Pixel Gladiator – Review
Follow Genre: Tower Defense
Developer: Flying Islands Team
Publisher: Xitilon
Platform: Switch, PC
Tested on: Switch

Pixel Gladiator – Review

Site Score
Good: Attempts to fit into a niche with side-scrolling gameplay
Bad: Utterly boring
User Score
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 2.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Pixel Gladiator is a sci-fi themed spiritual successor to 2015 indie darling, Kingdom: New Lands. Tower defense games are plentiful in the world of video games, but there are not a lot of them that are played as side-scrollers. Pixel Gladiator attempts to fit into that niche. It seems like the developers felt the novelty of a lesser-used take on the genre would be enough for an interesting game, but as it turns out, Pixel Gladiator is an exercise in blandness.


There’s no story to be found here. In fact, you’re just dropped in the game with not even the simplest explanation of the mechanics. Some of the mechanics, including something as simple as getting your avatar to face the other way, are implemented in a very counterintuitive way. It’s really strange that there are not even a few paragraphs of text that explain not only the mechanics, but the setting as well. The weird thing is that the developers do have a backstory for what is happening in the game: you’re a participant in a gladiatorial TV show in the future, and the money you earn from killing enemies comes from the viewers. This is never explained in the game though, so unless you’re actively looking up the information, you’re left utterly confused as to what is going on here. 


A selection of sickly green backgrounds, neon pink visors, and drab enemies make up the majority of the color palette here. Everyone has their personal tastes of course, but as far as we’re concerned, this is just an ugly game. Sprites look flat and lifeless, with very little in the way of adding any semblance of character to either the avatar or the shambling hordes that attempt to attack your base. 


As you’d expect, retro synth music is what you’ll hear while playing Pixel Gladiator. Each of the stages is accompanied by its own music track but they’re essentially interchangeable, with none standing out. The music tries to add a sense of urgency to the stages but fails to really stick. The result is a soundtrack that feels like it tries too hard, yet contributes to the overall blandness of an already mediocre game. 


Despite what the title suggests, Pixel Gladiator has very little to do with gladiatorial combat. In essence, you’re looking at a tower defense game. The goal is quite simple: you need to protect your base from increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Killing enemies earns money which can be used to purchase weapon upgrades and better defenses for your base. If either your base is destroyed or your avatar is killed, it’s game over. There are multiple arenas to test your skills, as well as an endless mode where the aim is to survive as many waves as possible. Online leaderboards seemingly provide an incentive to keep returning to the game, but with a game that is this bland and boring, there’s very little reason to come back. This is were Pixel Gladiator’s biggest flaw lies. There’s very little variety in the game. You’re pretty much replaying the same level over and over again. You could argue that it’s a tower defense game, but there are plenty of other titles in the genre that prove that it’s very much possible to implement variety in a game like this. 

Initial impressions of the controls are that everything is smooth, but that impression falls apart once you get to grips with aiming mechanics. Angling your arc of fire is an exercise in frustration. For some inexplicable reason, the game uses a double joystick setup where you need to switch between sticks based on the direction that your avatar is looking. If your avatar is looking to the left, you’ll need to use the left joystick and vice versa. Since there is no tutorial or even a basic explanation of the mechanics, you’re left figuring this out by yourself. It feels unnecessarily complicated and counterintuitive. Had the game’s controls been fully built around this mechanic, it could’ve been interesting, but the way it’s executed here adds nothing to the game. 

There was an attempt to add some variety by changing up the layout of the three arenas. Out of these, the second arena is the more interesting one, as it has enemies attacking from the air, as you jump around between platforms. Make a mistake and you plunge to your death. Unfortunately, even adding different arenas doesn’t offer enough to keep the game interesting for very long. Eventually, bosses do show up and these offer a bit of a challenge, but something feels off about them -whether intentional or not, shooting a boss doesn’t always seem to register. It’s not clear if this was done to make bosses feel more “challenging” or if this is just because of faulty hitboxes but it’s unfun and frustrating. 


There’s very little reason to care about Pixel Gladiator. There’s no story to draw you in, the graphics are unappealing and the gameplay is mediocre at best. We can’t imagine anyone sitting through the repetitive boringness of the stages over and over again in an attempt to put their name on the leaderboard. If you want a good tower defense game, look elsewhere, because this snoozefest isn’t worth your time or your money.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 2.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Pixel Gladiator - Review, 2.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.