So, here’s the pitch. You’re a greedy little pea, who simply loves gold. All you can do is run and jump to traverse the Awesome Islands World, avoiding enemies and traps as well as collecting coins and gems on the way. Oh, and did I mention you are almost too cute for words? Now if that doesn’t sound, ahem, appealing, I don’t know what will.
Awesome Pea is a self confessed old school platformer, inspired by a retro era of yesteryear. It consists of 30 levels across four islands and things kick off nice and steady with a quick tutorial level. After that you’re off to explore the Awesome Islands and will quickly find yourself traversing towers, diving deep into dungeons and travelling quite literally on trains. Each level is stuffed full of coins and gems to collect, and you’re able to easily see if you’ve managed to collect them all. It’s worth doing so too, as there is plenty of Gamerscore up for grabs for the Xbox One completionists out there.
Our titular hero is nicely weighted and controls well, which is ideal for the more challenging levels; the most difficult being the dungeon stages. However, there is no distinct difficulty curve, as I found the last island relatively easy compared to some of the earlier ones. That said, Awesome Pea never quite gets into “hard-as-nails” territory in the same way, for example, Super Meat Boy does, so don’t worry too much.
As each level is fairly short, there are no checkpoints, so if you die, you’ll start from the beginning and lose all your collectables. If you’ve missed some valuables you can hit the Y button to voluntarily start over if you wish. You will die fairly often, and occasionally it will feel unfair due to a hidden spike or a non-registered jump. Otherwise, it’s probably just your fault. In terms of the other controls, A or X will make Greedy Pea jump and double jump if pressed again, and the D-Pad or left thumbstick will move him around. You have no combat abilities, it’s all reliant on your timing and reactions to get through each level.
Awesome Pea sounds great. PigeonDev have delivered on their retro promise and nailed the music which hits you like a wave of nostalgia. The game is full of chirpy chiptunes which accompany Greedy Pea on his adventure. As well as this, it looks like it could have easily been released in the late ’80s alongside the likes of Super Mario Land, albeit with a slightly greener hue to the visuals.
This brings me to possibly the coolest thing about the game – in the options menu, you can choose whether to keep the CRT and tube effects on or switch them off. It might be off-putting for some, but I implore you to keep them on for a true retro experience. The effects will curve the edges of your screen, and add a slight distortion to the picture that will take you back to the days when your TV weighed a tonne and was shaped like a giant cube. This perfectly replicates the era Awesome Pea is paying homage to; at this point almost drowning you in nostalgia. Put simply, it works perfectly.
The game’s 30 levels make for a couple of hours gameplay, depending on how you cope with the more difficult levels, of which I have loved every minute. As the game is priced at only £4.99 on the Xbox Store there really aren’t many reasons not to recommend Awesome Pea, however a minor gripe I have is that things end rather abruptly. The last level is slightly more difficult, but not the hardest in the game, however it’s not especially different or climactic either. A boss battle or something similar would have been nice to cap things off here.
Also, despite being very enjoyable to play, there’s nothing especially original in Awesome Pea, but that doesn’t detract anything from the game. Those seasoned platformers should still enjoy themselves, but will have seen what’s on offer here many times before. That said, I would love to see more from the little Greedy Pea, and I really hope we will.
Awesome Pea has bags charm and is lots of fun to play. PigeonDev haven’t re-invented the wheel, but what they have done is make a faithful and heartfelt tribute to an iconic era of gaming with quite possibly the cutest mascot around. For a fiver, you can’t really go wrong here.