In recent years, 1980s-themed aesthetics have begun to grow in popularity in all form, from the Netflix original series Stranger Things to certain fashion trends like Crop Tops just to name a couple there is no denying that the public loves that particular decade. With more and more mediums heavily influenced by this specific decade, Pixel Ripped 1989 not only pays tributes to that vibrant era but is a love letter to all things the 1980s.
Set in the era of portable 8-bit gaming systems, Pixel Ripped 1989 is a game-within-a-game and with the narrative focusing on Dot, an inhabitant of the 2D world who sees her world torn apart by the malicious Cyblin Lord, a villain with the ability to break through the video game screen and trespass the real world. Interestingly enough, players simultaneously control two players — Dot as well as a second-grade gamer controlling her named Nicola. Both players must work together to save both their worlds from the dastardly villain seeking total domination.
While at PAX East earlier this month, I had the chance to demo Pixel Ripped 1989 on the show floor. Having played a demo of it on the Oculus Rift, I can wholeheartedly say that out of all the games I played at the event, Pixel Ripped 1989 was not only my favorite virtual reality game I played but was the best game shown for me personally.
One of the first thinks VR enthusiasts will quickly notice is the game utilizes a look-based mechanic, which has been criminally underutilized in virtual reality games. On a side note, I feel that look-based is still a more authentic input for virtual reality compared to motion controls and it is nice to see look base return to virtual reality games in 2018.
The demo had me experiencing the initial moments of Pixel Ripped 1989, where I was introduced the controls as well as the game’s plot. Regarding gameplay, Pixel Ripped 1989 mixes classic side-scrolling and platformer mechanics with 2D mechanics with a VR experience. Additionally, the game offers seated play, so you can sit comfortably at your desk (or on a couch depending on your VR setup) and play your handheld console.
To put it simply, Pixel Ripped 1989 is a game within a game — while saying this concept out loud sounds ludicrous, it works incredibly well in VR. As more and more games demand players to incorporate their whole body into the game, its a nice change of pace to see a virtual reality title requiring you to pop a squat in your seat and enjoy the game, which provides an incentive for those looking to endure extended gaming sessions.
As I was playing through the game, it began to quickly feel just like an 8-Bit Mega Man title, with shooter, platforming and even a dashing move which could be used to help access hard to reach areas. Pixel Ripped 1989 also has a hit point feature; every time you are hit by an enemy you lose all your pixels and have to reacquire them to restore a better texture to Dot’s character sprite.
Aside from shooting baddies with your blaster as Dot, Nicola also has her own obstacles to evade, who must distract her teacher and avoid being disciplined by the stern headmaster. You would do this by manipulating various objects throughout your location to distract the teacher and avoid losing lives, once you get caught a certain number of times the game would end.
Overall the difficulty is challenging but fair; platforming in its self may be rather bare bones, but there is plenty of challenge and combined with having to avoid your teacher from catching you gaming adds more difficulty. Not only that, but it adds immersion, we all that that moment in our lives when we were using an electronic device (whether cellular or gaming), and we tried our best to avoid the teacher who would bore us with their lessons so seeing this recreated was a hilarious trip down memory lane.
Towards the end of my demo, the classroom Nicola was in transformed into its own level, and I had to control Dot through various obstacles such as scissors or bubbles, which I had to pop for her to progress which led to a boss fight. I found this to be the most exciting part of the demo because it provided a fourth-wall-breaking moment where the two worlds merged into an absurd stage but given the plot of Pixel Ripped 1989 it made perfect sense.
Now, Pixel Ripped 1989 is a game that has been in the making for four years now and although I recently started following the game’s development. However, what I do know of its previous development history is that Pixel Ripped 1989 has changed its gameplay formula numerous times. From the initial plan where players could partake in mini-games within the 3D world to what the players do now, its been work in progress for years. However, the dedication of the development team has certainly paid off and, despite the demo (which felt more like a teaser because I definitely wanted to play more afterwards), Pixel Ripped 1989 is shaping up to be a 2018 favorite for me and quite possibly one of the best virtual reality games I have ever played.
Pixel Ripped 1989 will launch on May 22 for HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Oculus Rift.