Pickaxe and Cannon Crasha: 2 beautiful pixel art retro games for Android
Few thought that pixel art would have any future in the age of 3d graphics and powerful hardware, yet this form of designing games (especially) still has a strong following. Minecraft proved it in 2009 that gamers still want and like the retro look of pixel art. Considering that Minecraft brought about $360 million in 2013 alone, I’d say that pixel art has a bright future ahead.
What is pixel art? For the newer generation that missed the first console games in the early eighties, pixel art basically represents the creation of images editing pixel-by-pixel and limited usually to 256 colors. By contrast, the new modern generated graphics can have up to 4.2 billion colors. Quite the difference technically. For the older generation, pixel art games represent a fountain of youth, everytime I play a new game that uses pixel art I think of the first time I played Super Mario – I’ve had sex at least once in my life (I can prove it, I have a son) but I tell you that first encounter with a pixel art game was better.
Here I am older and presumably wiser (can’t vouch for that) with a young soul that still craves for pixel art games.
That’s why when I’m given the opportunity to test one I have a brighter day. It is the case of two recent games for Android that brought back some memories for the way they look: Pickaxe and Cannon Crasha.
Pickaxe is a free tap-to-mine game developed by a Brazilian company. I mentioned the nationality of the developer to show that, even if they had a major football event (World Cup) and they have some of the nicest beaches in the world, this developer still had time to create something cool. My productivity during the World Cup was lower than that of Colorado residents during the first week of marijuana legalization. I did have time to create a quick tutorial on how Pickaxe is played:
Pickaxe’s idea is very simple, you are given a series of items such as bricks, rocks, sandstones and you have to tap on those to mine what’s inside. For every tap you make you’ll get some coins ($) and once in a while you get to discover precious stones (i.e. diamonds). You can use the money you get and the precious stones to buy upgrades, increase your chances of getting more for your tap and so on. Basically Pickaxe is a mining simulator, with you handling the pickaxe. Here’s what I like about the game:
- Quick start. Right from the moment you start the game you can play it. No things to change, no options to adjust, nada. The game starts and the dashboard is the actual game arena, the central item being the rock you have to mine. That’s what I call a good KISS application, keep it simple as users just want to play not to figure out what color should a character be.
- Easy gameplay. You just tap, that’s the main action in Pickaxe. You tap on the rock and you can see it progressively being mined. The game is dead-fast too so you don’t waste time, you just tap.
- Pixel art. That’s my second favorite thing in the game, its design. The design shows that the developer allotted a lot of time just for this purpose as everything “screams” pixel art. From the tool you use (a pickaxe if the title didn’t ring a bell) to the environment, everything creates that retro style atmosphere I, and many 30+ something gamers, like.
- Upgrades. Here’s the deal, your pickaxe has a certain mining power. The items you mine have a certain mining resistance. To mine them, power > resistance, so your pickaxe has to be upgraded everytime a new mining item is shown. To upgrade your pickaxe you have to have coins, which you get by tapping. Other upgrades are available too, for instance you can improve the probability to find diamonds, that for getting more pickaxe power and so on.
The game is available for free on Google Play and doesn’t show any ads. That’s another of its strong points. It includes an in-app store where you can purchase coins/diamonds to upgrade faster, but that doesn’t restrict in any way the overall usability of the game. You can still play it very well and upgrade on your own.
As far as things I don’t like about the game, I’d only mention the learning curve for the upgrades. While it’s very easy to start playing the game right away and upgrade, a quick guide on why you need to upgrade your pickaxe would be excellent. Not a show stopper though, as you can learn that fast enough by yourself.
My recommendation? Try this game if you’re a fan of the type/style in Pickaxe. If you’re into “modern graphics/glowing-bubbles crap” things then you have a lot of those in the appstore.
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“Cannon Crasha” is the second pixel art game that caught my attention. First of all, it’s not a typo, it was the dev’s decision to put Crasha instead of Crasher (probably to give it a hint of uniqueness to avoid having a washed up brand). Crasha/Crasher/Destroyer, the second name is of little importance as long as in all instances you realize what the game is about, destroying with a cannon.
The story is very simple, 2 castles, 2 cannons and one goal: DESTRUCTION. You control one of the castles and you have to destroy your opponent with a large cannon – to be fair both cannons are large so it’s not a fight of “who’s is bigger”. But you do need skills because the game is complex. You can buy upgrades for your ammunition, defense but also have ground troops and spells. So accuracy for shooting your cannon is not the most important skill but a great tactic is. See below how awful I am at physics calculations:
The core gameplay is moderate as far as difficulty goes, given that you have to estimate the trajectory of your cannon ball and take into consideration how the wind blows. On top of everything you have to micro-manage a ground attack by creating soldiers, upgrading them as well as upgrading your arsenal and learn spells. So “Cannon Crasha” is quite complex and will capture your attention if you’re a fan of this type. Not only that I love this style, but I like the pixel art graphics they have. Much more complex than “Pickaxe”, given that you have castles, cannons, troops, different environments and so on.
Here’s some of its features structured in a list:
- 40 different levels. The game has 4 different worlds when you play in Campaign mode and each of those has 10 different levels. Plus you can replay levels if you want to achieve mastery.
- Interactive comics. Cannon Crasha is also full of witty dialogues and comics throught each campaign. That adds to the fun as it makes the game (even) more enjoyable.
- 3 game modes. You can play in Campaign mode where you fight against the AI over 40 different levels, Arena mode where you basically train and 2 Players mode (fight against a friend in multi-player mode only on tablets in split-screen). Campaign mode is my favorite as I find the 2 Players mode difficult to focus since you basically split the screen of the tablet.
- In-game store. Yes, just as we’re used to in games you gather coins and with those you can purchase upgrades. These can be either visual upgrades that have no influence on the gameplay (vanity store) but also consumable items. Also, during each fight you get to upgrade ammo, troops, spells and so on.
- Achievements. Everytime you achieve something you also unlock rewards – not to mention that if you’re fine with your highest score you can share that via Google Play Services in an online leaderboard.
- Custom soundtrack. This is quite catchy, an unique mix of chip-tune & orchestral music really puts you into a fight mode.
- Detailed pixel art. Yes, this is the motherload in terms of pixel art design since every detail was thoroughly edited – they also added Easter eggs here and there.
The game is clearly a winner if you take into consideration the fact that its iOS release achieved praise from important publications such as Kotaku. I can see why given its complexity and attention to detail. The only downside is the fact that for free you can only play the first few levels. However, for a mere upgrade fee you can unlock everything and it’s not as if the fee is more than 1 digit. But that’s how people are, pay $20 for a movie ticket with up to 2 hours of entertainment and say what a great deal, pay $1 for 20+ hours of entertainment for a game and that’s “outrageous”.
I highly recommend “Cannon Crasha” as I still have fun with it from time to time.
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What’s your opinion on pixel art games? Even better, know any games that I’d enjoy, given my thoughts above? Feel free to join the discussion by adding a comment.