Paul Pixel – The Awakening has a lot going for it right from the start. It’s a point-and-click adventure, it uses a charming pixel art style, the story (about an alien zombie invasion) knows it’s goofy and revels in it, and it feels like something that was designed with mobile platforms in mind. However, even with all those boxes ticked, it’s a difficult game to get invested in.
Paul Pixel’s plot is ridiculous, but that’s entirely the point. From the characters you’ll encounter (LARP-ing factory employees, a hotdog vendor who still vends hotdogs during the zombie apocalypse, etc) to the puzzles, nothing is meant to be taken seriously. This is perfectly fine for the most part, though some of the dialog is phrased a bit awkwardly at times.
The way the game is built is also a great fit for mobile. The touch interface is incredibly simple, but it doesn’t really need to be anything more. Using inventory items is a breeze. It even auto-saves when you enter a room, so you never really have to worry about checkpoints or lost progress.
What’s less than perfectly fine is that the dialog can’t be skipped. Whether it’s the first time you’re talking to someone or the fifth time you’ve tried because “maybe they’ll say something different this time,” you can’t jump past any of it. So if you end up repeating a conversation you just have to sit there and wait for it to end.
Waiting is kind of an ongoing issue with Paul Pixel. The dialog thing is irksome enough, but Paul also walks pretty slow. Initially it’s not so bad because the areas are (generally speaking) fairly small. However, once you start having to backtrack across several screens multiple times in order to figure out some of the later puzzles, it gets to be really annoying.
Then there are the puzzles themselves. It can be tough to find that sweet spot with point-and-click adventures where they’re not too easy but also not obnoxiously difficult (or make no sense whatsoever). In Pixel Paul’s case, they definitely fall on the easy side. Part of me appreciates not having to spend several minutes (or even hours) wandering around the same few screens trying to figure out a solution, but the rest of me doesn’t find any of the tasks to be satisfying. Heck, even the most challenging puzzle I’ve come across (involving pressing panels in a specific order and looking out for snakes) wasn’t difficult to figure out so much as an arduous slog of recognizing patterns and then waiting (AGAIN) for the game to catch up to me.
Paul Pixel – The Awakening just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by so many other classic adventure games. Maybe I’m being subconsciously biased because Samorost 3 came out recently and it’s freaking fantastic. Or maybe I’m just not the target audience, and it’s actually meant for point-and-click newbies. I dunno. I don’t think Paul Pixel is necessarily a bad game, but it’s rough in some pretty unfortunate places.