Axel & Pixel Preview: It Looks Like Nothing Else

We've got a guy. A dog. An art style I've never seen on an Xbox 360. A point-and-click adventure. And side-scrolling driving.

What Is It?
At the Penny Arcade Expo, about halfway between where you could buy nachos or watch a comics artist sketch on his DS, there was a kiosk running two forthcoming Xbox Live Arcade games from Take Two Interactive's 2K Play level. Axel & Pixel, an adventure game from Czech studio Silver Wish Games, is the first of those efforts.

What We Saw
I made Axel, an artist, and Pixel, a dog, venture through a few puzzling screens worth of mild clickable challenges, then drove them through an obstacle course of nearly vertical mounds of dirt and grass in a big-wheeled truck.

Axel & Pixel Preview: It Looks Like Nothing Else

How Far Along Is It?
The game is set for release next month for download on the Xbox 360.

What Needs Improvement?
A Little Too Mixed: I was smitten by the imaginatively mixed art style but less excited by the mixed gameplay. I enjoyed using the control stick to move a pointer across the screen, clicking at whatever made my cursor sparkle in order to perform some sort of interaction. And I was fine with the simple side-scrolling off-roading that consisted of driving left to right, speeding up, tilting the truck for better landings and maybe scoring a flip. But a little button-pressing mini-game that I had to do in order to battle an angry god in the sky was an undesired interruption of the mostly point-and-click adventure. The puzzles were good enough; I hope there's not too much finger-DDR.

What Should Stay The Same?
The Art: Would we call this fantasy mixed with realism? Photography mixed with drawing? Anything that makes swans look like this is alright by me. It's got a great look.

The Puzzles: I was not able to play long enough to encounter anything other than starter puzzles. I was doing basic stuff, like having the artist paint flowers on a tree so that a bee would fly away and the dog could run ahead. I was having Axel plucking an oar from the ground in order to row a boat across the lake. And I was fishing a long yellow something-or-other out of the lake for reasons I can't even recall. Nothing was too complex; and it was easy to figure out thanks to the ability to just drag the cursor until it's near anything sparkling (then just click and witness the results — or click on something else, repeat.). The delight in the levels I played was in seeing what happens, emphasis on the word "seeing." It all just looks interesting.

Final Thoughts
I didn't have much time with Axel & Pixel, and I expect a final judgment on an adventure game will have to be based on the quality of its puzzles, not just its graphics or silly driving side-mission. What I can say is that this game has one of the most unusual art styles I've seen in a while. I hope it proves to play as creatively as it looks.

Axel & Pixel Preview: It Looks Like Nothing Else