Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pixel People (iOS) Review

Chillingo games are consistently the top selling games for iOS devices, and this is the second game in almost as many weeks that is an absolute must download (Pudding Monsters was there other outstanding release this year). Unlike other Chillingo games, Pixel People is free to download; furthermore, it embodies one of the best free 2 play (F2P) models I have ever seen in a game. Pixel People is a blend of Doodle God and Simpsons Tapped Out. But it takes the best of these two games and integrates them in a clearer and more fascinating way. From its blending of genres to its emphasis on discovery Pixel People is the best game for iOS this year.

In the future, the world is floating in a mysterious space vacuum. Producing houses produces clones and these clones can be turned into classes; quickly, these new classes can be fused with other classes to produce even more classes. At the basic the game sees ideas such as the Assistant + Sheriff = Deputy. Eventually you'll have an array of classes included Winemaker, Magician, and Cameraman.

In addition to creating classes, some classes yield new buildings. Fusing and finding out what you create is truly a lot of fun. In the game Doodle God, you would try an endless number of combinations with no clear direction. Pixel People circumvents this by graying out classes that have no new match. This may seem like easy mode, but Pixel People is not about difficulty, it is about discovery. The game encourages you to expand, design and create the most exciting town possible. 

The only real difficultly comes in managing your real estate and residents. Buildings yield money, but they also take up space. Eventually, land expansions will be needed to place more buildings; also, all your clones need homes so you'll be plunking down new residences left and right. The game rewards you with every move and  every button pressed, but there is calculation in your class choices because of the valuable real estate they will inevitable take up.

The emphasis on discovery has continued throughout my playtime. Certain buildings produce different money and bonuses, while others will unlock achievements or tell you a future combination of classes you should try. Pixel People's clean design is never overwhelming and the interface works wells. The only issue comes in some of the vague explanations. People I know who have played have all had the same questions: what do parks and roads ultimately yield. And the game does not give you any direction and does not explain what certain buildings do. The game could certainly be clearer. There also is no master list of your characters. So while you can see what classes you have fused together, you cannot see that your construction worker is at the bank or your assistant is at the hotel. This may not seem like an issue if there was only 10 classes, but the game is stocked with 150 classes. Hopefully, there will be a patch to make management a little easier. 

Earlier I mentioned the game is a F2P model. I have not been overtly a fan of this model, but many of these games are increasingly getting it right. A game that gets it oh so wrong is Simpsons Tapped Out (which is probably my favorite iOS game by the by). Donuts are the premium item in that game, and getting them is next to impossible. Pixel People also has a premium item known as uranium. Unlike Simpsons, uranium is easily found. You can get them by receiving hearts, by planting gardens, or by unlocking new buildings. I have earned easily 70 of these Uranium in my playtime thus far. I've spent it on a variety of free items and to speed up the build time of several of my buildings. I'm cautiously using it, but I am using it. It is a great model. In Simpsons you can go days and sometimes weeks without seeing donuts, while in Pixel People I have seen around 5-10 uranium in a given day and sometimes more. Getting uranium is exciting and the game encourages you to use. It is also important to note that uranium items are not overtly costly ranging from as little as 1 to as much as 10. 

The final bit that makes the game special is the heart system. As you play hearts will appear where you residences are. Click eleven hearts (or cheaper with building upgrades) and you will unlock a special delivery. The special delivery can range from a variety of items including rare classes, special animals, money (from 5k to 50k) or Uranium (1u - 5u). The game encourages you to play with your town constantly, something other types of these games shy away from.

Aesthetically, the game is gorgeous. It can seem a bit messy at first, but each pixel has a purpose. The pixel aesthetic is always adorable and sometimes very clever. The references to other video games and pop-culture always puts a smile on my face. The game is chock full of happiness and delight.

It all works well. From the gameplay, to the aesthetics, to the sound, to the pun filled humor (my Valet is called Ford Parker!). Pixel People is an amazing experience, and at the cost of free, there is no reason you should shy away from it. Chillingo has created an outstanding game, and it again cements Chillingo as one of the greatest iOS developers. 

For me: Pixel People is my nomination for Game of the Year (of the week).

In the meantime - I've created the first Pixel Person you receive - the Mayor:

Available at my Etsy shop $3.49 Pixel People - Mayor

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