Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic is an old-school-style RPG that combines questing and combat with Captain Underpants. Not only Captain Underpants, though. Small pop culture references surprise you along your journey. Are you a Doctor Who fan? Did you enjoy Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? If you do, you are likely to bump into familiar characters in this nostalgic game created by German developer, The Bitfather.
The game begins with a randomized group of mercenaries from which to create your party. This is where the problems begin. Many times, there won’t be a healer available for hire, but it’s nearly impossible to get through a dungeon without one. The only way to resolve this is to click a button that once again randomizes the entire pool of heroes. At first, you can choose from standard classes, including, but not limited to Adventurer, Barbarian, Fighter, Priest, or Rogue. Talking to NPC’s, beating bosses, or reaching other checkpoints will unlock other classes. These classes are generally stronger and come with unique abilities: Alchemist, Bard, Shapeshifter, or Witch, among others.
The humorous side of the game sets in right away. A brief bio describes each potential party member. These bios seem to be created from a sort of Mad Libs script. “He once had an argument with a nice ring.” “She doesn’t believe in large ducks.” When your party is selected and you begin to interact with NPC’s outside of the start building, things become even more bizarre. Each townsperson is quirky and unique. My personal favorite townspeople are the men who sell exclamation points to wear above your head. Although, they won’t sell one to you, of course. They are only available to those who assign the quests, not the heroes who complete them.
You are able to leave town as soon as you have acquired a quest. You’ll encounter random events along the way to the quest dungeon. The results of those interactions are not always the same. My first play through the game, I encountered a dancing tentacle. I decided to dance along, and nothing happened. When I encountered him later in my journey, I decided to dance with him again. However, we made too much noise the second time. Monsters heard us and attacked. The encounters start to become repetitive early in the game, but the fact that the outcomes change help to prevent you from racing through them.
When you reach the dungeon, you’ll have one last chance to equip items to your heroes before entering the first room. Each dungeon has eight rooms including enemy fights, treasure chest encounters, or the boss. Most of the time, you’ll be fighting enemies. Combat is the same for all fights. You put all three of your party members up against three enemies. Each of your fighters has two equipped items with which to attack/heal and two skills. Combat simply consists of going back and forth, choosing one of those four options for every hero. It becomes repetitive early on and incredibly boring on a console.
Your heroes acquire items and XP after a battle. The items are procedurally-generated and rarely worth keeping around. This is okay though, because your inventory is hard to manage, and it will fill up quickly. Once you leave town, you’re unable to return and sell items until you’ve completed the quest you accepted. There’s no way to automatically sort your inventory, so I found myself just tossing everything I didn’t have any use for. I only kept items with status effects I could use in the future. I discarded everything else immediately.
For a relatively simple game, I had more frustration with the controls than I would have expected. On the PS4 version of Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic, you can choose to have snapping controls or a free cursor. Neither option lets you use the directional buttons, only the left joystick. I generally prefer snapping controls on a game like this, but trying to navigate an inventory like the one shown above with a joystick and snapping controls was irritating. The free cursor option worked better, but it was slow.
All in all, I appreciated the lightheartedness of Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic, but I think the developers were too dependent on humor to save an otherwise boring game. On a console, it’s too repetitive, but I would score this higher on a mobile platform. The game wouldn’t seem as repetitive if you could pick it up and set it down for short increments of time. If you are interested in old-school RPG’s, I recommend trying this on Android or iOS before picking it up for PS4.
A PS4 review copy of Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic was provided by Head Up Games for the purpose of this review