Pixel Perfect Life
The Earth has finally seen its last days and the dregs of humanity find a new home in space. For most games this would lead to some sort of post-apocalypse nightmare. For Chillingo's Pixel People, however, it means a chance to play mayor to a new society.
Pixel People is a cross between the micro-management of Tiny Towers and the city planning of Sim City, though it's far less involved than the latter. You start off as a Mayor with only a mechanic and a small cloning area and your first task is to build the town hall, which will be your home for the remainder of the game.
Once a few more houses are built, clones begin to appear and require shaping or splicing to give them a purpose. This is done by mixing and matching the other clone DNA to form new job roles, which themselves often lead to new buildings to place in your town. Everything from a gardner to a lawyer can be created in the cloning machine with the right combination of DNA and this forms an important mechanic of the game; finding the correct clones to blend together in order to create that doctor for the hospital or the games designer for the arcade.
These clones appear as collectable figures pre-packed in a beautifully retro-looking packaging that needs to be cut open with a swipe of your finger. It's a functionless addition to the game that somehow gives it a bit more character and offers a cheeky nudge at collectors of old action figures.
Clones need houses, though, and you'll soon find that residential areas need to be balanced with land for more industry-based buildings. Roads provide an important framework and trees give residents satisfaction, as well as providing much needed money for your society. Expansion becomes an issue once the land runs out and this is where your hard earned money needs to be spent in order to keep your new society growing.
The freemium aspect of the game is driven by Utopium, a currency that provides more money in a sticky situation or simply speeds up clone creation and building time. While it's fairly easy for those with less patience to get carried away and use up their initial batch of Utopium in the first hour or so, there are plenty of opportunities to get fresh supplies from completing tasks to increasing your land. But, as always, real money can be used for those who want an easy ride, though it's really not required.
Another task that the game asks you to undertake is to collect the little hearts that appear above residential areas from time to time. Holding down on the heart will add it to the meter at the top of the screen and this, in turn, will provide you with a surprise once it fills. These can range from cute pets who wonder around the town to extra coins and Utopium.
In addition to providing a regular cashflow, different buildings in Pixel People also give you little extras, such as the Oracle helping with daily hints for cloning and offices providing cash boosts or shortening the time it takes to win a surprise. Many larger buildings require quite a few different workers, however, so it becomes a task to find the DNA match in order to clone everyone you need to fill the office space and earn as much money as possible.
Chillingo and Lambda Mu have done a wonderful job with the presentation of the game. While pixel-art seems to be a growing trend among iOS developers, Pixel People strikes the perfect balance between retro-looks and detail, offering some cheeky little surprises in their carefully designed artwork. Only the inability to rotate the land and the difficulty of picking certain buildings from your crowded city on smaller devices detracts from this, but you can zoom in to a smaller area, which often helps.
It's not all perfect, though. The game could do more to hold interest past the building stage. The different job roles could be more interactive and I felt as if there should be traffic and more going on in the city, park and other areas, but perhaps there's an option for expanding these elements of the game over time. However, it's a small gripe in an otherwise loveable strategy game.
Pixel People is one of those titles that takes a well-worn idea and goes off on a completely different tangent with it. The charm and cheeky little pokes at life will make you burst into a smile more often than not and the game is sure to work its way under your skin, leaving you managing your new society into the small hours of the night.
- Sound: 7
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 9
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