Pixel Ripped 1995 is, as the name suggests, a game that takes place in 1995. But rather than getting released back then, it launched last year on VR platforms (which I played on the Oculus Quest) and is best described as games within a game. Yes, games in plural as you’ll get to play different genres of alternating mini-games across this title’s 6 levels. To make sense of it all, let’s start from the beginning.
We are first introduced to Dot, a pixelated video game protagonist, tasked to stop the evil Cyblin Lord from stealing the Pixel Stone. Otherwise, the Game World will... fall into chaos! Of course, no one wants that and to aid Dot in her task, her Master instructs her that she should pair her conscience with that of a skilled human player’s. This way, she will be more successful in taking on the vile Cyblin Lord.
After a search within the Game World, they find that coveted skilled player: scoreboard leader David Keene, a 9-year old boy from New Jersey. With David at the gamepad, Dot travels from game to game to hunt down Cyblin Lord in 16-bit and 32-bit titles whose elements occasionally spill into the real world.
The nostalgic appeal is at the forefront in Pixel Ripped 1995 from the depiction of David’s world to the in-game games. We start by controlling Dot in 16-bit games running on an SNES-lookalike (you even have to mimic the action of inserting the cartridge as David in VR!), at other times in arcades and later we play 32-bit polygonal games on a PSX-like console. And these games hit the nostalgia bells as well as they bear similarities to classic games like Zelda, Castlevania, Donkey Kong and more; while occasionally making references to them and breaking the fourth wall.
But the unlikely duo of our game don’t progress only on-screen but also in the real world. There’s one level where enemies emerge out of the game world and chase David while he is at the back of his car. And for this level, Dot has to bash them to oblivion in a Road Rash-style game while David occasionally throws banana peels at the main boss. In another level, David gets to control a physical spaceship toy while Dot blasts a dragon from it and you’ll have to navigate the toy through hovering rings à la Star Fox.
Pixel Ripped 1995 also poses some challenges worthy of games from that bygone era with tough boss fights that often need more than one try to defeat. You’ll have to use both Dot and David in those fights as they merge gaming and real world elements. Additionally, even if the genres of the mini-games vary, the health system is the same throughout the game and it’s akin to Sonic’s iconic rings. This adds a layer of difficulty when Dot’s mini-pixel shards scatter upon impact from an enemy’s attack, you’ll have to quickly gather them back or else it’s game over when you take the next hit.
While the game’s 6 levels are filled with mini-games that draw inspiration from classic titles, Pixel Ripped 1995 also has its share of original mechanics. For instance, there’s a boss fight when you have to play as Dot in first-person from inside the TV screen and shoot at the enemy reaching for David on the other side. At other times, while playing as David, you have to distract his Mum or she will power off the console and impede your progress with Dot. Similarly, when gaming at night when David should be asleep, you should be quiet in-game or else David’s Mum will come barging into his room to lecture him about the need to sleep before shutting down the console.
Such original gameplay features add some unique personality to the game which make it a memorable experience. ARVORE, the Brazilian studio behind this game, also added some nice VR touch to the aesthetics and animations which are one of the highlights of Pixel Ripped 1995.
But the game isn't flawless. Levels can feel repetitive at times and sometimes a level feels too similar to the game it was inspired from. And since the genre changes from level to level, sometimes the controls aren't always intuitive, especially when it comes to boss fights. In one such fight, it took me a few tries to know how to shoot from Dot's blaster while in first-person. In another, I didn't notice a toy gun on David's side that could actually be used to clear the path ahead for Dot. The game did not highlight these features nor did it bring my attention to them and it's an aspect that I think ARVORE can improve upon.
However, those who grew up playing the SNES will definitely relive past memories forged on the console as they experience that era again in VR. This game is one that will appeal to retro and VR gamers alike; and while the experience is rather short lived, at around 3 hours, it’s a memorable 3 hours. And if that’s not enough, there’s also the prequel, Pixel Ripped 1989, that can deliver a similar experience.
After having played Pixel Ripped 1995 and The Line, an interactive VR story with hand tracking support, on the Oculus Quest, ARVORE has become one of my favorite VR developers with the unique experiences they craft on the platform. Now I'm looking forward to how their next game, Yuki which is set in an anime world, turns out when it releases later this year.
I hope you enjoyed reading this edition of GBAtemp Recommends and be sure to check out the previous entries as well!
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Jazzpunk - #17
Mario's Super Picross - #16
Dread X Collection Volume I & II - #15
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Persona 4 Golden - #12
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Catherine - #7
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red & Blue Rescue Team - #6
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Classic Fallout - #3
Silent Hill 1 - #2
Danganronpa Series - #1