designed from someone from my homeland, or at least one of our European neighbors (I checked: the developers Super Icon are indeed British). Instead of just the usual Atari 2600, NES and so forth, Life of Pixel makes a few more obscure stops along the route to let the occasional remote parisher off the figurative bus. As well as the aforementioned mainstays as well as other transatlantic favorites like the C64 and Game Boy, Life of Pixel is also a Bluffer's Guide to a lot of early European computers. The sort that largely passed the US by, as they weathered through the 1983 Atari crash until the NES could save them.

It feels like there's a lot on the screen for an Atari 2600 game, but then I never did have much exposure to that system.
It feels like there's a lot on the screen for an Atari 2600 game, but then I never did have much exposure to that system.

We start with the Sinclair ZX81, moving through to the same company's ZX Spectrum, the BBC Micro and the Amstrad CPC464. These were systems even I was too young to have much familiarity with; I very much began with the 16-bit Atari ST home computer and the Super Nintendo (though I was fortunate to have friends with other consoles, including the ZX Spectrum, C64 and NES). Still, there's certain elements of those systems that still resonate with me, and the developers were painstaking in recreating not only the look and feel of those games but also system-appropriate music and a few sly visual references to the better known games for that system. I'm still early on in the game - I've just reached the C64, the sixth world of I don't know how many (but I suspect around thirteen if the stage number count is accurate) - but I'm enjoying what I've played so far.

Before I finish, I should probably say what kind of game it actually is, huh? Well, unsurprisingly, it's a 2D platformer. The type where you have to find all the collectibles before the exit will open and allow you to move on. It seems to be slowly introducing new mechanics, like the capacity to take multiple hits from enemies that I'm sure wasn't present from the offset, but for the most part you simply have a reliable double jump and a few stage-specific fixtures to use to your advantage. While the stage collectibles are essential to progress and reset every time the protagonist dies (which happens a lot - this is a game in the Super Meat Boy mold, if not quite as punishing), there's also a single world-specific collectible in each of the world's eight stages which nets you an achievement if you grab them all, as well as a game-wide scavenger hunt for Pac-Man style fruits and candy items that are way better hidden. Unfortunately, there isn't yet any way of knowing if one of these super-secret food items is in a stage or not, but I hope the game will start giving me hints once I've reached the end.

Here I am, driving a Sinclair C5 inside a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. This game is for nerds and doesn't care who knows it.
Here I am, driving a Sinclair C5 inside a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. This game is for nerds and doesn't care who knows it.

Needless to say, I'm curious where this game will go next. The C64, Game Boy, NES, SNES and Amiga are the only known quantities left for me to explore thus far (and I'm very interested to play those worlds, as they're all pretty formative platforms for me), but there's some mysterious spaces for many more yet to come.

Day 01: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 11: MiasmataDay 21: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 02: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 12: BotaniculaDay 22: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 03: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 13: BotaniculaDay 23: The Nightmare Cooperative & Lilly Looking Through
Day 04: Life of PixelDay 14: Shantae: Risky's RevengeDay 24: Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Day 05: Life of PixelDay 15: Bit Dungeon IIDay 25: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 06: SPAZDay 16: Stick it to the Man!Day 26: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 07: SPAZDay 17: NaissanceEDay 27: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 08: NightSkyDay 18: The SwapperDay 28: The Banner Saga
Day 09: The RoomDay 19: ClaireDay 29: The Banner Saga
Day 10: Ultionus: A Tale of Petty RevengeDay 20: DokuroDay 30: The Banner Saga
Finale: Papers, Please
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