GAME NAME: Pixel Boy and the Ever Expanding Dungeon
DEVELOPER(S): Giant Box Games
PUBLISHER(S): Giant Box Games
GENRE(S): Shooter, Rogue-lite, Indie
RELEASE DATE(S): May 30th, 2014
Imagine, if you will, a rogue-lite (otherwise known as a roguelike-like) shooter where death and a great soundtrack are a given and everything else is randomised. Granted, randomised elements and certain death are staples of any roguelike or rogue-lite worth its salt, but Pixel Boy and the Ever Expanding Dungeon takes that approach and tweaks it a little; it does so just enough to make it an easy recommendation. What Pixel Boy has essentially done is integrate a Borderlands-like weapon system, by which I mean an absurd amount of weapon variety, and used that to increase the inconsistency between runs. And yes, on this occasion, inconsistency is a good thing: After all, no one wants an easy rogue-lite game.
Let’s get straight into the good stuff, shall we. I’m, of course, talking about weaponry, for no shooter will ever get my seal of approval without a capable and pleasurable armament. I suppose I should’ve begun with Pixel Boy’s premise, but it’s a fairly simple one, kill all the things and move to the next dungeon. In that respect, Pixel Boy sticks to what works and it’s for that reason that I want to usher us on.
Like any good rogue-lite or roguelike game, Pixel Boy presents you with increasingly difficult dungeons for you to overcome. Moreover, every time you take on a dungeon, not only will the mobs and that particular dungeon’s layout be randomly selected, but so are your potential weapon pickups. And here’s where things get interesting. There is a rather huge selection of weapon types to uncover, from spreaders to weapons that apply a damage-over-time debuff. Better yet, picking up multiple weapon types (which are actually a lot more like upgrades really) will cause their effects to merge and your weapon will become that much more effective. Best of all, there is no limit on the amount of effects that can be applied. Add more upgrades and your firepower becomes increasingly destructive.
Because of this near near-limitless upgrade approach, crafting is a rather important extension of the weaponry system within Pixel Boy. Obviously, with so many weapon types available to you, you’ll want to mix, match and augment your capability to eradicate pixelated enemy scum as much as possible. For that you’ll need crafting. What crafting does is allow you to combine the weapons you currently have equipped into a single amalgamated upgrade – keep in mind that you can only have 3 upgrades at any one time, thereby granting empty slots with which to add new weapons and have them combine with your already combined ability. What it means is a heck of a lot of variation (or potential variation). Inevitably, if I was going to scrutinise anything, I’d have to say that some types of combinations are far more effective than others, but that’s hardly a negative to get worked up over. In fact, having to make do with what you’ve got, whether it effective or not, is part and parcel of any good roguelike or rogue-lite game. Finally, various armour types with an array of perks and attribute boosts can also be crafted. Armour is seriously useful in Pixel Boy, and so the ability to craft it is appreciated.
Speaking of attributes, as he vanquishes his pixelated foes, your character is capable of levelling up and becoming that much stronger. Levelling up rewards you with attributes points that you can apply to an assortment of stats, all of them important. It’ll be up to you on how to level up your character, but there are definitely wrong ways to do it and you’ll soon make that realisation when latter dungeons become a little too much to handle. Luckily, Pixel Boy is a rogue-lite and so encourages you to replay the game. Unfortunately, this is its one only real failing.
Pixel Boy’s biggest fault is a lack of character and personality in places. At times, the game lacks that little bit extra needed to take the game from being good to being great. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great fun, but it struggles to incentivise the player beyond its mechanics. Nevertheless, let it not be said that Pixel Boy is boring. Rather, I quite enjoyed Pixel Boy and its unique take on the rogue-lite sub-genre.
Since we’re on the topic of attracting the player, visually, Pixel Boy looks a lot like its namesake. It’s a collage of vividly coloured blocks and looks like it’s made of exaggerated or rather large pixels; it sort of works. Beyond that, lighting and textures are simplistic and emphasise the aesthetic Pixel Boy seems to be going for. It wants you to focus on eradicating mobs and provides an awesome soundtrack while you do so; I’d even go so far as to say that Pixel Boy’s soundtrack is one of the better ones I’ve heard this year so far. However, I should note that Pixel Boy’s lack of personality has passed on over to some of the game’s presentation. In this case, the narrator – there’s a narrator by the way – does a fine attempt at injecting a little humour into the game, but it’s not really enough of a catalyst to keep you satisfied all of the time.
All in all, Pixel Boy and the Ever Expanding Dungeon Dungeon is great little rogue-lite romp, if only suffering in its attempt to entice you back into the game after a couple playthroughs. With that said, it’s definitely worth those first few attempts and with promise of daily dungeon mode, additional powerups and more means a little more appeal in the department it lacked the most.