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Pixel Ripped 1989 (PlayStation 4) artwork

Pixel Ripped 1989 (PlayStation 4) review


"Reimagination"


For as long as electronic portable devices have been around, kids have been sneaking them into classrooms. Whether it's a smartphone with a billion apps, a Nintendo DS, a CD player, a Game Boy, or a cassette player, that temptation to "pass the time" has always been there. Not surprisingly, a dev team have taken it upon themselves to transform this lax activity into a video game. The folks over at ARVORE Immersive Games could have stopped right there and made a pretty straightforward title from that premise alone, but they took an extra step. An abstract step.

Like 2D platform games? How about 3D first-person games? Would you like to see the two bizarrely-combined using the PlayStation VR? Pixel Ripped 1989 pulls off this absurd feat while also stressing your multitasking skills between the three gaming spectrums. As class commences in the third dimension, your protagonist, a girl sitting at her desk in the back, attempts to play her 2D handheld gaming device without getting noticed by the teacher. Furthermore, to make any genuine progress in Pixel Ripped 1989, you actually have to look down at the handheld and play a monochromatic action game clearly inspired by Mega Man; you'll jump on platforms, run past spiked-ceiling crushers, bounce around on numerous springs, and shoot projectiles at strategically-positioned enemies.



Interestingly, you can't die in this portable title, only spawning infinitely at flagged checkpoints. Though, getting hurt comes with a punishment: the decreased strength of your projectiles. You can recover by collecting the game's abundance of pixel dots scattered every which way, but it takes a lot to regain full strength, not to mention another simple hit will undo everything. And while you can't lose lives within this game, you can still lose lives in the game. Did I stutter? If you become too lackadaisical in class, you risk being noticed by the teacher and lose one of three lives. How does one avoid this? You have options, and this is where the overall product starts demonstrating its versatility.

Basically: distractions. With a simple two-second glare to your trusty spitball stick, you can then equip it and aim at various objects in the classroom, from knocking down containers on a shelf to rattling the solar system ceiling display. While some offer very basic diversions, others activate strange, intriguing interruptions. Hitting a flyer on the cork board, for instance, somehow plops VR goggles on everyone in class, even you, which creates a quirky meta moment. Can you guess what tossing a spitball in the trash bin does? It summons a very clumsy football player, of course. Hilariously, some of these distractions were so... distracting... to me that I often stopped playing the handheld just to look up and watch. Suffice it to say, I lost a few lives.

With a fascinating premise backed by mechanics that actually work quite well with one another, Pixel Ripped 1989 exudes a strong sense of refreshing entertainment within its first level.

It gets bumpy after that.

Beyond level one, Pixel Ripped 1989's structure and flow leaves a lot to be desired. Level two, for example, places your character outside during recess and... that's it. No fear of getting caught and nothing to interact with other than a cassette player that offers a cute Easter egg. I guess the lack of a threat could have been "fine" if the handheld level was solid, but it's just straightforward platform hopping with the occasional disappearing block segment. Know what would have helped? An actual threat during recess. Up until the fun boss fight that's practically first-person Defender in the third dimension, level two is weirdly contradictory to Pixel Ripped 1989's concept.

Level three takes place in class again where... you basically do the same thing as level one's classroom; there's only minor variances to the distractions. Thankfully, level three's handheld action actually offers interesting shticks, such as boldly referencing other video games and their mechanics, with one being Alex Kidd, his rock-paper-scissors battle, and the helicopter segments. I'd mention more, but... Pixel Ripped 1989 only has four total levels. Five and a half if you include the bonus horror level and the end credits sequence. Level two is sounding even more questionable now, right?



When Pixel Ripped 1989 worked half the time, I was genuinely engaged. That frantic feeling I had in the first level, constantly looking up and down from the handheld, trying to discover new ways to distract the teacher, all while attempting to do proper platform jumping, was thrilling. Using the handheld as a first-person cursor during the level two boss battle was clever, especially with the 3D targets actually turning into 2D pixels when inside the screen. Anything intriguing that occurred in the latter levels also filled me with awe and glee. Essentially, part of Pixel Ripped 1989's charm is that it's not just another "back in the day" nostalgia trip to the 80s and early 90s gaming. It remembers the past while incorporating modern technology, ideas, and graphics to do so, making for an innovative experience.

But "half the time" doesn't make up for an entire product's drawbacks. And the real problem has less to do with the game's short length and more to do with the fact that there's not a lot to do within its brief stint. Doesn't help that ideas get recycled without improving much on them, not to mention one level, the second, feels out of place with the rest. At the end of Pixel Ripped 1989, a sequel is hinted at. Whether this was just something being poked fun at or the devs being serious, a sequel would definitely be something I'd look forward to; if they'd make a more fleshed-out concept where every level has interesting ideas with fun, exciting gameplay, I'd be elated.

3/5

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (January 08, 2019)

I can't tell you how many times I spotted Cyber-Lip in an arcade back in the early 90s. Its title screen is etched into my memory.

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Masters posted January 08, 2019:

Sweet review, dude. But! Throwing shade at Alex Kidd games?? For shame. I noticed in the YouTube clip that the pedicopter bit looks exactly like it did on the Master System, except that it looks a lot more difficult to crash -- bumping into ceilings overhead is supposed to lose you your chopper! Anyway, I might try this thing out -- quirky and nostalgic? That's worth a try.
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pickhut posted January 08, 2019:

I like Alex Kidd, but... I mean, most of his games were pretty bad. Also yeah, the copter is indestructible in this game, unless you hit the spikes or those beam-thingies.

Thanks for reading! Pixel Ripped 1989 is a pretty interesting experience, but it's one that can only be played with the VR headset. If you don't have one, sorry; maybe I should have made that more clear in the review. I'll rectify that.
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Masters posted January 08, 2019:

Oh crap, I don't have the VR headset. Ah well. One day, maybe.

And yes, of course, most of the Alex Kidd games were bad. I had them all at one point. Miracle World was the most celebrated. Shinobi World was good, Lost Stars was... limited, and Hi-Tech World and Enchanted Castle were downright bad.
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pickhut posted January 08, 2019:

It's also available on Steam, so if you ever decide to pick up something like HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, you can check it out there, too.

That Alex Kidd order is about the same with me. I had them all at one point, too, except Enchanted Castle, which I tried much later on. I don't understand how they messed up so badly with Enchanted Castle...

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