PixARK (Switch) Review
With all good video games comes a number of clones looking to capitalise on what is currently popular amongst the masses. Pokémon and Digimon brought a number of RPGs with Catch ‘em All style mechanics, Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds came before a wave of Battle Royale inspired games. Another on the list of games with their own wave of clones was Minecraft, and one of those titles that came in the wave was PixARK, which is now available on the Nintendo Switch.
The game is a spinoff of Ark: Survival Evolved. As that game was really not that great to begin with, and the Switch version itself was nearly unplayable. That should be warning enough to stay away from PixARK in itself, so the following review is basically going to list a variety of reasons to stay away from the game and not waste your time.
First up, the game is set up a lot like Minecraft in the fact that there’s no real story to it, and that it all takes place in a randomly generated world. From the outset, the player tests things out to see what works, explore the land and collect resources in order to craft bigger and better things over time. Minecraft had all of this down to an art, with a complicated yet easy to understand system. Where PixARK majorly fails in the most basic of elements is that every menu and crafting option is an absolute chore to get through.
The first thing that is abundantly clear upon opening the menu for the first time is that there has been next to no effort to optimise the menus for the Switch when porting the game over from the PC. With many games that feel like straight ports from PC, the text in the game is just too darn small. Many of the options within the menus are unclear as to what they actually do, and some of the options don’t even feel like they can be accessed due to the clunky design. When people speak about accessibility problems in games, they are talking like really basic stuff like this. My recent visit to the optometrist has shown that I have 20/15 vision and I still struggled to read some of the stuff on the screen, particularly in handheld mode.
In a game like PixARK, you just need to get the menus right. Most of the game takes place navigating necessary menus to customise your character, crafting items and organising inventory. To get it so poorly designed makes it unnecessarily bad. Using the touchscreen in handheld mode is a nice touch but doesn’t save it from being so bad.
Once I managed to navigate the menu and make my own character, I was ready to be dropped into a brand new world full of promising situations and places to explore. Unfortunately, I was dropped in some barren desert wasteland, and a short two-minute walk saw me meet up with some high level dinosaurs. Before I knew it, I was dead. I dusted myself off and tried it again and was met with the same fate as before. It took me a solid hour to spawn into a location where I wasn’t meeting my untimely end, it felt like I was part of some elaborate Russel Coight’s All Aussie Adventures stitch-up, but no, I just fell victim to awful world design.
Minecraft is a fantastic game, because they somehow managed to create a randomly generated world to explore without a high sense of danger and a gradual learning curve to ease people into the game. PixARK somehow manages to do the complete opposite at all times, forcing newcomers to learn the ropes quickly or just die constantly. I’m not even sure the word “chore” is enough to describe the absolute mayhem that went on in my brain at trying to survive in a game like this.
Another aspect which doesn’t go in PixARK’s favour is that the mechanics themselves are super clunky. Half of the time an object I thought I was aiming at to harvest ends up being completely intact while everything around it gets harvested. Similarly placing blocks, THE SIMPLEST THING YOU CAN DO IN A SANDBOX GAME OF THIS NATURE, is a nightmare. Placing and constantly picking things back up again just to place them again just needs to be right for enjoyment in these types of games.
Credit where credit is due, there are some good ideas in PixARK. Having to worry about more than just health, with temperature and hunger gauges also included to keep an eye on mean that you need to do more than crafting in order to live a healthy life. Looking out for food and shelter is a cool idea for a sandbox game, but what is the bloody point when the mechanics make it all too painful to enjoy? You can also level up, but I recommend against doing anything that will earn you experience, as in my playthrough of the game, my first level up left a level up message emblazoned over the top of my screen, permanently. This is not to mention that it actually covered up information at the top of the screen. I’m not even sure how this kind of flagrant disregard for basics makes it past the Quality Assurance process.
Another thing that’s also included is local and online multiplayer so you don’t have to be alone in your misery! Although, it’s hard to recommend to you that you convince your friends to spend actual money on this game. I breathed a sigh of relief when I accessed an online server and found no one in it, comforted by the fact that people are probably playing something better than this rubbish.
I’m sure that the game will receive updates over time, and it could possibly be a good game eventually. That will require a lot of work however, and the fact that the game released in the state that it did is mortifying. The game costs almost double of Minecraft and doesn’t contain half the fun. I’m not sure why the game exists outside of the idea that maybe some fans of Ark: Survival Evolved may also enjoy this for some reason. When the Switch gets almost 30 games every week, it’s easy to recommend that you open up the Recent tab on the eShop, pick a number between 1 and 10, and chance are you’ll find something better than PixARK.
+ There are some good ideas hidden in there somewhere
- So many broken elements
- Low level of accessibility
- You know? There's too many to name