Review : Pixel Heroes – Byte & Magic

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Let’s Review:

There are certain games that I boot up, and instantly wish I could’ve experienced them on a console 20 years earlier. Of course, consoles then wouldn’t have had the capacity for a game like this. But that excuse doesn’t really appease me. I really feel like I missed out, on missing out on my childhood. Pixel Heroes is much deeper than it seems on the surface, with tons of great references and an amazing degree of challenge. The combat system only allows one character to move each turn which makes it quite a bit more difficult than your standard RPG, that allows you to heal and do damage in the same round. My most successful run so far was with a rather unwieldy group, it actually sounds like the start of a joke. A priest, a templar, and a ranger walk out of a bar. My templar tank mostly just soaked up damage or threw buffs to the ranger. The ranger lobbed out massive amounts of damage, especially while buffed. The priest kept them all on their feet. On their venture into the final dungeon, the priest was struck down about halfway through. The ranger and templar persevered to the boss, and were actually doing quite well. Then the ranger become confused. With one shot of his bow, he dropped the templar, and without a tank he followed shortly after.

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I spent 5 hours with my unlikely band of heroes, geared them up, distributed stats. Needless to say we had become quite attached. After a short period of mourning (literally seconds), I must continue the quest for the honor of all the fallen heroes that I’ve led to an untimely death. There are so many great things about Pixel Heroes it’s hard for me to pick where to start. The retro graphics are decent, and take me back to a simpler time. While they aren’t extremely well-defined, the point usually gets across regarding what you’re looking at. The music should’ve gotten a higher score, since making my Lets Review I delved into the Goblin Fortress, and that boss fight has THE most amazing music. While some music does fall quite short, the tracks that rock are truly awesome. This is an extremely difficult game, with the settings being “Hard” “Harder” and “Insane”. You will die a lot while learning the mechanics and how to utilize your character’s abilities to the fullest. The synergy between each class feels completely different, and as you play through you will unlock even more classes to tinker with. Experimenting with the varied playstyles sends this game’s replayability skyrocketing. While there are no skill trees, the progression (mostly done via equipment) is palpable and extremely enjoyable.

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Aside from the fantastic gameplay, music, and difficulty, there is a bevy of nerd-related humor that is sure to rouse at least a chuckle. In the town where you start there is a blacksmith, a casino, a church where you can purchase potions and revive heroes, as well as a couple vendors selling exclamation points to desperate citizens in need of a hero. Once you leave the comfort of town, there are overworld events that randomly unfold en route to the dungeons. Even if you’ve seen the event before, the same answer can have different (and usually quite unexpected) results. Some events will turn into a battle, others will give you equipment or exp/gold and send you on your way. This system makes me wish it was possible to just wander the overworld, but unfortunately your heroes have a quest to complete. Dilly-dallying will not be tolerated. There is no exploration within the dungeons, simply 8 rooms which will either contain a treasure chest or (more likely) a battle. With no potion usage in battle, and permadeath looming over your heroes head’s, every battle becomes a gripping struggle for survival. You will learn enemy weaknesses on the fly, or be crushed. Bosses are difficult, but not so brutal that it’s impossible to beat them the first time seeing them as long as your strategy is adaptable.

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The game isn’t without its flaws. Eventually you will see the same event twice, or feel the monotony that comes with fighting your way through 7 fights and a boss battle. The thing that keeps me going is the thought of conquering the next dungeon. I’m compelled to see the next boss, and smash his giant monster face into the dirt. There are always more sweet stats to stack, more lovely gear to hoard. A heroes work truly is never done. Once you’ve completed all 9 dungeons, after so many hours of pain and hardship, you can now move on to the “harder” difficulty mode. Is it actually harder? Hahahaha. I have no idea. I’ve seen the final boss once, but I want to try and get there again. That “one-more-turn” feeling is the mark of a great game in my book. This game costs less than a movie ticket and offers so many hundreds more hours of entertainment. I am a huge fan of Pixel Heroes. The tongue-in-cheek humor about its own retro graphics, along with the sheer unholy difficulty of completion is a combination that is physically impossible for me to resist. Fans of permadeath/roguelikes will love the games unrelenting (but still fair) difficulty curve. While it isn’t the flashiest game, it has quickly risen to one of my supreme favorites. Thanks so much to The Bitfather and Headup Games for bringing this vision to life.

 

Gameplay:

  • Controls- 5/10
  • Fun Factor- 10/10
  • Difficulty- 10/10
  • Replayability- 10/10
  • Innovation- 9/10

Aesthetic:

  • Graphics- 7/10
  • Music- 6/10
  • Sound FX- 6/10
  • Story/Lore- 8/10
  • Level Design- 5/10

Final Score: 76/100 for gameplay, fun factor, and replayability.

Summary: Retro RPG roguelike with randomized loot and tons of great references.

Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic was released on Steam Feb 6th 2015.

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