Pity Pit comes to Xbox One via the team at eastasiasoft – the purveyors of cheap games with easy achievement lists. Now, the story of this game is pretty easy to explain: you are a man and need to dig down into the depths of a pit, for some reason that isn’t made clear. Looking suitably 8-bit and fully retro styled, does Pity Pit dig new depths for fun, or would you be better off playing Minecraft?
As I mentioned in the introduction, the story is not one of the high points of Pity Pit. Your character, your avatar in the game, is a very pale miner with a pronounced lower jaw, who puts me in mind of a caveman. Anyway, Oratio, as the guy is called (yes, really) has a pickaxe and he isn’t afraid to use it. What this translates into is a vertically scrolling platform kind of experience, where Oratio is tasked with digging down and down until he dies. Death will come quite often, given that the hit detection in Pity Pit is some of the worst I’ve ever seen. But we’ll come onto that later as for now we have to look at the gameplay and see what shakes loose.
Oratio – and you for that matter – can dig left, right or down, and that’s about it. As you dig, you can collect resources such as rock and copper, gold coins from rocks containing gold, or just lying about the place, and bombs. The bombs are a mixed blessing, as while they will allow you to remove troublesome blocks that can’t be dug out, if you are too close to the explosion they will damage you. Oratio can only take two hits before its game over too. With bombs, TNT and monsters all potentially able to hurt Oratio, you’d best hope the controls are up to the job. The problem is, they aren’t. So, dig, avoid baddies and explosions, dig some more, maybe find an upgrade for your pickaxe in a chamber. That’s pretty much Pity Pit summed up, but then you’ll also want to throw in the fact that the roof of this pit seems to be collapsing. Yep, if the top of the screen catches you up, it’s also game over, so you need to keep making progress downwards to stay alive.
As you dig, you will come across a shop every now and again, which can be interacted with to buy items such as health potions, restoring any hearts that Oratio may have lost en route. There are also forges to find, where the materials you’ve picked up on your travels can be turned into new, shiny tools to make your life easier. Other than that though, to paraphrase Dory: “Just keep diggin’!”.
Thankfully, enemies can be killed by hitting them with your pickaxe, but that only really applies if you have a following wind and the gaming gods are with you, otherwise they just pass straight through your feeble attempts to clobber them and damage you instead. The number of times I’ve been digging straight down and had a monster coming up from below not be killed by a seemingly constant barrage of pickaxe strikes amazed me. You soon find out that avoiding the enemies is much better than trying to fight them if you want to make it to the lower levels of the pit.
The biggest problem with Pity Pit on Xbox One, however, is not the dodgy hit detection, or the controls that seem to make movement of Oratio a bit like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. No, the biggest problem with this game is in terms of the fun, or the lack thereof. Oratio’s quest has failed to grab me at all, as it is hard to care about a character’s motivation when he doesn’t seem to have any. The gameplay is dull, there doesn’t seem to be any point to playing through, and frankly it was only due to needing to pen some words and grab some achievements that made me play as long as I did. Once they are all grabbed this is most certainly one of those games that you’ll uninstall straightaway.
I like to try and come up with some positive remarks to chat about with all the games that I play, but much as I like to try and be balanced, it’s pretty tough with Pity Pit on Xbox One. Pity Pit looks bad, even by the standards of 8-bit looking retro titles, it plays poorly, with no real idea what you are meant to be doing and because you have to put up with dodgy hit detection, it just isn’t fun. The last two eastasiasoft games I’ve played – Project Starship and Many Faces – have been good games, handicapped by easy achievement lists that cut the play time short. For Pity Pit, those achievements seem to be the only reason to play it… and that’s a pretty poor state of affairs.