Travel through time and experience the golden ages of console and PC gaming in Super Icon's nifty new 2D platformer.
Home console gaming has been around for a long time now. Nintendo's uber-popular NES console released in North America over 30 years ago and before that, companies like Atari and Coleco had their own consoles as well. Super Life of Pixel embraces many of these consoles of yesteryear by using their visual styles to build a challenging 2D platformer. You play as a single green Pixel while exploring a variety of worlds based on retro video game consoles and home computers. The original Life of Pixel contained 13 machines to play through with 8 levels each but this enhanced version has added a bunch of extra levels and 6 more consoles to explore. Devices as old as the ZX81 home computer are included and you'll also get to explore favorites like the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, NES, Game Boy, and Sega Master System.
Before starting each level, you're treated to a brief history lesson about the consoles or home computers including their release dates, capabilities, and technical specifications. Super Life of Pixel also highlights gaming milestones as you progress such as the addition of color, introduction of side-scrolling games, invention of parallax scrolling, and much more.
As a gamer whose first console was a NES, it was fascinating to find out more about older machines and play simulated levels based on their specifications. Super Life of Pixel might not be 100% faithful to those old machines (the NES and Game Boy levels looked way better than any NES or Game Boy game I can remember) but it was still great to get a taste of what these older machines looked like.
When it comes to gameplay, Super Life of Pixel doesn't shine quite as brightly. It's merely a 2D platformer that tasks you with collecting all the diamonds in a level to open the exit door. The controls are smooth and accurate but the level of difficulty can be frustrating and stage designs are a bit bizarre at times. The menus are annoying as the game forces you to exit all the way to the main menu if you want to select a new level and I experienced a couple aggravating late-game glitches like Pixel not properly catching key items.
With that out of the way, Pixel starts with only a single jump which makes early levels quite challenging as many platforms are spaced rather far apart. A double-jump ability is unlocked at the end of the third world thus helping to smooth out many of these difficult jumps from then on. Late in the campaign, you also unlock the half-jump ability which is used by quickly tapping the jump button but it should have been introduced much sooner as it's a feature that most hardcore platformer players usually rely on.
Only a few late-game levels give you the ability to attack enemies so the vast majority of the time, you simply need to avoid them. The problem is that they are regularly placed in the most inconvenient locations possible and many have random movement patterns resulting in annoying timing requirements and plenty of deaths, especially because Pixel only has 2 health points.
The difficulty ramps up early and I found the most challenging levels to be in the second and third worlds. Unlocking the double-jump smoothed things out for a while so the middle portion was mostly quite breezy. The campaign then introduces some extremely hard levels that will seriously try your patience. What's especially infuriating are cheap one-hit deaths where spikes or flames will pop out of the floor or ceiling unexpectedly and quickly put an end to what may have been a solid run. Many of the late levels are several minutes long and contain no checkpoints so they demand a perfect performance from start to finish in order to actually beat them.
It's easy to compare Super Life of Pixel to tough platformers like Super Meat Boy, Celeste, and Slime-san. While the actual platforming isn't as hard as any of those games, the increased level length and forced restarts make Super Life of Pixel just as frustrating without being quite as rewarding. While it is too hard for its own good, it does have plenty of fun secrets to search for. Many of the worlds have a hidden gem to collect and grabbing them all unlocks a new console. There are also over 50 hidden food items that challenge you to keep your eye out for fake walls and secret portals. Uncovering all the food items also rewards you with a new console world.
The retro premise of Super Life of Pixel is fantastic but the degree of challenge is a bit too hard for its own good. As a result, many casual gamers will likely give up well before experiencing everything it has to offer.
- + Plenty of content with tons of secrets, 19 console worlds, and over 100 levels
- + Clever worlds based on retro consoles
- + Smooth and accurate controls
- - Difficulty spikes and frustrating enemy placement will turn off some players
- - Later levels are way too long
- - Annoyingly unintuitive menus