Pixel Heroes - Byte and Magic

Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is a 2015 RPG / Roguelike game. It was developed by German independent games developer company The Bitfather and it was published by Headup Games. This is The Bitfather’s second game after a realistic motorbike driving simulator called Motorcycle Driving School. Headup Games is a German games publisher best known for securing the worldwide distribution rights for Terraria Collectors Edition as well as the European distribution rights for The Binding Of Isaac.

[alert type=white ]Reviewed on PC

Available Platforms: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux

Release Date: 02/06/2015

Developer: The Bitfather

Publisher: Headup Games[/alert]

Pixel Heroes; Byte & Magic

The first contact that I had with Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic was a trailer in its Steam Store page. The trailer is made in a mockumentary style in which the developers (complete with late ’80s computers, haircuts and clothing) explain in a jokingly way how the game was made. Ever since I knew that Pixel Heroes is a tribute / parody to RPGs of the late ’80s and early ’90s. I was expecting a parody game much like DLC Quest. Fun to play, but without much to offer in the gaming and technical departments.

But then I got my hands on the game and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the devs indeed did invest a lot of work in the technical and gaming departments. Pixel Heroes was developed using the Unity engine. The faux retro graphics seem neatly done. They remind me of RPGs of the ’80s such as early incarnations of the Final Fantasy series. The characters and NPCs look great and (most of them) are perfectly distinguishable from each other. The dungeons and map screens also are greatly finished. The bosses and regular enemies look good although some of them look like they could have used a little more work. The chiptune music goes perfectly with the game, although some songs can get rather repetitive, specially the battle and dungeon tunes. The sound effects are exactly what one could expect from a RPG game made in 1987, so that’s ok.

In the story of Pixel Heroes a mysterious cult has begun infiltrating the land, and it’s up to a team of ambitious young heroes to get to the bottom of it. You control a party of up to three heroes that you can choose at the start of the game. There are several hero classes to choose from, ranging from Barbarians to Bards, including Priests, Wolf Riders and many more but only a handful are available from the start of the first quest. The heroes hail from a tavern in a town that acts as a “hub” in the game’s narrative. You can recruit heroes from the Tavern, get consumables and equipment from several shops there and get your missions from NPCs. The game features roguelike elements, and you will hardly get to play two identical quests.

Once you assemble your party, receive a mission from a NPC and leave town, you will be shown a map screen and your characters will automatically walk to their destination that always is a different dungeon. As such, there is no exploration feature. You will meet several hazards and NPCs and have to choose from a different set of options, which will often result in having to fight enemies or simply gaining random amounts of loot, experience or gold. Once you get to the dungeon, you have to clear several rooms before taking on the dungeon boss. The rooms feature battles or opening chests with precious loot inside. The ability to open chests depends on your character’s traits and failure to open them can result in damage to the characters. The missions range from helping a little girl who is a witch apprentice to cheat in an important test to helping a wizard retrieve his “magic tobacco”.

The battle mechanics are easy to understand but hard to master. Every hero class features two unique abilities, plus you can equip up to two items ranging from weapons to spells. You gain loot from battles and treasure chests, which you can use to reinforce your heroes. The items feature Diablo-esque dynamic names that can be rather silly such as “Mediocre Hat of Mediocrity” but add to the comedic effect of the game. The inventory is limited to 20 items plus the items your heroes are carrying. Except from potions, that you should always carry around it’s hard to get a grip on which items to keep and which to discard. The weapons are divided into those that deal physical damage and those that deal magical damage. There is also a system of “elements” which can be hard to understand and may also be the source of great frustration when you come to a battle ill-equipped to deal with certain enemies resistant to some elements or debuffs. To make matters worse, when a hero is killed he can’t be revived until the mission is finished. If all heroes get killed during a mission, it’s game over for them and you have to begin a new quest. These elements classify the game into a hardcore-RPG and can turn off casual players.

As a parody game, the story is not brilliant but it helps to glue everything together. There are literally lots of dialogues. Lots of them. Though cleverly written, they can get a little tedious at some points. I loved all the pop culture references to successful fantasy franchises such as “Lord Of The Rings” and “Harry Potter” and to other more obscure works such as “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (The bats! The bats!). I also enjoyed the huge amount of jokes: I nearly died when my Priest said “I am not allowed near elementary schools”. Though the comedic value is high, it may get overlooked when you have to replay the game over and over due to high difficulty.

All in all, Pixel Heroes is a hilarious, and well developed RPG designde to cater well to fans of hardcore old-school RPGs (with a sense of humor), but may tend to get overlooked or dropped early by casual players. It’s a must buy for die-hard fans of the genre and all other gamers should at least give it a shot, to experience first hand the hilarious jokes and dialogues, the vibrant battles and all the quests.

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