Pixel Gear PS4 Review
For those who have been tuning in to our review coverage of the PSVR launch lineup, the name Oasis Games Limited should ring a bell: the publisher owes the honor of being our first PSVR launch review with Ace Banana, while earning the double-deuce prize of being the worst reviewed VR game to date; ugly, unplayable and amateurish on every level, Ace Banana was the first bad taste left from the PSVR’s first serving of launch titles, and was an early reminder of what not to do with the new and experimental hardware.
Pixel Gear is, thankfully, much less of a train wreck. For one thing, it helps that the game works as intended, putting it immediately above Ace Banana. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the two titles do share similarities regarding quality, content and budget. Like Ace Banana, Pixel Gear is a wave-based first person shooter, this time forgoing the clumsy bow-and-arrow setup and treating the Move controller as a point and shoot handgun. As Until Dawn: Rush of Blood has proven, light gun games have the potential to make a huge comeback in the world of VR gaming, as even the most casual observers can grasp the concept of pointing with the Move controller and firing with the trigger.
Pixel Gear follows the same formula, though its controller layout is a bit less precise. For one thing, players must aim the Move controller in a more vertical position, as if holding it like a wand instead of a pointer. The button layout is also a bit more cumbersome, with the primary Move button (the big one) used to swap between weapons rather than reloading. These are small adjustments that most gamers can quickly adapt to, but a better alternative would have been to allow customizable controls.
The premise of the game is also immediately straightforward: shoot all the enemies. During each wave, dozens of skeletons, bats, witches, headless horsemen and….golems (to be fair, they were also in Castlevania…then again, they weren’t wielding futuristic laser cannons either) will saunter up in every direction to toss projectiles at the screen, causing damage to the player. The goal is to take them out first, preferably from a distance. Players start off with a handgun that is surprisingly accurate and has infinite ammo, but at the end of each wave, coins can be spent to unlock additional arsenal including machine-guns, a grenade launcher and even a sniper rifle. The sniper rifle works by requiring players to aim through the scope of the rifle, an admittedly cool concept that is incredibly unwieldy and not worth the extra eye strain.
As is the goal of most light gun-style games, the goal isn’t just to survive but to also rack up a high score. During the waves, ghosts will occasionally float up into view, some housing additional ammo, health and other goodies that are otherwise big red targets for players. Be careful though, as there are also angels, which cause a reduction of points (but no other penalties) when shot instead. One handy feature that can also be used in a pinch is a power-up that is activated with the circle button, which causes time to temporarily slow down and offers infinite machine-gun bullets during the frozen time (shouting “Muda Muda Muda!” is optional). At the end of each stage is a massive boss with multiple weak points, which are actually impressive from a scale point of view and opens the doors for future VR battles where players can appreciate the intimidating size of a colossal enemy.
Beyond that, the visuals are simplistic and are clearly cribbing the blocky aesthetic from a certain crafting game starting with an M, but are otherwise inoffensive and blends well with the PSVR’s resolution. Unfortunately, the game fails to really take advantage of the virtual perception most other games offer: in addition to the lack of head tracking, where areas are simply static plains that can be viewed from any angle, Pixel Gear also lacks any 3D positional audio, meaning that every time the annoying ghost sound pops up, players will have to take a guess which position they’re floating from if not in their immediate vicinity. This proves especially annoying when a large swarm of enemies suddenly builds up out of view due to their unintentionally stealth-like approach.
On the plus side, Pixel Gear at least scores points for getting the job done. The shooting works well, and properly timing the use of explosives and headshots can also be satisfying in its simplicity. Regrettably, the game is also lacking in content: four stages are all that’s available, the weapon selection is sparse, and there isn’t even an option to wield two Move controllers for double the gunplay. Even the music can’t be turned off, resulting in one annoying track playing the entire way through.
At this early stage, it seems that Oasis Games Limited might end up being the LJN of VR game publishing, releasing low budget games of questionable quality. Still, one could do worse than Pixel Gear, and it would have even been more highly recommended if it just had a bit more to do. Nevertheless, the game’s functioning controls and imaginative boss battles do place it a few steps above the more mediocre of PSVR launch titles.