Adventures of Pip

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Tic Toc Games for PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and iOS, originally released in 2015.
Adventures of Pip begins with a fairytale opening, telling of a strange kingdom that can fit in the palm of your hand. This kingdom is populated by pixel people… but in this land, a person's station in life is determined by his resolution, with low-rez citizens being relegated to simple lives, while the high-rez people are rich and powerful.

One day, a princess is born who holds the power to manifest pixels out of the Bitstream, but on her 16th birthday, the princess is kidnapped by the evil Queen DeRezzia so that she can harness this power for herself. In the process, DeRezzia kills the castle guard and transforms the formerly high-rez king and queen into single-pixel beings.

This is where Pip comes in. A boy born as a single pixel, no one thinks that he is capable of accomplishing much. At most, they think he might be able to go and find someone more qualified to help… someone of a higher resolution. But Pip soon discovers that he is the one who is meant to save the kingdom.

Pip is a single pixel… a giant red square to be exact. Unlike actual pixels, however, he is blobby and bouncy, which gives him a bit of extra character. Pip has a 3x variable jump, and holding the JUMP button causes him to smoosh down a bit, slowing his descent and allowing him to cross large gaps. Pip can also bounce off of enemies’ heads in order to kill them and bounce high into the air.

In the opening areas, Pip completes platforming challenges, kills enemies, and finds villagers in need of rescue. Each of the game’s 36 levels has three villagers who must be rescued, many of them appearing in hidden areas or off the beaten path – acting similarly to Star Coins in the New Super Mario Bros. series – although finding them all offers no gameplay reward. These villagers are retained even if you die before reaching the next checkpoint.

Killing enemies usually reveals pixels, which act as the game’s currency. Tougher enemies drop more pixels, and enemies occasionally drop health restoratives in the form of apples (restores one unit) or chickens (full health restoration). Treasure chests are spread around the environment as well, often in hard-to-reach areas or behind false walls, although these do not offer any greater reward than killing enemies, with the exception of the rare large red chests, which contain more pixels. Since enemies respawn at screen transitions, it is generally easier to farm for currency than to seek out hidden or hard-to-reach chests.

Money is used back in town to purchase items and upgrades, although most of these are prohibitively expensive in the early going. An item shop allows the player to purchase health potions, as well as single-use items that help players find treasure chests and villagers, and also items that grant temporary invincibility or a temporary flame shield. The only permanent upgrade in the item shop is the Heart Container, which adds a single heart to Pip's health meter.

Later, when the weapon shop opens, the player may spend his money on a number of permanent upgrades, such as higher defense, increased loot drops, the ability to draw in nearby currency, and a couple of upgrades that are specific to Pip’s higher resolution forms…

During Pip’s pursuit of the evil queen, he is knocked down into a pit where he meets the ghost of a knight. The knight bestows upon him a power from the Bitstream, allowing him to transform into a higher resolution being. Doing this transforms Pip into a medium-rez boy who has an entirely different set of abilities.

The boy can run much faster than his low-rez pixel self, and even though he can’t glide, his jump distance is longer as well. The boy can punch to attack enemies and dive bomb to destroy vines below him. He can also wall jump, wall slide, cling to walls, and perform a ledge grab. Even though the boy has a slew of new abilities, he does occasionally need to transform back into his low-rez self in order to pass through small openings.

Pip can devolve at will, but he needs to collect crystals in order to gain the power to turn back into a boy, and this is done by killing specific glowing enemy creatures. Taking damage does not cause Pip to devolve, so the player is able to make mistakes without the need to seek out glowing enemies in order to complete objectives. Even getting killed simply returns Pip to the most recent checkpoint and does not cause him to devolve.

Early on, Pip encounters purple Bitstream blocks. If Pip devolves in close proximity to these blocks, they will disappear, as will any of the blocks touching them. This allows Pip to open up passages within levels, but it also leads to some time-based challenges, as Pip may need to jump, devolve, grab a crystal, and evolve again in order to grab a wall and avoid plunging to his death. Even in the early going, the player is required to perform multiple transformations in sequence in order to overcome environmental obstacles.

Soon, Pip earns the ability to transform into an even higher resolution. In this new form, Pip has a sword that he can use to perform powerful attacks and smash through certain blocks. Unfortunately, this high-rez form lacks the athleticism of his medium-rez self, and he is not able move as quickly or jump as far, and he cannot grab onto walls, although he can still perform ledge grabs. Often, transforming into this higher resolution form is a liability, which becomes a key part of the game’s strategy from this point forward.

Understanding the differences in how each form operates is key to completing many of the levels. For instance, the trampoline-like mushrooms can be used in Pip’s low-rez form to soar high into the sky, while the medium-rez form can’t get quite as much lift, and the high-rez form simply crushes the mushrooms under his feet as he walks, making them useless. However, this higher resolution form is useful for moving across mushrooms without bouncing upward into rows of spikes hanging from the ceiling.

The high-rez form can push and pull heavy blocks and kill spiked enemies with his sword, and the weapon shop has an upgrade that lets him fire projectiles when he is at full health, ala The Legend of Zelda. And, while the high-rez form is the only one that can break crumbly blocks, you can buy an upgrade that lets the medium-rez form do this as well, allowing for somewhat easier movement through many of the environmental puzzle sequences.

One of the more important things to understand about the three forms is that the higher resolution forms are heavier… As such, air currents will shoot the low-rez form high into the air, where they will just hold the medium-rez form, and the high-rez form will slowly sink through them. The same is true of water, where the low-rez form will float to the surface, and players can use this strategically to reach higher platforms by devolving underwater and then shooting upward quickly. The medium-rez form can swim freely, and the high-rez form sinks to the bottom.

Later levels feature platforms that respond to the amount of weight placed on them, and these platforms often appear over insta-death lava. Players must take into account their own weight as well as the weight of enemies or blocks that are also on the platform. These solutions may require players to transform into a higher resolution in order to push heavy blocks off the platform, or into a lower resolution to run across them before they sink into the lava. There are even some patrolling enemies that can be ridden around in Pip’s low-rez form, or dragged around by his high-rez counterpart.

As Pip progresses on his linear journey through five themed lands, challenges grow, as does the frequency in which Pip is required to make multiple successful transformations in order to avoid instant death. A few enemy types stir things up, such as the flying bomb enemies that can not only hurt Pip, but set off chain reactions that destroy platforms on which he needs to walk. These foes can also be used strategically as Pip knocks them backward with his sword to blow up distant blocks. Some water-carrying enemies can be turned to the player’s favor as well, as knocking them out of the sky temporarily turns lava and flame spouts to stone.

There are several boss encounters as well, some of which are the traditional bop-three-times affairs that the genre is known for. More often, however, the player is required to evolve Pip to a higher form and then get up close to the boss and devolve, causing damage in the process. Successfully completing a level grants the player a very Super Mario Galaxy-esque fanfare, with a similar theme playing on the world map.

Adventures of Pip was developed by Tic Toc Games, a studio founded in 2011 and based in North Hollywood, CA. The studio is made up of industry veterans Shereef Morse and Larry Kirschner. Credit for the game’s concept is given to Marc Gomez, animation director for Contra 4 and art director for A Boy and His Blob and BloodRayne: Betrayal.

Music for the game was composed by Jake “Virt” Kaufman, who also composed the soundtracks for the Shantae series as well as Contra 4, Retro City Rampage, Ultionus, Shovel Knight, and numerous other games.