I feel like me and Ana Ribeiro, the creative director and mastermind behind the Pixel Ripped series, would have been best friends as kids. Despite her growing up in Brazil and me in the middle of nowhere Nebraska, we were both playing and loving the same games. Just a glance at Pixel Ripped 1989 or the sequel Pixel Ripped 1995 and you can see which games (and consoles) helped drive her into becoming one of the most unique indie developers working in virtual reality today. I played the original on PSVR and just completed Pixel Ripped 1995 for the Quest. Does it continue and improve the story of our hero Dot, or is this a nostalgia trip one should avoid like it was a Carnival Cruise? Stick around and find out.
The Pixel Ripped series is all about blending 2D and 3D gaming in a way that would not be possible outside of virtual reality. In Pixel Ripped 1995, we’ve moved on from the NES and sneaking our Gameboy into class, to the Super Nintendo, the Sega Genisis, and eventually, the Nintendo 64.
Our video game hero for the Pixel Ripped series is Dot, a video game badass that reminds me of a female version of the hero of Metroid. With the help of her in-game mentor, they recruit the best player in the world, a young boy named David from New Jersey. With David’s help, Dot will try to save the world from the evil Cyblin Lord. The problem with David is that his mother is convinced that gaming is giving David radiation, burnt retinas, and cancer. Possibly all at once. The bully who lives next door doesn’t help much either. Most of the levels have you sitting on the living room floor or your bed and using the Touch Controllers as if they were a gamepad for one of the aforementioned consoles. The virtual you will be staring at a TV screen as you try to play a game that strikes an uncanny resemblance to a classic game from the ’90s. The first level has you playing a game that is clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Playing through the game’s six levels, I consistently forgot I was playing a game within a game. The bedroom, living room, arcade, retail store, would disappear and it would be just me and the game, just like it was when I was a boy back in Nebraska, playing the games that Inspired Ana to create this world. I remember on the PSVR version of the original, the DS4 acted as the Gameboy clone, but the tracking on the controller was finicky, which made it impossible to forget that I was in VR and not actually playing an old school handheld. The Touch controllers didn’t suffer this problem and it made the experience so much better.
You’re not just playing some old games in a fake bedroom, however. Life is happening all around you while you play, offering the kind of gaming distractions we’ve all dealt with at some point. Whether that be a doting parent who thinks gaming is rotting your brain or a couple of cranky five-year-olds who like to slam their heads into the side of the game you’re playing at the arcade. This is the central game mechanic of the Pixel Ripped series. It makes a somewhat challenging Street Fighter clone, much more difficult when you have to take one hand off of the controls to grab a Nerf gun laying on the console and fire it at a couple of cranky kids who seem to have missed a much-needed nap. One of my favorite levels was the Castlevania level that has you playing in your bedroom on a stormy night. Your loving but nagging mother wants you to go to bed, but that’s not going to happen. With the thunder and lightning lighting up your bedroom through the window, you need to play quietly, or your mother will come in and turn off your console forcing you to start over at the last checkpoint. This castle is littered with bats and bone chucking skeletons that you’ll need to dispatch. But you’ll have to do so quietly. If one of your projectiles goes off the mark and hits one of the inconveniently placed bells, your mom will turn on the hallway light and start grumbling. This is your cue to set down the controller and quickly pick up the TV remote to turn off the TV before your mom gets to your room. Another example of this unique playstyle is the second to last level. This one has you playing as the mom, only she doesn’t know how to hold the controller, so she keeps flipping it over. So in mid-game, the direction changes and the jump and shoot buttons switch. Through the first two checkpoints, she keeps flipping the controller over making the sidescrolling game maddeningly frustrating. Thankfully, mom figured it out after a couple of checkpoints, saving me from tossing my Touch controllers across the room.
Besides Zelda, Street Fighter and Castlevania, you’ll be playing Pixel Ripped versions of Sonic, Metroid, and more. Much like the first Pixel Ripped, each classic game inspired level is topped off with a boss fight that explodes out of the TV and forces David to fight in the “real world”. These battles task the player with controlling our hero Dot in the real world, while simultaneously manipulating the environment with our trusty Nerf gun when needed. The second boss has you sitting in the back of your mom’s car as you head home from the grocery store. You’re controlling Dot on a motorcycle as she follows you trying to avoid and dispatch enemies as they surround her. Instead of your nerf gun, you need to toss out your mom’s just purchased bananas to cause the big bad to lose control of his vehicle. The mechanic never felt right and was the only boss fight I didn’t enjoy.
If you played and loved the games from the era, you’ll love the look and sounds of Pixel Ripped 1995. The music and effects will take you back and the voice acting is well performed with real heart and some light-hearted humor. This whole series feels very personal, but also very familiar like it’s my story too. The experience was polished and mostly bug-free. The one exception I noticed was while capturing some video for the video review, the mom’s voice became extremely quiet during the first level.
It’s only six levels long, and I think it took me about 5 or 6 hours to complete. I’m not completely sure about that hour count as I was totally lost in this world while I was playing and forgot to keep track, but that feels about right. It’s not as frustratingly difficult as Pixel Ripped 1989, but it feels more polished and, for me, was a more satisfying experience, and one I can’t wait to play again. If I could make one suggestion to Ana and her team at ARVORE it would be to add a game-plus mode that removes the save option. It would add a real challenge while also paying respects to the games that inspired this series. I loved it just as it is, but I know some gamers love to torture themselves. If you feel like reliving the golden age of the genre, or if you need a good sit-down-and-play game for your Quest, Pixel Ripped 1995 is a must-play.
Pixel Ripped 1995 Oculus Quest Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Pixel Ripped 1995 is another love letter to the golden age of console gaming and one of the most unique and charming games you can play in virtual reality. The meta game-within-a-game mechanic is a great way to relive some of the greatest games ever made with a unique twist you couldn’t create without VR. The excellent and sometimes funny voice acting helps tell a charming story that never gets in the way of the game, excepts where it’s supposed to. It’s not as difficult as the original, but it’s longer and more fun.
- Each classic game inspired level is fun to play
- Most of the boss fights are fun and unique
- A charming story well told
- I wish it had more than 6 levels
- Could use a difficulty setting for gamers who want more of a challenge
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using Oculus Quest.
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