It must be said that I’m a bit of a dog man. Man’s best friend is most definitely that in my eyes and so his evil nemesis, the cat, the Internet king, the surveyor of all, usually falls by the wayside.
But Neko Entertainment and Pastagames have created a game that is so appealing and hugely addictive, I just can’t help but fall in love with it. And as much as I’d prefer to be sat here playing Pix the Dog, I’ll have to just live with the fact that the utterly adorable protagonist in question is indeed a cat.
Pix the Cat is basically a combination of the best bits found in that video-game classic, Pacman, and much of those which graced the hugely under rated mobile phone game father, Snake. The basic premise is to collect eggs, which when picked up turn into ducklings, which then need to be dropped off at individual nest points. Pick up and deposit each and every duckling on a stage and you’ll swiftly and seamlessly open up the next, allowing you to move deeper into the wonderful grid of infinity that comprises Pix the Cat. All levels are interlinked, and the only way you are going to ‘die’ is by running out of time. But it is this time which pushes you to move further on, uncover the best routes to glory and ensure that Pix is always putting your skills on point.
But as you move your way around the multiple mazes, picking up those eggs in the process, the bigger your snaking tail becomes. You obviously can’t overlap (that in itself would be a disaster) and so the line between breathing life into as many of the delightful ducklings as possible, whilst still managing to maintain a safe route through, without trapping yourself, is a thin one.
Unlike Pac and more like Snake, the stages are fairly open affairs with little in the way of obstruction – the vast majority of the time, you are left trying to dodge your own tail. The more ducklings you can manage to safely pick up, and then deposit back down, sees an increase in your combo, which in turn increases your score. And it is that which Pix is ultimately all about – the score – as the better you do, the more levels you’ll stumble across and the higher you’ll rank on those important leaderboards. Your speed is also increased the bigger your combo becomes and with a strict time limit you’ll need to work out the very best routes if you intend on smashing your mates’ scores and earning those all-important bragging rights.
And that’s about all there is to the main action in Pix – score massive points before the time limit runs out. Or at least it would be if it were just the Arcade mode included. Pix the Cat though has a damn sight more than just the one string to his bow. Because you see, sitting pretty alongside that are both a Laboratory mode and Nostalgia mode which allow for a whole load more puzzling mayhem.
The first of those two, the Labs contain some great, ‘stop, think, do’ puzzles, relying less on speed and instead focusing the mind as you try and solve numerous super clever puzzles. Pix himself is substituted for a strange watery fella who’s sole goal is to grab a number of cells, before delivering them safely into their homes. The difference being, that your guy will slide in one direct line until he hits an impassable object. Complete a stage and you’ll move on to the next, whilst hitting a set par move will bring a glorious bonus your way and ensure that you complete the experiment in style. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and you’ll no doubt be able to open up your favourite mobile phone games store to find a whole ton of games which deliver the same experience, but on Xbox One, and included as a secondary measure to the main Arcade, it’s bloody great and allows for even more time to be left in the Pix locker.
The Nostalgia mode is every bit as neat and addictive. This puts you back into the head of Pix, but with an altogether nostalgic 1930’s staged feel. The drums and trumpets accompanying your adventure are delightful and the black and white visuals are a far cry away from the glorious colours and neon lights that you have already come to expect from this crazy cat. But yet again, it all works brilliantly, dropping you in on multiple levels in which you need to collect a set number of eggs. There is no need to drop them back off this time though and you’ll find yourself frantically trying to navigate your way round the stage at hand with a huge trail of ducklings behind you. It may seem easy to run around collecting 20, 40, 60 or more eggs at once, but you very quickly learn that there is a huge tactical draw to Nostalgia mode, making it an utterly taxing, but adorable addition to an already brilliant title.
Aside from the game modes and the Mission Gallery does exactly as its name suggests… it lets you see all the missions, or objectives, across the full game, that you need to hit in order to completely fulfill your time with our feline friend. This may mean hitting a million points in Arcade mode, topping a daily leaderboard, completing a certain number of Lab or Nostalgia levels, or even just standing still for 30 seconds or so. With over 50 objectives to hit, the draw and replayability found in Pix The Cat is extremely high.
And then we have the arena, the only local multiplayer option that Pix brings – one that If I’m totally honest, I think it could have done without.
I do understand why Pastagames have tried to hit the multiplayer market, but whether you play the multiplayer battles with one, two or three local sofa based mates, it just doesn’t ever bring the same joy as that found in any of the single player modes. Basically, the name of the game is to destroy all opposing Pix’s in as fast a time as possible. It’s fast, and it’s as frantic as ever, but it does nearly always boil down to the same head-to-head, button mashing craziness. And whilst that is fun for a while, it quickly becomes stale – especially when you end up with multiple Pix’s trapped by each other. I’d normally point out that something like this could go down a storm on the online marketplace, but I’d see no difference there and don’t see the lack of online capabilities as either a positive or a negative. Just don’t go buying Pix on the back of some promised multiplayer wonders. Buy it instead for the stunning solo modes and use a ‘hot seat’ method if you have mates round.
So, other than the dislike of its multiplayer scene, is there anything else I haven’t particularly felt comfortable with during my Pix the Cat time? Well, I occasionally think that the controls can be a bit stodgy and I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve seen an otherwise flawless run in Arcade become a cropper through what I believe is no fault of my own. But the sheer speed and fluidity that Pix runs at, I’ll always allow for the odd indiscretion like that.
I also feel that the excellent Arcade mode could become a bit tiresome if you have no mates who have also got in on the action. Much of the draw of Pix’s Arcade levels revolves around the whole leaderboard scene and without a close mate or five to try and get the better of, could well find that the usual worldwide scoring whores, obtaining stupidly high scores, see your enthusiasm become deflated. But then hey, you’ve always got the multiple Mission Gallery objectives to spend your time trying to hit.
On the whole though and Pix the Cat is nothing short of adorable, arriving with some of the best features, ideas and supremely high production levels that can be found in an indie title. You may well initially think that both the Laboratory and Nostalgia modes are just tacked on extras to ensure more game time is thrown in, but in fact you would be massively wrong, with both modes more than capable of holding their own in the vast wilderness of the independent games scene.
I always thought myself as more of a dog man, but as an overall package, Pix the Cat really does prove, once and for all, that those damn felines are the kings.