Thursday, 3 November 2016

Pixel Assassin - Beta Review

Being all sneaky-like in Pixel Assassin...


Creeping along the top of a crumbling, grey brick wall, I spy a lone sentry at the other end facing the other way. Heh heh heh. I steadily sneak up to him. Slowly slowly, catchy monkey I think to myself - though surely, if I was actually trying to catch a monkey I'd be going extremely fast. Readying my dagger, I walk up behind him and...he goes sailing away in a downwards trajectory to land at the bottom of the wall. Eh?

Although it's not quite what you expect when you go to backstab a man, I enjoyed this somewhat bizarre introduction to Pixel Assassin's Beta, a mobile 2D platformer centered around the elimination of key figures. Admittedly, the poor guard seemed to drift into the air rather than go tumbling down at gathering speed, but you can't have everything in such an early build. It's the thought that counts.

I think his last words were 'argh...'

Indeed, that exact phrase fits quite well with Pixel Assassin at this stage in development. There is a lot of potential for a fun, rather tense mobile game where you are given a target to kill at the beginning of each level, and yet it's held back at the moment by minor niggles and annoyances.

Take, for example, the level layout and enemies. I liked the fact that there a few different enemy types to avoid and/or poke with a dagger. Guards armed with swords patrol aggressively, cutting you down without a moment's hesitation if you stray into their line of sight. Archers are irritating bastards, constantly firing arrows with pinpoint accuracy like they're in a Robin Hood lookalike contest. Get behind them though, and their ass is yours (so to speak). With Pixel Assassin's handy virtual keyboard control system, navigating obstacles while avoiding these ne're-do-wells is rather challenging in a good way.

I'm the king of the castle!

The problem is that, while the levels are indeed tricky to complete, as any game should be, the lack of a checkpoint system makes it incredibly frustrating when you die over and over again and have to start from the beginning of the level each time. I'm not sure whether the red flags dotted around are supposed to be a checkpoint system of sorts, but they weren't working in this test build. I like games to be hard, but not this hard.

The cute pixel art graphics and the appropriate-sounding  music fit well into the game's medieval theme, and the scrolling background is a nice touch which I didn't expect. Again, the issue here is that although these things are great, and praise should be given to the developers for including them, there isn't enough variation - on each level the same sprites and backgrounds are recycled. I'm taking this with a pinch of salt, as I know it is an earl;y beta, but perhaps for a future version a different background per level would be nice.

Sounds suspiciously easy...

I did enjoy receiving an objective screen with my target's details upon it, as it at least gave me a clue as to what I would face at the end of the level. A particular favourite of mine was a target named 'Donald' - just 'Donald - who kicked the bucket while tucked up in bed. Is that the definition of a good night's sleep, I wonder?

The key thing to take away from this is that Pixel Assassin has great potential. This is an early beta, and it shouldn't be judged too harshly. Sneaking up behind guards before cruelly ending their lives is fun, and the overall design is at once captivating and challenging - though perhaps slightly too much of the latter. The effort has gone into the right places; all it needs now is a lot of polish.

And, quite possibly, more opportunities to throw people off buildings.

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