Imagine if Snake ate Pac-man. Or maybe Pac-man ate Snake. Or what actually happened was that Snake and Pac-man got drunk one night, fooled around a bit, and ended up having a baby. It might look like Pix the Cat.
Don't think about that too much.
What we have here is a top-down maze game from French outfit Pastagames that's winningly bonkers and cultivates just the right kind of I'll just have one more go gameplay. You play as the eponymous Pix, and your job is to collect eggs, which will then turn into ducklings, which you then have to lead to safety. There's an exit target for each duckling, and all you have to do is pass over them to drop off your water-fowl friends, but the real challenge comes from trying to pick up all of the eggs first and then deposit your feathery chums without crashing into your own trail. Do that and you'll nab yourself a perfect score, but drop a few ducklings off early and the other eggs will crack. You'll still earn points for dropping off the ducklings within those splintered shells but, let's face it, you could have done so much better. Try again. And again. And, oh God it's dark. When did you start playing this again?
The more successful you are, the more your combo multiplier will increase, and the more Pix will start speeding up. Forget about the analogue stick right now. It is not your friend, and cannot hope to gift you the split-second precision that the D-pad can in this instance. Occasionally you might take a wrong turn and crash into a wall or another non-lethal obstacle, at which point the action will slow for a second to let you choose another direction. Dally too long, however, and you'll lose your combo. Crash into yourself and you'll lose your combo. Smack into the enemies and hazardous obstacles that begin to pop up in the levels and you'll lose your combo.
And you don't want to be doing that. The higher your score, the better your unlocks.
Pix the Cat is a little like Flicky in some ways -- the arcade classic from SEGA that had you shepherding flightless birds towards an exit, while avoiding a cat and an iguana -- only this time, the cat is playing the role of the Samaritan Pied Piper, and everything looks like an acid trip vomited over a ZX Spectrum. Get your combo up high enough and you'll trigger Fever Mode, which turns Pix into a super speedy duckling herder for massive points, and allows you to eat enemies for big bonuses, Pac-man style. Of course, you're much more prone to bashing into things and wrapping yourself up in your own trail, but there's always one more go.
That's the beauty of Pix the Cat. The levels themselves are short and snappy, and when you clear one, a warp portal appears to the next, etched in miniature form in the one you've just completed. The controls are simple and crisp, and you get little speed surges from cornering perfectly -- though whether or not that's a good thing I'm not entirely sure given my propensity for crashing into things. If the hyperactive score attacking and the quest for the perfect run doesn't keep you coming back, then perhaps the host of unlocks will, with announcer voices, player ghosts, art gallery pics, new levels, and alternative game modes up for grabs.
Laboratory mode is rather more languid and calm, focusing more on puzzle than frenzied, frantic scrabbling about. Nostalgia mode transforms the regular, electrified, neon-soaked aesthetics into the black and white stylings of an early Nineties cartoon. And then there's Arena mode, which allows three more players to jump into the action and engage in a spot of competitive multiplayer that feels a bit like barmy Bomberman, leveraging the gameplay of the main modes to make of anarchic PvP fun as eggs become ammunition and rockets and mines get added to the fray.
All in all, Pix the Cat is a cracking little arcade action puzzler, one that should delight anyone who got a kick out of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, or indeed any retro fan who enjoys games of this variety. The little unlockable payoffs do much to encourage replayability, but what's telling is that I find myself coming back just to see if I can add a few more precious points to my score rather than for any particular reward. It's simple but effective, easy to get into and difficult to put down. It's a cracking little game that does what it does very well indeed.
Oh, and it's free this month on PS Plus.
- It's the lovechild of Pac-man and Snake
- Simple, addictive base game
- Unlockable treats only add to the replayability
- Different modes add spice to the mix
- Looks great, sounds even better
- Remember when you said "just one more go"? That was two hours ago
The Short Version: Pix the Cat is a joy to play -- a heady, thrilling mix of bitesized, speedy, spatial puzzling that'll keep you coming back time and time again.
9 – EXCELLENT: Only the exceptional need apply here. There might be one or two slight blemishes, but overall games that score a 9 are genre-leaders: must-have titles with perhaps the odd imperfection. You won’t be wasting a single penny in buying a game that scores this high. A few games of this calibre will make it worth spending hundreds on a console or powerful enough PC. Killer apps, indeed.
Platforms: PS4 | PS Vita