UPDATE – 29/05/2020
We updated this review with our opinion on the PlayStation VR version of the game – you can check this out at the bottom of the review.
Pixel Ripped 1989 took gamers back to the late 80s to re-live some of their favourite video game memories, with the virtual reality escapade making for a unique and enjoyable experience. It’s actually one of my favourite virtual reality titles, with its emphasis on nostalgia and its charming gameplay elements ticking plenty of boxes for an old-time gamer like myself.
Now, two years on from the release of the original game, the series is back again with Pixel Ripped 1995. That extra six-years that have been added to the title is reflected in-game, with the video games you’ll indulge in this time seeing a transition to the 16-bit era and the introduction of 3D consoles. The improvements don’t only apply to the in-game experiences though, with Pixel Ripped 1995 also offering more variety and improvements when compared its predecessor – there’s no doubting that it’s another virtual reality success for the team at ARVORE.
Following on from her escapades in the first game, video game hero Dot is back once again and requiring the assistance of a real-life gamer to play through an assortment of video games to help protect her home from a vicious villain. Luckily, she has David on her side, who just so happens to be the best video game player in the world. What more could you need, right? Well, with a mother that doesn’t want him playing video games, a kid named Mike bothering him and causing trouble, and an assortment of challenging video games to get through, David’s mission to help Dot isn’t exactly an easy one.
One of the most novel features of the Pixel Ripped series comes with the fact that you’re not playing a video game directly, but instead see it on a screen in front of you inside a virtual world. This isn’t just a form of immersive trickery that’s brought on by virtual reality either, but actually ties into the gameplay in an assortment of clever ways.
One of the best examples of this comes when playing the night-time level (which also acts as a neat spin on Castlevania), where you’ve got to hide the fact that you’re up late playing video games from your mother. How do you do this? By quickly turning off the TV screen if you hear her coming. This actually brought back some memories for me as I remember having to do this when playing my SNES late in my younger years – I’m sure it’ll be the same case for plenty of other gamers too…
It shows that there’s a big emphasis on multi-tasking in Pixel Ripped 1995, though it can actually be pretty tricky to play each video game and keep on top of everything that’s going on around you. Plenty of other distractions pop up across the ‘real-world’ as you play and you’ll have to deal with them in an assortment of inventive ways, so it’s never as simple as just… well… playing a game.
Of course, the bulk of your time in Pixel Ripped 1995 will be spent playing video games as David, so I’m happy to report that it has a neat assortment of titles on offer that’ll challenge your skills across different genres. This includes a beat ‘em up, a platformer, a top-down shooter, a racer…. that’s just naming a few too, with plenty of variety to be found as you battle through this assortment of fun retro-style experiences. Whilst it’s easy enough to get distracted by the real-world events occurring around David, the games that he gets to play actually make for a good time – especially for gamers who appreciate some old-school fun.
One of the best aspects of these video games were the boss encounters at the end, which didn’t take place directly in the game that David is playing but instead burst out into the real world. Fortunately, Dot comes out too so David isn’t alone when trying to take them out, but he does have to be creative in how he can help. He is a kid after all so he’s hardly going to have the skills of a warrior – he does have the likes of bananas that he can throw out of a car window though as well as a nerf gun to shoot away at foes, so he’s not COMPLETELY helpless. The boss battles were always a lot of fun and demonstrated some of Pixel Ripped 1995’s most creative ideas.
A lot of gamers will appreciate the sense of familiarity that’s brought on from playing these games, with the likes of Castlevania, Star Fox, Metroid and even Sonic referenced across both the games you play and the world around you. Even if you didn’t necessarily play video games from this era, there’ll be at least ONE easter egg to spot that’ll bring a smile to your face. One audience that the game will definitely appeal to is the 90s kids who were a part of the 16-bit era – it’s something I can certainly relate to, and believe me, it ensured a smile was kept on my face throughout my entire playthrough of the game.
It also helps that Pixel Ripped 1995 just so happens to be a lot of fun to play anyway. I was already a fan of its predecessor, but Pixel Ripped 1995 is just a bit more varied and refined in design. It was also less tedious than the last game, especially when you’re trying to hide that you’re playing a game (which I found a nightmare in the classroom last time around). You also get to visit more interesting locales in Pixel Ripped 1995 that will make you feel like you really are in the 90s – I didn’t think I’d be visiting a lit-up arcade again, but I got to do that here in true nostalgic fashion.
That’s not to say that Pixel Ripped 1995 doesn’t have some flaws though. For one, the games you do play throughout your adventure are very simple in design, with little depth to be found in any of them. They almost feel like extended mini-games more than anything at times, which might not necessarily appeal to everyone. It’s not the longest of games either and you’ll probably see everything it has to offer in around four-hours – there’s not a whole lot to come back for the second time around either, so it’s not as if there’s plenty of replayability to be found. Neither of these flaws stop Pixel Ripped 1995 from being fun to play and they certainly didn’t halter my enjoyment, but they may be sticking points for some gamers.
[PlayStation VR Version – Added 29/05/2020]
I didn’t go into the PlayStation VR version of Pixel Ripped 1995 expecting too many differences to what I played on the Oculus Quest, and that was pretty much the case. It simply felt just as good to play on PlayStation VR as it does on any other VR platform.
You are limited to the DualShock 4 controller which can feel a little bit less intuitive when you’re working through sequences that rely on motion controls, but on the flip-side it feels perfect for those moments where you’re playing Pixel Ripped 1995’s assortment of mini-games. The visuals did lack a little bit of sharpness when compared to its Oculus Quest counterpart too, but in honesty the difference was so insignificant that you won’t feel like you’re playing an inferior looking version on the PlayStation VR. Pixel Ripped 1995 still manages to look fantastic here with its nostalgia-fuelled visuals feeling vibrant, charming, and really drawing you into the world.
There’s not much else to say about it really, with everything I’ve said about the Oculus Quest version of the game applying to the PlayStation VR too. It’s a brilliant little game that really does bring something unique and thoroughly entertaining to the PlayStation VR catalogue.
With its nostalgia-fuelled antics and varied gameplay mechanics, Pixel Ripped 1995 is an absolute blast to play. It manages to capture the vibe of the 90s perfectly, whether that’s with the video games it allows you to play or within the world around you. The gameplay formula feels more clever than ever too, and it has clearly been refined and improved upon when compared to its predecessor.
If you appreciate virtual reality titles that do something unique and entertaining, you really ought to check Pixel Ripped 1995 out – it’s a fantastic homage to the games of the 90s that retro fans are sure to appreciate. I can’t wait to see what year Pixel Ripped sends us to next…
Platform(s): Oculus Quest (Reviewed), Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR