The Pixel Ripped series is one of my favourites to play in virtual reality, so I was eager to step into its whimsical world and experience Dot’s adventures yet again with Pixel Ripped 1978 – especially since Atari are on board as publisher this time around to add to the authenticity. And you know what? It’s been a blast to play, with the creative gameplay mechanics and charming storytelling arguably making it the best release in the series yet.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Much like its predecessors, Pixel Ripped 1978 is all about playing video games, though this time it takes places back in 1978 (duh!) when games were just beginning to boom (though it does explore a few more time periods along the way). Players take on the role of Bug, the original developer of the Pixel Ripped video game seen across the series, as she looks to start building the game, but instead finds herself spending most of her time helping her colleagues with their creations instead. At the same time, series villain Cyblin Lord is causing trouble yet again, with players having to deal with his time-bending antics in the video game world – luckily, your video game protagonist Dot is on board to help bring an end to his evil ways.

Ok, that might be a little hard to follow, but those experienced with the Pixel Ripped series will feel right at home with the whimsical setup, with it having the same quirky charm seen in the previous titles. It also follows the same formula of having to deal with real-life (well… real-life in-game) and video game problems at the same time, with everything coming together to make for an experience that feels outrageous but in a believable way. I’ve always been really fond of the game’s creative take on storytelling and Pixel Ripped 1978 is no different.

Of course, it’s in the gameplay that the series has always delivered, and that’s the case here too. One of the main gameplay hooks of the Pixel Ripped series has always been the way that it makes players multitask, with them often playing a video game on a screen in front of them at the same time as doing something else. Fortunately, you won’t be trying to hide that you’re playing video games this time around (one of the perks of working at a video game studio), but that doesn’t mean you won’t be kept busy by the real-life tasks expected of you… you know… like answering a phone, speaking with a colleague, or throwing a football across the office. Wanna know what makes it extra cool? You’re actually working at Atari, so there are plenty of nods and easter eggs to be found related to the company. It’s something old-school gamers will appreciate, but it also adds an extra layer of personality to the experience.

“There’s a perfect balance between real-world and video game antics in the game, but even when you do find yourself distracted during a particularly challenging moment, it’s hard to get frustrated because every interaction is just so charming.”

You’ll spend your time playing through a bunch of Atari 2600-inspired titles during gameplay, so you can expect some pretty simply mechanics when playing them (even IF they’re a bit more complex than titles that originally game out for the console). What makes them extra difficult is having to deal with all of the aforementioned distractions and the bugs in the game at the same time, with players having to handle bugs in various ways. Sometimes, this might mean simply hitting your monitor and then swatting away the ACTUAL bugs that come out of it (which is really cool), but for the most part, you’ll be physically entering the game yourself. This switches up the gameplay to a first-person shooter-style experience where you’ll be blasting away at enemies and obstacles in front of you in order to clear the way to progress through the game again in the real world. Admittedly, these sections can get a little bit repetitive towards the back end of the game, but they brought enough action to ensure they never got boring.

It all comes together to make for a fun time, and much like the other titles in the series, there’s nothing else quite like it out there. Whilst Pixel Ripped 1978 naturally shares a lot of mechanics with its predecessors, it also adds in plenty of new ideas to ensure it remains exciting to play. There are some absolutely brilliant set-pieces to experience on your quest to defeat the Cyblin Lord, whilst the way that the game integrates virtual reality into the experience just makes it all the more immersive. I find that the whole ‘game in a game’ trope can feel a little tiresome at times, but Pixel Ripped 1978 hits the nail on the head.

It helps that it’s simply oozing with personality, whether that’s with Dot’s ongoing battle with the Cyblin Lord or your interactions with others in the real world. There’s a perfect balance between real-life and video game antics in the game, but even when you do find yourself distracted during a particularly challenging moment, it’s hard to get frustrated because every interaction is just so charming. It looks great too, and whilst I’m sure the PlayStation VR 2 version of the game looks the best, everything still holds up and plays well on the Meta Quest 2.

Check out some screenshots down below:

It’s just a really fun experience and one that’ll certainly feed into the nostalgia of those who might’ve been playing games in the early Atari era of the 70s (which admittedly is not me). The game does so many things that are undoubtedly cool, and whilst I’ve made a point of not spoiling them in this review, each moment will bring a smile to players’ faces – especially the boss battles that will really push your skills. Whilst I was a big fan though, I do think the game misses a trick by not utilising more of Atari’s older releases in its gameplay, especially with the wealth of classics it has under its belt. Whilst it may have been difficult to integrate them into the Pixel Ripped gameplay loop, it’s hard not to see it as a bit of a missed opportunity.

Pixel Ripped 1978 Review

Pixel Ripped 1978 delivers another creative and exciting VR experience that explores the world of video games in a charming way. The balance of playing video games and dealing with real-life interactions feels better than ever, whilst the added inclusion of Atari adds to the charm (and will certainly bring smiles to the faces of older gamers). And most importantly? It’s a ton of fun to play.

There are a few repetitive moments during the first-person shooter segments and the game does miss an opportunity by not exploring more Atari titles, but they’re minor issues in what is arguably the best release in the series.

Developer: ARVORE
Publisher: Atari
Platform(s): Meta Quest 2 (Reviewed), PlayStation VR 2, PC VR