A direct sequel to Pixel Ripped 1989, ARVORE is launching Pixel Ripped 1995 for Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift and Steam – with a PlayStation VR version coming soon. We played the Quest version for this review.
Updated (May 13): we have now also played the PSVR version and have added our impressions.
Back in our review of the PSVR version, we compared Pixel Ripped 1989 to Ready Player One in how it provided a trek across videogaming history. ARVORE’s latest is, unsurprisingly, no different in its approach, but it uses a different backdrop. Where 1989 was all about the era of the NES, Gameboy, Master System and Game Gear, 1995 takes place in that transitional period where the Super Nintendo and the Mega Drive/Genesis were still popular but we were also getting our first taste of the 32-bit console generation, bringing 3D to the foreground.
Narratively speaking, the lives of videogame character Dot and a 9 year old videogame player called David are about to intertwine, as they tackle a variety of real world and digital challenges to help restore balance to their respective dimensions. Of course this isn’t the main driver for the game – that’s nostalgia, with levels that are modeled after several popular games and franchises of the era that the game is named after. As such there’s a target audience of 35+ year old gamers that is best suited to the experience, but those who love VR and are interested in “retro” can also enjoy what’s on offer.
There’s a lot of variety to enjoy in the game, with the bulk of the gameplay consisting of playing games that were inspired by some of the classics, including Super Mario World, Sonic, Metroid, Star Fox, Crash Bandicoot and Zelda. None of the iconic characters appear in the game, though this is a golden opportunity for a trademark-owning company like Sony or Nintendo if they start supporting VR – Square is already demonstrating this with their Kingdom Hearts series. Instead, what you play in Pixel Ripped 1995 is more like one of those knock-off titles we’re all familiar with. Most are solid quality productions though, the main issue being that they’re often on the short side rather than full fledged games.
There are other fun nods to the era as well, like having in-store demo pods for games and the ability to go to a local arcade – things that are increasingly rare nowadays but should bring a smile to older gamers. In essence, that’s what Pixel Ripped 1995 is all about – tons of variety and “oh yeah, I remember that!” moments mixed in with modern VR tropes (like using motion controls to interact with the ‘real world’) and interplay between what’s happening in the “real world” and the various videogames you play.
What’s a bit of a shame is that a game like this doesn’t make much use of the untethered nature of the Oculus Quest. Being a multiplatform VR title, you remain seated for all of the experience – which is mimicked in-game as well since you spend most of your time seated in front of your videogames.
What does feel great on the Quest is that Pixel Ripped 1995 is a full, five to six hour experience with a lot of diversity rather than being something that feels like it originated on a mobile platform like Gear VR. This is a proper game with the right level of ambition behind it, and Quest owners who don’t have access to other platforms will be especially impressed.
If you do, then perhaps the audiovisual presentation will feel a bit underwhelming. While some of the “retro” elements (like the games themselves) intentionally look ‘dated’, the real world that David resides in features some fairly crude animation and low detail environments. This is true on the Quest, so it’ll be especially true when you play the game on a higher end headset.
These are minor issues though, because if you have love for the mid-nineties as a gaming era then this is a VR title you’ll want to play. It’s especially impressive on the Quest, which doesn’t yet have a great number of fun games with a scale like this one. At the same time, its “sit down in front of a TV” narrative also lends itself very well to the PlayStation VR headset – which also has the DualShock gamepad as its default control option. In terms of immersion that’s probably a better experience, but tastes will certainly differ.