Pixel Ripped 1989 is a game that seemed to come out of nowhere (at least to me) with a surprisingly great looking premise of playing retro handheld games within a game. It’s actually done quite cleverly, with you starting out in a Game Boy looking world as the heroine Dot who is told by a wizard that the only way for her to beat the bad guy of her video game world is to enlist the aid of a real life girl who has to help by…playing her video games really well? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it sure is interesting and is all implemented in some really creative ways.
You start out in the middle of your school day and you have to not only succeed at playing as Dot in a retro platformer on your Game Kid, you also have to keep the teacher from seeing you playing games during class by distracting her with well-placed spitballs. The next level has you continuing your Game Kid gameplay at recess without distraction, but has an incursion from the video game world at the end where you have to use your Game Kid as a kind of virtual AR device to shoot down evil video monsters and save your classmates.
The game’s full of creative meta-mini-games and tons of references to famous classic games and gaming magazines. There are many nods to Mega Man, Ghosts n’ Goblins, Super Mario Bros. 3, Alex Kid, Nintendo Power, GamePro, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and even a Video Power reference (who knew that other people remembered that show?).
While the game is unfortunately only around 2 hours long, it just put a big smile on my face almost constantly and really blew me away with how creative the design was and how great a job it did of recreating that sense of childhood wonder without relying solely on nostalgic references.
My only real complaint is that the difficulty has a bit of a huge spike in the end. Most of the time it’s a pretty easy-going game, but the huge multi-phase final boss fight suddenly gets pretty nasty since each phase is quite long and you can easily instantly die by falling or getting knocked off the edge into instant death and have to restart the whole long phase again and again. It’s do-able, but it’s rough and might be a bit of a problem for some players.
Other than that though, it’s a hell of a game and I’d highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in old-timey games. At the end (sort of spoiler I guess?) there’s also the promise of future adventures cross other platforms like an Atari-like world, a 16-bit world, an N64-like world, and more. It’s hard to say whether we’ll actually see any of these intended sequels, but I’ll sure be buying them all if they come out.