An observation-based puzzle game with a pleasing retro aesthetic, Pixel Detective is a fun but repetitive game that doesn’t quite deliver the mystery or fun that its name suggests.
With a name like Pixel Detective I was hoping for some kind of grim, 8-bit noir story, with a blocky Sam Spade bouncing wearily across the screen. But actually the detective side of things is pretty tenuous – this is a visual game where you pick a particular character out of a screen covered with various similar characters. A little like Where’s Wally but more basic, both visually and in terms of how the game plays.
Some levels are very straight-forward, others are busier and take more time to solve. The timer counting down in the corner of the screen adds an air of excitement as you try and beat the clock. Each level has its characters laid out in a different configuration, and some have characters that shift around, making it more difficult to scan the crowd.
And that crowd is probably the highlight of the game for me. There’s something very pleasing about lots of variation within a theme, and Pixel Detective’s cast of characters manages to walk that line between variety and consistency well. There’s no real reason for everything to be drawn in a retro arcade style, but once that decision was made the developers committed to it and they’ve pulled it off. Even the skyscrapers in the background of the menu screen evoke a wider world of fun characters and exciting adventures. But that’s the problem – that allusion never gets a pay off, because all you do is pick characters out of a cast of other characters.
Pixel Detective is a neat little game, but it quickly starts to feel repetitive. I’m generally a fan of apps that do just a few things well, rather than try and fail at doing too much, but this one just seems a bit thin and basic. A few different playing modes would make this feel like more of a complete game, or even a couple of paragraphs of story to set up why you’re picking people out of a crowd would make a difference. The description on Google Play mentions unlockable content which may give it some variety though, so who knows.
This is a nice-looking observation game that can be challenging and fun, but quickly runs out of novelty and becomes repetitive. Fine to kill a few moments with, but there are other games out there that will do the same and likely hold your interest for longer.