Review – Pixel Ripped 1978
Lately, I have had the pleasure of playing IP that certain studios just “get”. I’ve roamed the halls in Avalanche’s Hogwarts Legacy, and I’ve sat on the bridge in Dramatic Lab‘s Star Trek: Resurgence. Now our favorite pixelated hero, Dot, is back in her third adventurous installment, Pixel Ripped 1978, where Atari and ARVORE handle my childhood with as much love and care as any IP. They see me. They get me.
Pixel Ripped 1978, same as 1989 and 1995, is as much about nailing the time period as it is about the gameplay. And like those first two installments; they absolutely smashed both. You hop between the digital and physical word, and digital again, facing off against your old nemesis, Cyber Goblin. This time, he found a way to go back to 1983 to go after the three Inspiration Crystals and rewrite history.
Dot begins in 32bit 3D “Far-of-a-land”, where everyone is enjoying the peace that you brought after having defeated Cyber Goblin, or so you thought. After being alerted to Cyber Goblin’s plans, you suit up and begin your time jumping adventure 1978 as you sync with Barbara “Bug” Rivers, a new developer at Atari, and the creator of Pixel Ripped. Much like sneaking in your GameGear time during class in 1989 or avoiding getting caught late-night gaming in your room in 1995, this is where you multitask Five Nights at Freddy’s-style, while joining forces with Dot in worlds that give an undeniable nod to Atari games of past.
Jumping between Bug’s physical world and her various cartridge-contained digital ones is the main progressor in Pixel Ripped 1978, where you have three main gameplaying styles or mechanics. Dot’s universe, and game variations digital ones, are pixelated 3D worlds with plenty of adventure as you shoot and hack your way through dragons, robots, and other horrors, opening chests for pixels or health. Bug’s physical world is a Jimmy Neutron style reality where you will need to handle co-workers, phone calls, game testing, and other office environment distractions while maneuvering Dot around in its third game style, classic 2D adventures on a screen. These are some of the games more unique and hilarious conversations happen and where Bug’s story happens alongside that of Dots.
Moving dot through various games, you’ll uncover a portal to that game’s world. There, Dot will adventure in its 3D environment, needing to occasionally resync so bug can make it to a previously blocked section of the game, and to a new portal. You do this multiple times, unlocking weapons that allow you to move forward in the other worlds until you finally reach the end of that game and find Cyber goblin for its final battle and obtain its inspiration crystal to undue the changes to the past Cyber Goblin has made.
Taking place at key moments of Bug’s past, these battles incorporate all of the games playstyles and are often chaotic. In the physical world, playing a 2D battle rendered in pixelated 3D AR, requiring you to learn their patterns while tossing any and every interruption at you. You will need to play each in two parts simultaneously; using the controllers to move Dot and using your motion to control yourself. Because of having to use multiple parts of your brain at the same time, there can be some frustration because of this, and some battles could go smoothly for someone else while another one requires a lot of focus.
It wasn’t until the final level of the game, played in a past moment, that everything that happened before it collided with my own childhood. In a back room, or basement, playing video or table top games with my brother, our dad joining in, inspirations that still live with me to this day.
Both the digital and the physical worlds are presented beautifully. From Bug’s office space and her co-workers, to key inspirational moments from her past, to Dot’s digital world. Everything has a life to it that fits for its setting. There are some issues where I feel tracking of my body would go off and the screen would “shift” slightly. This would give me a brief “what happened” moment, even if slight. I also found myself sticking my head out of the maps perimeter just enough to clip though and see the unfinished world around it.
Sound is simplistic but delivers. There is few true ambient noises in the worlds, but the music and the chirp of dialog is transportive, to even hearing the text type out. The voice work for Bug’s co-workers is unique and deliver exactly the personalities I pictured each as. And getting a call from a particular PlayStation personality was just *chef’s kiss*.
VR fluidity was nice and there were no motion concerns for me. You begin with stutter turning and slow movement, but you can easily change that in setting. I found a medium walk and smooth rotation to be the best fit for me. Playing as Bug, it would occasionally position me further up or to a side than I was, causing weird hand position and awkward wrist placements on the joystick. Using the button to recenter, did nothing. I would need to reposition my chair.
Since Pixel Ripped 1978 requires a lot of balancing gameplays, a lot of it is spent putting two hands on the controller, then removing one to do something, and so on, constantly. To do this, you will need to move the hand you want to remove, from your inanimate joystick, but this would cause some confusion in the heat of the moment when you move in a way that removes the other hand instead.
As I said, this is a collage and combination of its parts and period. The true joy of Pixel Ripped 1978 is this combination of its firm grasp of years past, what made them stand out, and its combination of all its ingredients. It isn’t just an homage to a past and fantastic Atari titles; it is a reminder of what it was like to play these. It is the difference between emulating and celebrating. I see you, ARVORE.
Both the pixelated digital and the physical worlds are presented beautifully
Worlds all felt unique but could begin to look and play like other worlds you have been in.
Simplistic but delivers its era. Voice work for co-workers were unique and translated personalities well.
A “sum of its parts” game. The combination of talent, writing, direction, characters, gameplay, and world keep as one of VR’s greats.
Final Verdict: 9.5
Pixel Ripped 1978 is available now on PSVR2, Quest 2, and Steam.
Reviewed on PSVR2.
A copy of Pixel Ripped 1978 was provided by the publisher.