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Awesome Pea (Switch) artwork

Awesome Pea (Switch) review

"Awesome Pea is disappointing, like a bunch of mushy peas unconvincingly masquerading as soup."

Awesome Pea is a retro-styled platformer from Pigeon Dev Games and Sometimes You, which arrived on PC in late September and this month became available for current consoles and Vita. I'm generally happy when games exclusive to one platform become available on lots more hardware, because that gives players a chance to enjoy something they otherwise might have missed, but in this case I'm not sure anyone really needed to bother. Despite what the title suggests, the game isn't particularly noteworthy.

A moment ago, I called Awesome Pea a "retro-styled" platformer. What I mean by that is that it looks a lot like an old Game Boy game might have looked, were it somehow hooked up to and played on an old tube television. By default, there are even blemishes and scan lines, so the effect is complete, though you can remove the optional border and filter to play with crisper presentation. I don't mind the visual flourishes. I kind of like the nostalgia, even. But the aesthetic doesn't always work to the game's advantage.

Awesome Pea (Switch) image

When I first started playing, I found it was easy to run and jump around the stages. That's mostly all you do, except make the occasional double jump, so variety definitely isn't something you should expect from the title. Instead, any longevity comes from the fact that players are likely to die a lot at first. Colliding with spikes--which are numerous throughout most stages--or giant white balls that I think are supposed to be toxic bubbles (based on the fact that a lot of them come from frogs' throats) or skulls or similar objects will toss you back to the start of the stage. Unfortunately, some of these obstacles can be difficult to see coming, because they tend to blend in with the background. That's especially true of spikes. I got used to this, but it was definitely annoying at first.

A related issue is that numerous hazards come at you from off-screen, once you're no longer in a good position to move to avoid them. You'll be leaping along a series of ledges and just as you hop the second time mid-air, a buzzsaw comes rolling along the platform you have targeted. Then you can either land on it, which is fatal, or course correct and drop into a pit instead. That's also fatal.

Such surprises wouldn't be too awful, except the game sends you back to the start of the stage any time you perish. You have unlimited lives, but there are no checkpoints and some of the earlier stages are quite lengthy. It can feel like a real grind when you get halfway or three quarters of the way through an extended stage and then an enemy flies in from off-screen to nail you just when you've about triumphed. Back to the start of the stage with you, you greedy vegetable!

Awesome Pea (Switch) image

Hit detection also irritated me frequently as I made my way through the campaign. There were a few times when I would leap to a narrow ledge and land squarely on top of it, then die because it had lethal spikes sticking out its sides and bottom. That felt cheap, since the ledge was clearly there because it should have been a safe perch. Sometimes, the architecture gets peculiar, too. I would leap up along a perfectly straight vertical wall and find myself standing partway up it, as if I had discovered an invisible toehold. Or I would land on a pipe that was supposed to drop me to a lower level automatically. Sometimes, I would fall through an opening as anticipated, but other times I would stand there like a dolt.

You might read all of the above and think to yourself, "Well, this guy clearly just needs to get better at the game." But here's the thing: I played through it in about an hour and a half, died probably 30 or 40 times in all, and lost most of those lives in the first 15 stages or so (out of roughly 30). The game felt like it was carefully designed up to that point with the intent of providing a robust challenge. Then there were just more stages that felt about the same, without the apparent attention to detail. I breezed through the last couple of worlds without breaking a sweat. And even in those early stages, there were some easy outings sandwiched between challenging gauntlets. Awesome Pea simply doesn't have the carefully honed, gradually increasing difficulty curve I usually expect from the genre.

Awesome Pea (Switch) image

It also doesn't possess a lot of variety. There are a few stage types that repeat pretty often, such as when you're riding on top of a moving train, or dropping through a dimly lit cavern as giant balls fly up from you off the bottom of the screen, or ascending a tower while frogs sit on oversized clouds and spit bubbles at you. There are only about 6 or 8 individual setups, and they're repeated a few times throughout the adventure without anything to break them up, not even boss battles or bonus stages. The game's visual approach works against the experience in this regard, because everything that's already bland feels blander still thanks to the lack of vibrant colors.

Ultimately, Awesome Pea simply doesn't feel complete. It's short, the stage designs get repetitive because they're so frequently repeated, the controls and hit detection are occasionally spotty, and the difficulty curve is surprisingly uneven. It's just not a terrific value, I'm sorry to say, and I wouldn't recommend spending much time or money on it unless you find yourself thinking that really, you could use a few more animated peas in your life. If that day ever comes, I guess you know where to look for your fix.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 04, 2019)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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Ogreatgames posted March 08, 2019:

Great job on your review!

The graphical overlay effects of Awesome Pea really caught me.

Plus, "retro-styled" platformers have always had a place in my heart.

I think Pigeon Dev Games meant this game for people who appreciate tiny gameplay sessions.

Yeah, I agree.

It appears to be looking like an old Game Boy platformer.

Anyway, anyone looking for classic GB platformers, Megaman Extreme 1&2 and Megaman V make excellent options.
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honestgamer posted March 08, 2019:

I have the Megaman Extreme games in complete, mint condition... because I bought them new. I played them at that time and wasn't super impressed. I keep them around because, after all, they are Mega Man games and I do have a thing for collecting stuff like that. But it really doesn't feel like there's enough room to move around on that tiny screen. Thanks for reading my review of Awesome Pea. I think the graphical overlay is what will catch most people!
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Masters posted March 11, 2019:

Good review man.

"That's also fatal." Haha, that reminds me of a classic Retro review, for Ghosts 'n Goblins.

One catch -- you might want to look into adjusting this sentence:

"Sometimes, the architecture gets peculiar at other times, too."

Otherwise, nice work.
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honestgamer posted March 11, 2019:

Yes, I should look into adjusting that. And the stuff Joe mentioned in his RotW topic also. It was a fairly hasty review, but I'm glad it did the job and people enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!
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hastypixels posted March 15, 2019:

Hasty huh? Isn't that my dept? Anyway, excellent review - it was a breezy read, and it made me get a little Goldblumie: "They didn't think if they should." How do you justify a game about a sentient pea, or a dimensionally displaced plumber, for that matter? Can't be the one who says "no", the game has to be given a chance at least.

Then you can say "What the ____ were you thinking?"
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Masters posted January 01, 2020:

Hey, I re-read this review because I just played the game. Great summary to close out your review. Incidentally, did you ever beat the game? It can be tough in spots, randomly, but then, you get unlimited chances...
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honestgamer posted January 01, 2020:

Yeah, I did beat the game before I reviewed it. Didn't take me long to play through the whole thing. Most of the tough spots were closer to the beginning than the end, so I blew through the last third or so of the game without any difficulty at all.
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Masters posted January 06, 2020:

You're right -- the difficulty curve was all over the place. The levels where you descended the screen from platform-to-platform were annoying trial and error exercises, but mostly easy. The traincar levels were super easy. The castle levels had some bite to them though. Anyway, good review.

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