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Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is the rare beast that is often too simple for its own good and complex in all the wrong ways. It's a turn-based adventure game that might work with a mouse or touchscreen, but not an Xbox One controller. I want to re-roll for a more playable role-playing game. Rating: 57%
Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic
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  • Review Score:

  • C+
There are a lot of good things you can say about the Super NES version of SimCity, but having easy controls is certainly not one of them. As hard as Nintendo tried to recreate the look and feel of the hugely popular PC game, it just wasn't the same without a mouse and keyboard. Thankfully, we've come a long way over the last quarter century, with most games seamlessly transitioning from one platform to the next. At least, that's what I thought before playing Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic, a retro-inspired role-playing game so difficult to control that it brought back the bad old memories of trying to use a D-pad as a cursor in SimCity.

This is a port of an adventure game first released on computers and mobile phones in 2015. It takes inspiration from old turn-based RPGs, giving us a challenging roguelike full of 8-bit bad guys and punishing bosses. As a fan of old school games and turn-based combat, I went into Pixel Heroes ready to lose myself to the delicious nostalgia. But this throwback left me cold, constantly frustrated by the difficulty spikes and the terrible gameplay.


The idea is to assemble a party of three characters, each bringing an attribute that will help keep everybody alive as they fight through the various dungeons. Now that you've hired your crew, it's off to talk to the townspeople and take on quests. Here you'll be asked to travel across the map to an isolated location full of monsters. Fight through all eight levels, defeat the boss and then return back to the town for another quest. This is the loop you'll get stuck in until you either complete all the quests or die trying.

Although it's not structured like most games in the genre, Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic has all the hallmarks of a roguelike. This is the kind of game where if you die, you stay dead and have to start over from the very beginning. The good news is that you don't get a game over until all three heroes pass away, so as long as you can drag one person back to the town, you will be able to resurrect your friends and keep the adventure alive.

The battles are the very definition of basic, with each hero only given two standard attacks and two special abilities. We're able to equip a weapon on each hand, allowing the player to choose between using a magic sword, a flaming crossbow and so on. A lot of the special abilities involve attacking multiple enemies at the same time or healing a party member. The players and enemies will alternate turns, with the only catch being that you can't use the same character multiple times in a row.

Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic (Xbox One)Click For the Full Picture Archive

I have to imagine that Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is a lot of fun with a mouse or touchscreen, something that makes choosing attacks and managing your inventory easy and painless. But that's not the case with the Xbox One controller, which seems woefully unprepared for a game like this. Instead of getting the usual cursor, we cycle through the various menus with the analog sticks and D-pad.

The problem is that nothing works like you would expect. Cycling through the menus isn't only clumsy, but also frustrating by how illogical it is. Every aspect of this game is affected by the baffling gameplay, to the point where I actively hated equipping armor, buying items and using health potions. Everything that would be quick and painless with a mouse is turned into an aggravating affair because of the console controls.

It doesn't help that the game gives you no indication on how to do even the most basic things. There was a point early on where I was over-encumbered and forced to toss some of my useless items. The only problem is that the game doesn't tell you how to throw away items, and I spent a good five minutes pushing every button in a mad attempt to continue playing the game. This is just one example, but this kind of thing happened throughout my time with Pixel Heroes. Hell, it took me multiple deaths before I realized I could walk around the town and buy upgrades. This is a game in desperate need of an instruction manual.

Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic (Xbox One)Click For the Full Picture Archive

But even after I got used to the way the game handles, I could never get beyond the cheap difficulty. This is a game designed to start hard and only get more challenging the deeper you get. I can certainly respect that, but too much of the challenge feels random. You'll constantly get into situations where you have the wrong equipment or characters, giving you very little recourse beyond dying. Whether you like it or not, you're always being pushed forward, which makes getting into deadly situations likely. The limited amount of attacks makes it nearly impossible to plan for certain types of enemies, especially if one or two of your heroes have been killed already.

Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is the rare beast that is often too simple for its own good and complex in all the wrong ways. It's a turn-based adventure game that might work with a mouse or touchscreen, but not an Xbox One controller. I want to re-roll for a more playable role-playing game.
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