Jul 17, 2013

[Games] Pixel Kingdom (Android)

Like many other old-school gamers, pixel art triggers a nice warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia in me whenever I encounter it. And it's nice that there are game developers out there who continue to celebrate the art form in their games and thus we perpetuate the odd love for pixel sprites with little detail.

I bumped into Pixel Kingdom since it was featured on the Google Play Store for a bit. It promised to combine two things that I love a lot - pixel art and tower defense style games. And while this employs a lane concept more similar to games like Plants vs Zombies, it's still unique enough to be a distinct game.

This game's brilliance is its simplicity. And that probably limits it as well.

Pixel Kingdom actually started as a Kickstarter project with a rather modest $5,000 goal. It met its development goal and has been released on Android, iOS and on a few online gaming sites like Kongretate. The game is free to play.

The concept of the game is simple enough - you have the potential to summon a variety of units to defend yourself against on-coming hordes of pixel-rendered creeps. From a traditional tower defense perspective, the wave only ends when you defeat your opponent. And to do this, you need to let your units reach the other end of the screen alive.

So instead of fixed towers, you have dynamic characters who move across the three combat lanes at their own speeds, using their respective attacks. Thus you have a variety of ranged units, melee units and those with special abilities like healing other units or buffing their attacks. You can also boost your mana generation, which is your main currency for summing units every round.

The game literally has an infinite number of levels - it just keeps getting harder and harder as it randomly generates new maps for you. It has an amazing diversity of both summoning units and enemy units in the game along with a variety of similarly pixel-rendered backgrounds and environments to play in.

The game is beautifully simple and thus extremely casual in this sense. What I mean is that it's easy to get sucked into it for a few hours, forget about it while you do real world stuff and then maybe pick up again in a few days even if only to play a round or two. The game only makes money through advertising and in-app purchases but frankly you can get away with just grinding away if you're not in a rush to purchase other units.

Naturally you can upgrade your units and buy a special item unique to each of them like a shield that boosts the health of your Knights or a bow that increases the attack of your Archers. And thus you ultimately just play to unlock more of the characters and try to get them as upgraded as you can. There is no complex story. There is no big enemy.

In this regard, the game does have the potential to become repetitive and boring. So step away, do other things or play other games and just feel comforted that your little sprites will be waiting for you to return to the Kingdom. It's really that simple.

Tobie has finally installed the game on his iPad and is pretty hooked at the moment. I've stopped playing it for a while but writing this review has me wanting to go back. And that's just the nature of Pixel Kingdom - it's a pretty good game that deserves at least 3.5 cackling witches changing lanes out of a possible 5.
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