Even though Awesome Pea has the unmistakable look of an 8-bit Game Boy platformer, presented in gushingly glorious shades of grey and pea green (hence the unlikely hero), it feels a lot more contemporary.
This is mostly due to its overall level of difficulty. The set-up of one-hit deaths, infinite retries, and no checkpoints recalls such recent ‘precision platformers’ as Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV. Our spherical star has no means of attack either, armed with just a double-jump to elude the jaws of death. A nimble double-jump, at that – the controls are remarkably responsive, allowing the nameless pea to effortlessly change direction while mid-air. That’s a big old tick in a box right there, instantly making it clear that it’s more competently put together than other low price point platformers.
The world map is split into four locations, although you’d be pushed hard to tell – the first three worlds share the same backdrops. Before this comes to light, it did initially seem that Awesome Pea was all about variety. The level designs vary wildly from one stage to the next, each having a central theme. A surprising number of stages scroll vertically instead of horizontally too.
However, a distinct pattern soon emerges. The same level types are reused over and over for its entire 3-hour duration, doled out in a manner that soon becomes predictable.
There’s also very little variation within obstacles, with the same assortment showing up in every stage. Sawblades of varying sizes and speeds are the most predominate hazard, second only to spike-covered walls and projectile spitting frogs. Floating skulls are the only other enemy type, bringing the grand total up to…two.
Each world begins with a traditional platforming stage set in a forest. Even with a ‘the floor is lava’ twist towards the end, these stages are a breeze. They’re then followed by a jaunt along a top of a train – the stages we struggled with the most due to the restricted field of movement, which makes avoiding sawblades tricky. A few of these stages go on for so long (there are no checkpoints, remember) that our breath was baited as we victoriously leapt over the final obstacles. That’s to say, there is some risk/reward payoff present during the tougher stages.
There isn’t much to say about the short horizontally scrolling tower levels, except that we were disappointed by the lack of a Castelian/Nebulus style rotation effect. The downwards descents into dark caves are far more problematic, calling for leaps of faith and some trial and error due to the constant barrage of fireballs.
These stages are the biggest headache for those aiming for 100% by collecting every single coin and gem – it’s very easy to miss collectables by falling too far. During other stages, most collectables are within easy reach and rarely hidden.
Then there are stages set inside hazard-filled castles. These appear to be in lieu of boss battles, set over just a couple of screens but filled with pixel-perfect jumps and familiar warp pipes that transport to upper levels. After the train levels, these are the most difficult.
This brings us on the fourth and final world which, for reasons beyond us, is actually the easiest. In fact, world four’s stages are so short and simplistic that it would have served as the opening introductory world perfectly. It’s almost as if the developers simply lost interest by this point.
By recycling the same old hazards and reusing level types in a clockwork fashion, Awesome Pea never really ups its challenge, failing to introduce anything significantly new along the way. Coupled with a distinct lack of innovation, it can only be classed as mildly diverting.
We’d even go as far as to say the game’s presentation is easily its most noteworthy feature – the greyscale visuals are its only defining trait. Although the main character isn’t flamboyantly animated the sprite work is well drawn, there are optional CRT filters, and the chiptunes sound the part. We swear one track has a rift taken from Sonic’s Labyrinth Zone, which is no bad thing.
At a time when 2D platformers are a dime a dozen, appearing on the download services almost on a weekly basis, fluid controls and a nostalgic art style simply aren’t enough.