Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic Review

Gather your party and go a' questing

Posted by B1ueSeptember   12th March 2017

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A new retro RPG from The Bitfather and Headup Games made its debut last month entitled Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic. Now that people have had a bit of time to play it, how does it seem to be holding up? Let’s have a look.

First things first - the game is fun. It has a sense of humor reminiscent of Zork, especially with its vibe as an RPG throwback. The game opens in a tavern in the town of Pixton. You will choose three adventurers from those present to be the active party for this round of the adventure. If you’re unhappy with the selection, you can “re-roll” a certain number of times to re-set the group, but if you use up your re-rolls, you’ll have to choose from what’s left. If you’re still unhappy, you’ll have to return to the main screen and elect to start a new game.

Choose your party in the tavern.

So, now the party is chosen, and we’re off! Simple enough, right? Well, not exactly. You’ll begin with 800 gold that you’ll want to invest in equipment or spell books before you head out, and dealing with equipment introduces the first issue one could have with the game. Changing equipment should be a simple process, but in this game, it isn’t. I tried and tried and tried without success to switch out what I was carrying. Honestly, there’s simply no reason for this type of difficulty; it’s just poor planning on the part of the developer. Just so you know, to change equipment, select the item you want and press the A button. Now, while holding the A button, use the directional buttons or left stick to drag the item where it’s wanted. Release the A button to place it. It’s very annoying to have what should be a simple thing be so non-intuitive and with no good instruction in-game.
Once your equipment is in order, you can now set off! Two quests are available at any given time. In town, speak to whoever has an exclamation point over his or head to be offered a quest. You’re not forced to accept, so you can look at them both and then decide. Once your quest has been chosen, you’ll head out. The quest “steps” are always the same; you will have three random encounters on the way to the dungeon, eight rooms in the dungeon (the last being the boss), and three random encounters on the way back to town. The random encounters can be anything from finding a lost puppy to meeting up with Death himself, and even the same encounters can be different each time. For example, choosing “look down the well,” might net you a sword this time and nothing but an empty bucket next time. This randomization can help prevent the game becoming too monotonous and is sprinkled with a good amount of the game’s quirky humor.

Dungeons are predictable and often difficult, especially when trying to learn the game. Again, the game could have done a better job explaining how everything works. It uses a simple turn-based mechanic, but it’s extremely important to level up the right stats for each character if you want to survive, and the game is a bit muddy there. For instance, my first few parties died because my healers couldn’t keep up, and my healers kept losing ground because I was raising their intelligence stat, which controls magic. My mistake was that intelligence controls attack magic; healing magic is controlled by faith, but the game doesn’t make that clear. I thought faith was magic defense. This misunderstanding cost me several dead adventurers.

The only other real gripe I have with the game is the inventory system. In Pixel Heroes, your equipment is extremely important to staying alive because each dungeon’s monsters use different status attacks, which can eat you alive if your party isn’t properly equipped. You can lose a couple of players and still go on; if you can get back to town, dead characters can be revived at the temple, but this can be really hard to do. Your inventory fills long before you finish a dungeon, requiring you to throw away tons of loot then to sell off most of the rest between dungeons. While I can see how juggling the inventory adds to the challenge, it would have been nice to be able to hold on to great pieces of equipment and store sets to pull out when needed rather than starting from scratch again every time. You’re required to play so many times that having a larger inventory or some type of storage system that let you save items between games would have added greatly to the game’s enjoyment.

Finally are the achievements, and in this, Pixel Heroes really shines. The achievements are a fun mix, ranging from accomplishments as easy as losing your first team to as time-consuming as finishing a game with each class of character, of which there are thirty. Many of the achievements will be picked up through natural progression, such as beating all the dungeon bosses. Others will take a little planning, such as defeating Death, who is a random encounter on the road or meeting and killing a dungeon boss with a single character. You also have to stack up 100 lost parties in the graveyard, which will take some time. The game also has three difficulty levels to get through. With 55 achievements available, there’s something for everyone. One irritation that the publisher needs to deal with is that the achievements don't always fire with Microsoft when they do in-game. A hard re-set usually puts them back in sync but not always. A patch here would be nice.

All in all, Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic is a fun retro title marred by a lack of clear instructions and the inability to store much-needed equipment, but with plenty of re-play value and a fun sense of humor, it’s well worth the price of admission.

Score: 7 out of 10

Price: $9.99 / €9.99
Release Date: February 3, 2017
Platform: Xbox One

Written by B1ueSeptember

    Administrator Stealth David 12 Mar 2017 07:26 pm

    I know you put quite a few hours into this review to get a good feel for the game, nice job again.


      News Editor B1ueSeptember 12 Mar 2017 08:33 pm

      Thanks, David. I've got 30+ hours in on this one so far, and I'm still enjoying it. I just wish I could save equipment. It's a good game. :)

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