Old School Ideas…
I'm sure we all remember Snake. One of the first games that made a splash on mobile phones, it was a simple game where the only objective was to collect as much food as possible without running into your own ever growing tail. Pix the Cat looks to evolve this concept. As the name suggests, your character is a cat, whose mission in life appears to be hatching duck eggs and depositing them into what are presumably safe crosshairs. The theme becomes odder the more you dwell on it.
Rather than dying when you get trapped in your own ‘tail' you instead lose the combo and any hatched ducklings that were following you. The overall aim of the game is to achieve the highest score possible across multiple interconnected levels before time runs out. The deepest I managed to get was level 29, and I'm unsure at what point it ends. The levels are fixed and not procedurally generated, so there must be a limit. Bonus points are awarded for destroying enemy skulls and achieving perfect clearances. Another cool little innovation is that you can see where the next level joins onto the one you're currently in - sometimes it will be off to the side, and sometimes it will be within a wall in the middle of the current level.
It may sound simple, but once you get into the game it quickly appears otherwise. The interconnected levels are a great idea, and it creates a hectic meta-game. There's no pause when Pix moves from one level to the next - he even continues moving in the same direction as in the previous level - so choosing the correct entry point and being ready to react quickly is important.
Release Date: 29/01/2015
Available on: PC
Play the Game
You can collect ducklings from one part of a level, warp back into the previous level and enter the new one again from a different door, allowing you to save time or achieve perfect clearances that otherwise wouldn't be possible. It provides for a great deal of challenging planning which has to be carried out quickly, especially with Pix speeding up as the combo gets higher.
From what initially started out as a really simple idea, I was suddenly presented with an unforeseen level of depth which was summarily dumped on me in the most pleasing of ways.
It's refreshing too to see a good amount of unlocks, from artwork to music, game modes to quality of life features and voice over packs. Some are unlocked just through achieving set scores, others through completing set tasks, such as killing 100 skulls.
I'm happy to say that the effort didn't stop with the gameplay. The music is upbeat, cheerful and catchy. That being said, although it is possible to unlock different tracks through achievements, they could have done with including a couple more tracks from the start, as it becomes repetitive quite quickly.
The art style of Pix the Cat takes a step away from the oft-used 8 bit theme, instead going for a polished and arcadey disco-esque theme. There's lots of vibrant colours that fit with the music, and one could suggest that as Pix's combo increases, he appears to become slightly more intoxicated by some kind of substance - especially when hitting the ‘fever' combo level - which inverts all the colours on the screen. Perhaps I'm being unfair and it's just the love of disco and John Travolta. This can cause a slight moment of hesitation as your eyes adjust and you reclaim your bearings, which can be enough to break your combo if you start a new level in a poor position.
The level designs themselves resemble Pac-Man in the way that they're boxed in and split up by solid walls. The floating skulls that appear on some levels could also be a nod to this most famous of ancestors. What's refreshing about the level design is that, as you flow from one area to the next, you'd expect things to get harder each time. They don't. There are clearly some levels that are dropped in there to change up how the player approaches the layout - some levels will rely more on quick reactions, while others will rely on the player's ability to think quickly. It's evident that careful planning went into the overall structure of the Arcade mode and how to make one continuous journey through multiple levels an interesting challenge.
Put your Thinking Cat on!
There are three main modes within Pix the Cat. Arcade mode is the one that you'll spend the most time in and is the bulk of the game. It comes in two flavours - starter and main. Once you've achieved a good enough high score, you'll unlock the laboratory and retro modes.
Both of these alternate modes change up the mechanics. In laboratory, you play what looks like a bacteria who has to collect cells and deliver them to the rather sad-faced organisms. Here, the goal is to deliver all cells in a set number of moves, and your character will slide, unable to change direction until hitting a solid object. This is a game mode where the stages are separated from one another, giving you a summary after each quick level before you progress onto the next, in the vain of mobile games - a platform that this particular mode of Pix the Cat would do well on.
Retro mode changes up the mechanics again. Here, you play a delightfully old school 1930s cartoon-style cat who's trapped in single stages, similar to laboratory mode, only now you can once again change direction at will and you have a tail of ducklings. What's different though, is that there's only one egg on screen at a time, and there's always an enemy roaming about trying to trip you up. Bonus points are earned by collecting all of the eggs under a set time limit, represented by a goat moving toward an anxious looking dandelion. This is another mode that would do well on mobile platforms.
All of the modes included in Pix the Cat present the player with different challenges. I'm a big fan of the way they've made one giant score attack meta-game out of arcade mode. I think that's a really clever idea and it's not one that I've seen done in this way before.
Speaking as a player who hasn't played many score attack games recently, this is certainly one of my favourite contributions to the genre. It rarely puts a foot wrong nor seems unfairly difficult or frustrating.
My one frustration with the game is that there's no integration with Steam that allows you to compare scores against your friends. There's a tacked-on local multiplayer mode that revolves around shooting the other players with eggs, but it's not something that outshines the primary single player modes.
Available for €9.99 on Steam, if you're a fan of score attack games, it's hard to go wrong with Pix the Cat. Pastagames have developed a real hit here, one that even someone like myself who doesn't have a great love of games of this type has been able to enjoy immensely. It's not far from purrfection.
Play the Game
Pix the Cat is developed by Pastagames.