Axel & Pixel Micro-Review: A Puzzling CombinationS

2K Play launches its indie game initiative with Axel & Pixel, a point and click adventure game from Czech studio Silver Wish Games starring a man, his dog, and a giant mutant rat.

The aforementioned mutant rat has trapped the artist Axel and his canine companion Pixel in a bizarre dream world and run off with the key. The pair must pursue the vile vermin through four seasons' worth of levels, solving puzzles and completing rudimentary mini-games in order to make their way back home.

Axel & Pixel is the first of two independently developed games 2K Play is bringing to Xbox Live Arcade, having seen "the potential and the talent in these two unique and bold concepts." Is what they saw what we get?

Loved
Pretty Pixels: The first thing anyone notices about Axel & Pixel is the distinctive art style, which blends hand-drawn characters with backgrounds that looks as if they were crafted and textured using cut-out photographs. It's a striking visual style that meshes well with most of the gameplay elements and fits particularly well with the music, creating a wondrous, soothing atmosphere, perfect for a point and click puzzle game. It's no wonder this game caught the eye of 2K Play's new indie game initiative.

Piecing It All Together: Axel & Pixel is, for the most part, a point and click adventure title. Most of the game's levels present a problem you must solve by interacting with objects on the screen. Some levels contain additional challenges, such as sequential button pressing boss battles or the odd mini-game, but for the most part it's a straight up adventure title. It isn't all that difficult, and anyone with half a brain should be able to play through the entire thing without resorting to using hints. Some might consider this a bad thing, but I find an adventure game that mildly stimulates my brain without driving me to the edge of frustration to be a very entertaining and relaxing couple of hours. Your mileage may vary.

Hated
And Then There's The Driving: Yes, the game is a relaxing couple of hours, except when you're suddenly plunged into a river filled with whirlpools on a rickety raft, or asked to maneuver a hot-air balloon through a cavern filled with jagged rocks. These diversions from the point and click norm felt unnecessary to me, like going to a film festival and being forced to exercise between reels. Further distancing these segments from the main game is the fact that while you may have to redo a button sequence during some of the regular adventure gameplay, the driving/boating/ballooning segments are the only moments in the game where you get a game over response, continuing from the beginning of the level should you fail. It doesn't ruin the game for me, but it certainly takes me further outside of the adventure zone then I would have liked.

Axel & Pixel is not a long game, and it isn't a particularly difficult one either. It isn't the sort of game you'll spend hours poring over, trying to find every secret or get the highest possible score. It's a momentary diversion; a game you can wind down for the evening with, or waste a couple of hours playing on a rainy afternoon, perhaps while drinking a nice hot cup of tea.

Axel & Pixel is a somewhat brief yet ultimately pleasing experience that will mildly test your logic skills while treating you to some lovely music and gorgeous visuals. It's not the most adventurous of adventure titles, but if you're in the mood for something short and sweet it should fit the bill quite nicely.

Axel & Pixel was developed by Silver Wish Games and published by 2K Play on Xbox Live Arcade on October 14th. Retails for 800 Microsoft Points. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played game through from start to finish.

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