Pixel Ripped 1995 is a retro-inspired VR game which, as you would imagine, follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, Pixel Ripped 1989 (2018). It’s an absolute nostalgia trip that revisits the series’ unique ‘game within a game’ storytelling style while honing in on what made the fourth console generation truly great: colorful platformers, side-scrolling beat ’em ups, and RPGs aplenty. While it may be a tiny bit rough around the edges, it’s ultimately a charming and well-realized adventure that truly made me feel like a kid again.
Pixel Ripped 1995 Details:
Developer: ARVORE Immersive Experiences
Available On: Steam, Oculus Store (Rift , Quest)
Reviewed On: Quest, Rift
Release Date: April 23rd, 2020
As with the first in the series, Pixel Ripped 1995 is all about playing fictional games based classics from the era. That is, until things get weird and the game suddenly breaks outside of the confines of your family’s CRT and spills over into the physical world.
Much of what we see in the 1989 original and the 1995 sequel is here: sneaking in as much gaming as humanly possible for a kid, distracting adults, and playing the many mashups between 2D and 3D as the overworld and the game world inevitably collide throughout its linear story.
Although you should probably play the first one, you don’t really need to, as everything is explained within the first five minutes anyway. Suffice it to say you go in and out of these retro and real world gaming sessions fighting against the evil goblin-like Cyblin Lord as both the nine year-old protagonist David and the badass game character ‘Dot’ who is seemingly styled after Samus Aran.
I’ll come right out and say it: I am totally the target market for Pixel Ripped 1995. I was 10 years old in 1995, and I can’t pretend that it doesn’t strike a chord with me by literally putting me barefoot in front of a color CRT, staring up at a demo station in a faux Blockbuster, or in an arcade playing one of those four-player side-scrollers.
As a child of the era, it’s easy to see where ARVORE is paying homage here in its near-beer game versions—of course while staying a respectful distance away from copyrighted content. That said, you’ll feel like you’re playing Super Mario World (1990), Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), Super Metroid (1994), Streets of Rage (1991), The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991), Crash Bandicoot (1996), Star Fox (1993) and more I can’t even begin to remember—and all of it mashed up into the fun and weird meta game of you trying to defeat the patently evil Cyblin Lord. Some of this interplay is built on distraction: e.g you have to shoot a baddie with your ‘real world’ Nerf gun while you continue to play the game with the d-pad and A/B buttons, making VR an essential component to nearly every 2D game interaction.
Granted, because you play so many game styles throughout Pixel Ripped 1995, you never really get a chance to truly dig deeply into each one, which can feel a bit premature at times. I can totally respect its emphasis on making the mashups between real and game world novel, fun, and well-paced though, which helps underline the fact that Pixel Ripped 1995 isn’t a glorified emulator for knock-off games, but rather a mind-bending VR adventure that’s busy enough trying to tell a heartfelt story and giving you a near-lethal concentration of nostalgia at the same time.
Still, I would have loved to stay in each game for longer and at a higher level of difficulty, although at a playthrough time of about 5 hours, I can’t really complain too much. The variety and inventiveness of the whole thing makes up for it to a large extent, as you’re always left guessing at what’s next.
Pixel Ripped 1995 is a linear game that keeps you physically stationary nearly 100 percent of the time, so there’s no room for exploration outside of that which is done on-screen, which I feel like was somewhat of a missed opportunity. Although I was hoping to get a better chance to roam around for a more in-depth adventure this time around, perhaps ARVORE is saving that for a future sequel.
Pixel Ripped 1995 has a penchant to stray into some very ‘gamey’ territory when it would be better served with a more clarified dose of reality, if only to better divide the two worlds the story is presenting. I don’t mean to come off as too harsh—the basic bones of Pixel Ripped 1995 are super strong—but some of the ancillary things that don’t affect gameplay itself are objectively detractors from the overall experience.
Oftentimes I was scratching my head as to why my objectively ‘real’ Nerf gun has infinite darts, why I can shoot someone in the face and they won’t react at all, and why objects respawn around my blindingly stupid mother who goes through a loop of dialogue seemingly at random. More polish in these areas would have helped sell the real world as ‘real’, and help set the stage for what ultimately becomes a 16-bit fever dream.
Looking at NPCs in the overworld can also be a bit painful visually at times, like the Mom, Dad, and neighbor kid. Although they’re safely on the cartoon side of the Uncanny Valley, overworld character animations can be pretty off-putting to look at, with facial expressions and mouth movements appearing more like a sock puppet than the Pixar-ish setting and characters would otherwise suggest.
Although some of these things leave Pixel Ripped 1995 rough around the edges, the game is chock-full of excellent voice acting, and also rests on strong enough writing to tell a heartfelt, albeit basic, overarching story.
Since you’re presented with linear flatscreen gaming scenarios, more often than not you’re frontward-facing and sitting down in the game itself, so there’s no artificial first-person locomotion at all to speak of: no teleportation, free locomotion, snap-turning, nada, zip, zilch.
Although it may detract from a sense of agency, it is ultimately the most comfortable way to play a VR game. With the exception of a short car ride and a few moments when you’re lifted up into the sky, you will almost always be stationary, making it an easy game to suggest for new and experienced players alike.