Point-and-click adventure games have been enjoying some reasonable popularity on the Xbox Live Arcade service as of late with classic titles such as Sam & Max and The Secret of Monkey Island. I’ve always enjoyed this genre but have never really appreciated them fully until recently, which was why I was quite excited when 2K Play released Axel & Pixel onto XBLA.
Axel & Pixel is a family friendly adventure title set in a dreamy fantasy world. Axel, the artist, and his adorably overweight dog Pixel, fall into a deep slumber which transports them from their snowy cottage to a dreamlike land where a nasty rat that blows up their home. Your quest is to follow the rat to obtain the keys he holds and exit the dream world, as well as grab on artistic inspiration along to way for Axel’s next masterpiece.
Spanning 24 chapters, Axel and Pixel is a short adventure title that can easily be completed in an afternoon. The puzzles are not extremely challenging and I only ended up using the handy hint feature 3 times throughout my playthrough. Each level, bar 3, is a full screen spread which can be zoomed in and out of and explored. You control a sparkling cursor which highlights yellow over places of interest. A pencil means you have found inspiration for Axel’s latest masterpiece, a paw means only Pixel can interact with the object and a hand is a general action indicator.
There are a variety of collectables obtainable on most of the levels; these include Bones, Paints, Inspirations and Paintbrushes. Pressing back on the control shows the timer, inventory and what items you have collected so far. Any item marked by a gold star means it is still hiding somewhere in the level making it easier to revisit levels to check what you have missed.
Breaking up the point-and-click sections are 3 mini levels that can also be unlocked as mini games on the main menu. These levels include driving a bouncy car over dangerous ground, flying around in an air balloon through a cave and floating on a stream avoiding small whirlpools. They really help change the pace of the game and take a bit of practise to perfect.
The game boasts a gorgeous soundtrack setting the mood to each piece of art presented on screen. Whimsical art style the game boasts is a hybrid of photorealistic and hand drawn creatures and environments. Axel and Pixel however, take a more cartoonish style and are well animated throughout the adventure. Both characters only emit random noises rather than actual dialog, which I ended up happily humming along with Axel as he left each level, smiling as he mutters confused noises when you select the wrong item and giggled as Pixel runs around the map barking while you try solving the puzzles.
Axel and Pixel is certainly a fun bite size title well worth a look into. While the game only fault is how short and easy it is for a veteran adventure gamer, it exudes so much charm and winsomeness (Editor – Is amazed that is actually a word) that it is practically impossible to play it without a childish grin on your face. From the fanatical art style to giggle n’ grunts from Axel and his companion, this is certainly a step in the right direction and a great introduction into the point-and-click genre. I just hope Axel & Pixel return to our consoles in another adventure.