When I first saw Pixel Ripped 1989 for PlayStation VR I was immediately drawn to it due to the interesting idea behind it. It’s a game within a game where you play as two characters named Nikola and Dot. Nikola is the girl in the real world playing the handheld while Dot is the heroine who is trying to defeat the Cyblin Lord in the game itself. You have to balance both of these while keeping aware of what is going on in the real world. Developer ARVORE has filled this game with homages and references to the past and it makes for one of the most unique VR experiences yet.
To start this is another PlayStation VR game that is played with the Dualshock 4 only but in this world that makes perfect sense. You are playing a handheld in the game and that just wouldn’t make much sense using PlayStation Move controllers would it? In the world of Pixel Ripped your handheld is called the Gearkid but we all know it’s this world’s version of the Gameboy or Gamegear that we grew up playing. The game is broken up into four stages with the first being the one you might have seen in pre-release footage. In it you are at school and you’ll have to figure out ways to distract your teacher in order to keep playing your game. This is done by using a spitball straw that you stare at to load and then stare at various things in the environment to shoot. In the game itself you are doing a lot of running, jumping, and shooting like most old school pixel games. As you progress on your Gearkid game though you soon find that the Cyblin Lord has now managed to attack the actual human world which makes for some great gameplay mechanics.
This is a very challenging game though so don’t be fooled. Having to constantly find things to distract the teacher with isn’t easy and unfortunately you do end up re-using a lot of the same distractions over and over. The game does a good job of changing up how you’re playing the 2D game though as sometimes you’ll play it in an arcade cabinet, other times a screen, and other times below your desk. As I said before the game is four stages long so you could beat it in a few hours probably but given how challenging it is it may take longer. I did have an issue with the last stage as the boss battle really has a difficulty spike and even though it has checkpoints it’s still overly difficult. The game has some replay value as every stage in the game has hidden cartridges that you can seek out. While I was very disappointed to find it didn’t have a Platinum trophy it does have 14 trophies in total. You earn these by progressing through the game as well as performing certain feats in the different stages.
The visuals in the game might not appeal as much to today’s generation but to someone like me who grew up on the 80’s and 90’s I was ecstatic. The design of the Gearkid itself was such a throwback to the handhelds I played and the feeling of playing the side scrolling 2D game brought back so many memories. In terms of the visuals of the real world around Nikola it’s fine but also has some issues in the animation department and suffers from lack of detail in spots. Still you end up spending so much of your time playing on the Gearkid that it doesn’t detract from the experience too much. Moments in the game where the virtual world mix with the real world are particularly awesome and unique.
Of course the visuals aren’t the only thing paying tribute as the sound design has been given plenty of retro love as well. It has a catchy theme song that sounds exactly like something out of the 80’s. Further, little sound effects and music that resemble other retro games are peppered throughout the game. A lot of thought and love was clearly put into making this truly look and sound like something out of the 80’s and I love it for that. I’d like to go into more detail on some of the things that happen in the game but I feel like part of what made me enjoy it so much was the surprise moments or references it made. Just know that if you played a lot of old school games you’ll catch plenty of love being paid tribute to them.
If you’re an 80’s or 90’s kid like myself then I feel like you will absolutely enjoy Pixel Ripped 1989. I can’t think of much else out there in the video game landscape like it in the way it blends its two worlds together. It is full of callbacks and references to some of my favorite games growing up and despite that late game boss fight I had fun throughout the experience. I don’t know if it will resonate quite as much with the younger audience today but to older people like myself this is an old school retro package full of charm.
*Pixel Ripped 1989 is out now on PlayStation VR. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by Arvore and we thank them for that! Read all of our VR reviews at vrgamecritic.com.