It’s no secret that the internet loves cats. a quick google search for cats brings up a megazillion (note: this number may not exist) images of cute cats and it generally leads to everybody losing their shit in a tidal wave of “AWWWWW” and “Isn’t it cute?!?!?!”. To test my hypothesis may I present exhibit A;
Back to the task at hand. Today’s review is of a cat that will not win a prize for the world’s best looking cat; ‘Pix the Cat’.
Can an indie puzzle game truly be something that you can lord over your Xbox One owning friends? Or is best suited to be minced into a tin of premium cat food?
As I alluded to in my (not always entirely relevant) intro ‘Pix the Cat’ is another indie title that; while good looking, is not the game that you will instantly go for when showing off your new hardware. This is not to say that Pix is an ugly game, far from it. When it gets going there are a multitude of effects that it throws at the player; from neon to negative and everything in-between; it is always a joy to watch. If not technically mind blowing.
Pix always begins with the titular character playing his own video game. As you play through one level you’ll see the next somewhere in the maze (albeit smaller than your play area) as you progress ‘deeper’ into the game the character will literally go deeper. It’s all very Chris Nolan and is only the beginning of the games attempts to differentiate itself from it’s very obvious inspirations.
This is more than merely a gimmick however. Pasta Games have made it an intricate part of the game, there are mazes that are impossible to complete purrfectly without going between levels. It creates an environment in that the player must think laterally to succeed. It’s a mechanic that is so eloquent in it’s execution it had me asking the question ‘why has no-one thought of this before?’ and I can think of no better compliment than that…it’s often a question asked of a great idea.
All the way to the moon.
There is no getting around the art style being very reminiscent of SEGA’s ‘Chu Chu Rocket’. Likewise the premise is also very similar; you control ‘Pix’ a cat who seems to have an obsession with hatching duck eggs and bringing the ducklings to safety.
So far so ‘Chu Chu’ right?
Two for one puzzle games…
Pasta Games have taken the base from the best puzzle game of the past 15 years and added elements from THE greatest mobile game ever; snake. As Pix hatches the eggs the ducklings form a tail behind him; he must never touch his own tail or indeed the walls.
To complicate the formula further; in order to gain maximum marks (and a kickass soundbyte “PUUUURRRRFECT”) the player must hatch every egg on the level before bring the ducklings to safety. The more purrfects you achieve the faster Pix will move and the more points you can build.
There are other mechanics that Pasta Games have incorporated into their game; if you time your turns right Pix will receive a short boost of speed, some levels are very simple mazes that allow the player to build up maximum speed and enter “Fever Time”. This leads to a mental speed boost and bonus multiplier, this will stay with the player until they make a mistake. The better you play the longer you have this for and the higher your score can go.
Three is the perfectionist number…
The final piece to Pix’s puzzle is the influence of the greatest game ever; ‘Pac-man’. With every level you’ll be met by a maze with a very obvious path to follow. This path is never the most efficient one though. The player must use all their ingenuity to find the most efficient path while keeping in mind the number of ducklings and compensating for the space that will occupy.
It’s a fine balancing act and it rewards risk taking unlike any other game I could name.
With this fine balance comes great risk; as I learned my preferred routes through the levels I began pushing the boundaries by timing my turns against the walls in an attempt to kick start “Fever Time” earlier to maximise my scoring potential. Time after time though I pushed too hard and made a costly error that cost my score in the end. Eventually though my pushing paid off; I completed a purrfect run and got a mega score!
It’s all about purrfection.
8 out of 10 cats prefer…
As with all great puzzle games, the description is all very “easier said than done”; one mistake will knock you back to x0 multiplier and Pix back to his slowest movement speed – this obviously will have a knock on effect on you score.
Pasta games give you three minutes in order to prove your mettle. They have provided you with everything you’ll need to rack up mental scores, a simple premise with hidden depths, numerous mechanics to build up your multiplier and; most importantly of all, a control scheme that ties everything together with it’s poise and simplicity.
In this game when you make a mistake…it’s on you.
‘Pix the Cat’ is a very welcome inclusion to the school of console puzzle games. It is technically above and beyond every other puzzle game of recent years. Like all the classic puzzle games Pix hides it’s complexity beneath a veil of simplicity. As a result it’s a game that rewards player experimentation with tangible reward and; above all else, a game that is simply one of the best this year – another coup for Sony in the indie war of 2014.
To Pasta Games credit they have taken a game that is very much a product of it’s inspirations and somehow created a title that feels fresh, innovative and challenging. Because of it’s byte-sized nature it is also very compulsive…
…if you excuse me i have a free 3 minutes.
9/10 – do download (it’s free on PS plus)