An arcade shooter at heart, Pixel Gear makes me yearn for the return of the classic light gun games I grew up playing at my local arcade. Developer Geronimo Interactive appears to feel the same way, as Pixel Gear harks back to the day where it was you and your weapon against countless odds. It doesn’t hurt that the game is comprised of bright, colorful 3D pixels, producing a relatively clean visual style.
Using a single PlayStation Move controller, players can relive the arcade light gun experience from the arcades in Pixel Gear. Set across three different vibrant and cartoon-like worlds, you’ll take aim at stylized blocky creatures of the night. From bone-throwing skeletons to minigun touting Frankenstein monsters, the game’s art design feels tailored for Halloween, although you’ll be facing the same handful of enemies on every level, albeit with slight color palette swaps. Pixel Gear only includes a single-player mode currently, and it must be selected before choosing a level. I assume at some point Geronimo Interactive has plans to expand the game with an online cooperative mode and possibly additional levels.
As you play through the five different waves leading up to the boss encounter, you’ll notice enemies spawn in greater numbers and with a sense of urgency when playing on the harder difficulties. If you let an enemy stay alive for too long, they will scamper about the environment trying to toss projectiles in your direction. You can shoot the projectiles as well, as it will have an indicator surrounding it making it easy to pick out from the environment.
Your starting weapon, a handgun, has unlimited ammo and a laser sight, making it very easy to pull off headshots. It’s perhaps too good of a weapon, and you’ll find yourself using it more than any other weapon. If you fill your special skill meter, you can unleash nonstop machine gun fire for a limited amount of time. It also slows down time, making it perfect for when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. The sniper rifle requires you to look down the scope by holding the Move controller up to your face. I found it to be a little janky, as you risk blocking the tracking lights on the headset.
Pixel Gear features the best gun gameplay mechanics of all currently released PlayStation VR games. Headshots come naturally, and even with all of the targets moving about, you can easily track and destroy them without as much as second guessing yourself. Not all enemies appear on the ground, as each of the game’s three levels has vertical elements to them. Be on a look out for bats (some of them engulfed in flames) flying around holding pumpkin bombs, as shooting the bat will cause the pumpkin to fall and explode upon impact. It’s neat to use them when dealing with groups of enemies that are bunched close together.
While headshots are an excellent way to dispose of skeletons, most of the other enemies die in only a couple of shots on the easier difficulties. I found easy and even normal after a while to be slow-paced, and it wasn’t until I unlocked hard mode where I felt actually challenged. Knights, for example, are protected enemies with a spiked shield and a helmet. The helmet can be popped off with a precise headshot, making them an easy target to dispose of. On the higher difficulties even the basic skeletons that you’ll face, sometimes spawn with added protection. If you are looking for a challenge, try and see how many times you can bounce a helmet in the air with bullets. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be tied to any of the game’s trophies.
Throughout the game ghosts appear, giving off a subtle audio cue, but aren’t visible until you are looking directly at them. While shooting them counts toward your overall score and keeping your combo active, they can also hold coins and other power-ups. Careful with your aim, as angels also float towards the heavens along with the ghosts. Shooting them will dramatically decrease your score. You are graded at the end of each level based on your score, but there doesn’t appear to be any leaderboards. Coins are spent on upgrading weapons, purchasing new ones, such as the machine gun, grenade launcher, or sniper rifle, as well as earning doubling coin drop rates and other special items.
In each of the three worlds, you’ll face five different waves of enemies with the six wave being a massive boss. I’m pleased that the bosses are more than just bullet sponges, but the patterns are relatively basic. Specific targets on the boss will appear after dealing with additional enemy spawns and defending yourself from any attacks from the boss. At times, you’ll have to contend with massive projectiles harrowing down at you, as well as newly spawned waves of smaller foes.
It takes less than a couple hours to beat the three levels on the normal difficulty. Of course, if you were looking for a challenge, you should try your hand at the harder difficulties. Starting on hard mode, enemies spawn faster, are harder to take down, and appear in greater numbers. Hard mode and beyond keeps the action moving during the waves with much less downtime than in the lower settings. The game is priced accordingly and is an excellent throwback to the days of light gun shooters.
Note: The review for Pixel Gear is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.