Retro gaming on the modern console is coming back in a big way and more and more developers are turning their attention to creating fun and quirky games. Games that feature nostalgic 8 bit graphics that you would expect to see on a ZX spectrum, synth background music, that rival games like Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner and characters that have a certain charm to them even though they are in their simplest of forms. With all of that in mind we turn our attention to Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic.
Developed by HeadUp Games, Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic starts you off by asking you to choose three adventurers to make up your party. These heroes will venture into the world to claim its riches and defeat all unknown monsters on the way. So what better place to look than Ye Local Tavern? You’re in luck as it’s packed with various characters of all shapes, skills and sizes that are willing to help. Once your party is selected some local rushes in and exclaims that it’s the end of the world, and like good adventurers do, your intrepid gang step into the daylight (well go outside) to find out what’s going on. From here the game turns into what you’d expect from an RPG based adventure. Whilst walking around the town you will come across various citizens who are willing to engage in conversation with you and even throw a few quests your way. Armed with these quests you can then head off on your travels to various places and dungeons to retrieve whatever you have been asked to retrieve. At the same time you’ll defeat a host of various monsters, ghouls and, of course, the end of level boss.
So far, so good and sounds relatively easy doesn’t it? Well it would be apart from one thing, Pixel Heroes features Permadeath. Yep, if it all goes horribly wrong and your characters die then it’s to the graveyard with you. You’ll have to start all over again, with a new team from the beginning. To assist in your questing though, there is a fairly detailed character customisation screen where you can swap gear in and out. you can also upgrade to new equipment you might have picked up on the way or spend the well-earned class points to level up your core skills. This is vitally important to the survival of your character and team as well as the careful use of the sparse healing potions you pick up.
The whole game interface is driven by quite large menu options that would work well on a tablet or mobile device. These just seem a little sluggish to navigate via your controller. However, this doesn’t stop the enjoyment of the game and in fact adds to its old school charm. Combat is simplistic with each of your Pixel Heroes choosing to use a weapon or skill during each turn of combat Once they have had their go they are out of action for the following turn. This means you constantly need to rotate the characters in combat. My choice tended to be a tough warrior, some ranged damage-per-second speciality characters, like a mage or a healer. I would also suggest that you invest some times in your characters and get to know them. A few have magical items, spells or weapons that deal huge amounts of damage that to be honest I did not realise until it was too late. During each dungeon you face a number of rooms, each containing potentially three enemies to defeat.
On some occasions you can discover booby trapped chests that if opened successfully can contain untold riches and special items. If, and I say if, you make it through to the last level of the dungeon you will be then faced with the boss battle. These are challenging to say the least and will test your band of heroes. It’s worth persevering though as, on winning, you can claim your riches. Travel back to town afterwards and turn your quest booty in for better items for your team or even on occasion new team members. If, however, you do get it totally wrong, never fear as the grim reaper comes to your aid to guide your character to the afterlife, where you can then visit them in the local graveyard.
Pixel Heroes itself is huge and will challenge even the most experienced RPG players. I do think this is more down to the luck mechanics of the game and the fact that, even if you have the strongest team possible, don’t be surprised if you all get wiped out within minutes. I found this randomising luck mechanic to be annoying at first but the charm of the game still made we want to create another team and try again. It won’t be for everyone, but that’s part of the charm. If you are looking for a quirky, fun and humorous old school RPG that has so much depth that you can get lost for days, but also so much luck involved, then this is definitely a game you shouldn’t pass on. Priced at an amazing £7.99 Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is an absolute bargain.
So grab your sword, mighty adventurers, we have monsters to kill!