PSN Review: Pix’n Love Rush (PlayStation Mini)



There seems to be a stigma attached to PlayStation Minis; mostly viewed as the unfortunate middle child (or the red-headed stepchild) of the PlayStation Network network, Sony’s shot at indie-friendly casual gaming been largely dismissed, forgotten and unnoticed in the light of more substantial PSN games and PSOne Classics. It’s understandable really – realistically, like most casual game platforms, the few gems are largely outweighed by a cheap, dull, disposable majority. But with more iPhone phenomenons like Angry Birds being ported to the platform and A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks proving a triumph of marketing, genuinely fun Mini games seem in slightly greater supply of late. This week, though, with Pix’n Love Rush, Playstation Minis gets its first must-own game – an instantly addictive platformer that’s a true slice of retro gaming heaven.
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Ported over from the glowingly-received iPhone game, Pix’n Love Rush is perfectly refined platform game simplicity: collect coins, pounce over obstacles and shoot enemies on your way to that coveted high score. Playing as Pixel The Cat (star of Pastagames’ other retro-aesthetic XBLA game Arkedo Series – 03 PIXEL!), you’ll play through a five minute round comprised of a variety of short, quick platforming-hopping stages. Collect the plus symbol coins or spit pixels upwards to kill enemies and your combo will slowly build along with your score, but snag a minus coin and your combo will drop a level.

Accidentally jumping into the floating bat enemies (or your own pixel bullets as they fall back to earth), slipping through gaps in the floor or being too slow to keep up with the scrolling landscape will kill your combo too, respawning you with less health until you’re finally dead. The numerous short stages that make up your game come in a variety of flavours – some scroll by horizontally, others top to bottom, while some remain stationary as coins glide towards you or enemies hover back and forth, Space Invaders style. Each short stage is progressively tougher than the last, and all of them are painfully addictive, requiring lightning reflexes and their own set of challenges to get that oh-so-satisfying ‘perfect stage’ bonus.
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The core mechanics of the game are refreshingly simple, intensely addictive, tightly-controlled and a joy to play. Well, in that special platform game manner that has you flinging your controller in frustration as you fumble your high score, only to quickly collect it to play again, repeating the process until you realise an entire afternoon just flew by. But while the basic game is a pure joy, it gets better. The height of your combo isn’t judged by a boost in speed or power; as your combo grows and crosses over to the next level, the visual style of the game changes, each style a loving recreation of the handheld game platforms of old.

On lower levels you’ll be playing through a game evocative of a graphic calculator, then your score will build and you’ll be hopping platforms in the lumious red pixel world of a Nintendo Virtual Boy, before hitting the crescendo with the top combo level as the screen turns into that of a GameBoy. Each style is a complete visual delight, and the block pixel aesthetic is oozing with charm, matched equally by the the wonderful 8-bit soundtrack (including a chiptune remake of In The Hall of the Mountain King). It’s an ingenious idea and one that’ll have you busting your ass to keep your combo just so you don’t suddenly lose your favourite retro visual style.
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Most games in the PlayStation Minis game fit in the “It’s okay for the price” category, and while the low cost of Pix’N Love Rush is certainly a bonus (it’s even free to PlayStation Plus members – grab it right the hell now!), the game always feels like it’s punching far above its price range when it comes to style and gameplay. The value for money is amazing even for those who’ve already bought the iPad/iPhone versions; the Mini port brings a much more satisfying control scheme, with a joystick in hand, actual buttons at your fingertips and no more unfortunate touch-pad foibles like thumbs obscuring screens or missed buttons, along with the ability to play it on the go on the PSP or in glorious HD on the PS3, with all the modes featured in the DX version and a brand new mode, too.

Classic Rush offers the standard game, with a choice of playing in 5 minute increments, or going for the high score in timer-free Infinite Rush. Cursed Mode, previously added for the iPad DX version, is a one-button run-and-jump mode that has you timing your leaps as the screen speeds by and platforms quickly dissolve under you, with a choice of 5 difficulties (from Hard to Hardcorest). On-Off Rush mode, new to the Mini, has you stuck in a permanent run and coins replaced with suns and moons – as you bump against the walls and switches in the level, your direction will reverse and the background will change from day to night and vice versa. Collecting suns in daytime or moons at night earns you points, while grabbing either during the wrong time kills your combo. With usually one perfect route to each short On-Off level, it can prove incredibly tough and awfully addictive, especially in Puzzle mode. With both an Arcade Rush and Puzzle Rush option for the new mode, 269 levels and 10 visual styles across the five game modes, there’s a surprisingly great variety of fantastic gameplay for a tiny price.
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Pix’n Love Rush is a superb game and one that finds the perfect nexus point between casual and core gaming. As a pick-up-and-play experience meted out in short, quick bursts and showcasing incredibly simple but fiendishly addictive gameplay wrapped up in a cute, charming bow, it’s ideally suited to the casual gaming crowd. Core gamers also get a challenging, beautifully crafted throwback to the golden age of the platform game, with a retro style that’s absolutely intoxicating. Pix’n Love Rush would be a fantastic game at several times the cost. At £1.74 it’s freaking essential.

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Pix’n Love Rush is available to buy on the PlayStation Network Store now priced £1.74/$2.49.
It’s also currently free for PlayStation Plus subscribers.