Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Imagine a red-cloaked figure riding a bike with a tiny passenger in the front basket. Behind them is the moon so huge in the sky the shadowy forest landscape becomes even darker by comparison. Basically, imagine E.T. Now add sloppy bike controls and unfair deaths. That’s Pippa & Dips.
When an evil witch with little creativity starts kidnapping children, a young girl named Pippa and her dog Dips venture into the dark and dangerous woods on a rescue mission. The child protagonist, silhouetted visuals, and surprisingly gruesome deaths obviously recall Limbo. However, the physics-sensitive bike controls feel like someone dropped Trials into a 2D platformer, and the results are mixed. Riding a bike changes how players need to approach typical hazards, like moving platforms and oncoming enemies, in new and interesting ways.
However, the controls themselves are so slow and awkward that any cool ideas are quickly smothered by a barrage of countless frustrating deaths. Jumps are hard to coordinate, hitboxes are punishingly large, and successfully accelerating is almost impossible even with the unlockable upgraded bikes. Meanwhile the one offensive ability, a super-powered bark, takes so long to activate players need to whip it out well before any enemies show up onscreen. Careful, well-timed movements would then seem to be the answer, as evidenced by the fair amount of checkpoints. But the game also has an inexplicably strict time limit. Players can find bonus time, as well as other helpful items like a protective gorilla suit, but these conflicting design elements suck a lot of fun out of the experience. It’s too bad because with 14 lengthy levels, Pippa & Dips could have had a lot to offer.
Players that muscle through will find a few bright spots though. While the dark and moody art style is mostly composed of generic black boxes, and is definitely less polished than many other games with similar looks, it still creates an effective and grim storybook atmosphere. Standout background details included a deadly spinning wheel of skeleton arms holding swords and level exits made of hangman nooses. The spectacularly spooky, Danny Elfman-esque soundtrack also does its best to elevate the middling material.
But at the end of the day, Pippa & Dips just isn’t very fun. Something is very wrong when it feels better to just let the evil witch keep the kids.