Pixel Gear’s Solid
When it comes to virtual reality gaming, there are few genres that make the jump to the medium better than that age old classic, the light gun shooter. There’s just a great deal of satisfaction that comes with standing with your feet planted in a virtual world, taking aim and trading lead with hordes of baddies with your own private shooting gallery strapped to your face. The PlayStation VR has already been home to a handful of games that make the most of this sweet science, like the painfully short but sweet The Getaway: The London Heist, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, and Ace Banana.
Now, publisher Oasis Games and developer Geronimo Geronimo interactive have released Pixel Gear on Sony’s new HMD. It’s a whimsical shooter set in a vibrant, retro-inspired world that’s just oozing with nostalgic charm. Pixel Gear is a stationary affair that challenges players to wave after wave of enemies as they bear down on the player. These enemies come in the forms of skeletons who will chuck their own bones at you, lumbering ogres who wield massive chain guns, and testy wizards who warp around the environment, hurling glowing fireballs at your noggin, just to name a few.
To combat this menace, players take aim with their trusty Move controller, blasting through three colorful stages as they destroy waves of enemies, collect coins, and amass an arsenal of satisfying weaponry. Aiming with the Move controller feels fast and accurate in Pixel Gear, and it never suffered from any strange drifting issues or tracking problems that occasionally plague other titles on the PlayStation VR. Raising your Move controller to eye level lets you seamlessly aim down your iron sights – or sniper’s scope if you have one handy – and a quick tap of the Move button will allow you to cycle through up to four weapons that you can keep in your inventory. It’s all incredibly seamless, allowing you to focus on the shooting at hand without any nagging control issues or complex button combinations. All you have to do is point, shoot, and smile at the satisfying sound of an enemy skeleton’s skull being vaporized into dust. Easy peasy.
Each stage in Pixel Gear will task players with completing five waves of enemies, after which you’ll engage in a boss fight with a towering monster. Every stage is littered with fun little targets to shoot, such as lingering snowmen and scarecrows or explosive barrels to blast, which can you even the playing field in a pinch. Sometimes you’ll even encounter enemies that tote bombs around, which skillful marksmen can shoot out of the sky, causing them to bombard their allies.
Between waves you’ll be given the opportunity to spend the coins you’ve collected on additional weapons, such as machine guns, a tremendously satisfying grenade launcher, and even a sniper rifle (great for picking off those hard-to-reach enemies). You can also spend coins on hearts to restore your health, and ammo to keep your special weapons fully stocked. While these power-ups are pretty standard fare, you can drop some coin to make various ghosts appear on the stage with different kinds of effects. Shooting an explosive ghost, for example, will destroy any enemies standing nearby at the time of the blast. While deformation ghosts will cause nearby enemies to shrink into tiny, toy-sized targets. It’s a neat touch, and while it doesn’t radically change the way the game plays, it’s still fun to see what all of the various weapons and power-ups can do.
While the game gives you plenty of ways to upgrade your weaponry and spice up the action, that’s not to say you’ll need to use a great deal of strategy in Pixel Gear – at least not when you’re playing on normal or easy mode. This is largely due to the fact that enemies generally take quite awhile before they begin firing on the player, giving you plenty of time to ping them between the eyes before they become a threat. Additionally, life-replenishing ghosts that appear at the end of each stage generally drop enough hearts to ensure you’ll be in tip-top shape before the next wave begins. Even still, while Pixel Gear isn’t especially challenging, it’s a great deal of fun to just kick back and enjoy a few rounds of colorful chaos.
One thing I really enjoyed about Pixel Gear is the game’s vibrant, voxel-based aesthetics that do a great job of conveying the pseudo-retro style that Geronimo Interactive was going for. Each of the colorful enemies you encounter looks as if it sauntered directly off the pages of an NES game’s instruction manual. Add to that some really impressive stereoscopic 3D effects and a pumping chiptune soundtrack and you’ve got one sweet package that is sure to appeal to all of you raving retrosexuals out there.
While Pixel Gear is a great deal of fun while it lasts, the entire three stages can be completed in less than an hour. And even though there are a handful of difficulty modes to experiment with, you’ll be hard-pressed not to feel like you’ve seen all there is to see within an afternoon with the game. Still, at just $10, it’s not going to break the bank and is a lot of fun while it lasts.
When all is said and done, if you’re looking for a game that’ll keep you busy for weeks on end, Pixel Gear certainly isn’t what you’re looking for. It’s three levels are incredibly short, and the enemies you’ll encounter don’t put up much of a fight, even on the harder difficulties. Still, the shooting itself is rock solid, and the game’s charming aesthetics and rocking soundtrack are sure to delight anyone who appreciates retro-inspired production values in their games. If you’re in the mood for an addicting, lighthearted shooter to spend a few hours with that proudly wears its heart on its sleeve, you just might want to add Pixel Gear to your collection.
Given a few more stages, Pixel Gear could have been a must-have title for the PlayStation VR. As it stands, it’s a short but sweet shooting gallery that won’t quite cure itchy trigger finger, but it’s a soothing salve that provides some some welcome – though incredibly temporary – satisfaction.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed); Publisher: Oasis Games ; Developer: Geronimo Interactive ; Players: 1; Released: October 20, 2016 ; MSRP $9.99
Full Disclosure: This review was made possible by a copy provided by the publisher.