PigeonDev; PS Vita; £4.99(4 / 5)
Inspired by the 8-bit glory days of the original Nintendo Gameboy, Awesome Pea is a short, brutal, but nostalgic love letter to the platformers of yesteryear.
With an instantly familiar pixel-art aesthetic, the developer has also incorporated the monochromatic ‘pea soup’ colour palette of the early Gameboy hardware.
By default, the game even features artificial scanlines and a screen-morphing CRT effect reminiscent of ’80s television sets, although these can be turned off in the settings menu.
You play as a cute little pea navigating Awesome Islands, collecting coins and jumping over spikes, ripsaws, fireball-spitting frogs and flaming skulls. As with most classic platformers, story and context take a backseat, letting the gameplay do the talking.
The levels are varied and the visuals are striking. The chiptune soundtrack is catchy and sufficiently retro to keep you engaged as you tackle the jumps and tumbles on offer.
Controls are simple, too: Left, Right, Jump are all you need to worry about. But you will worry. A lot. Because Awesome Pea is hard as ‘effing nails.
Imagine if From Software had developed a platformer on the Gameboy. It would probably be something like this. The succesful trend with modern run-and-jump indies in recent years has been to make them super difficult. This game definitely ticks that box.
Awesome Pea is brutal in its playstyle, requiring you to learn constantly from your mistakes and remember the nuances of each level, replaying areas over and over again before you can nail that nigh-on-impossible leap with split-second timing.
Jumps require pixel perfect accuracy. The game is unforgiving in this respect and makes no apology, it has no checkpoints, but it does take pity on you by having an instant restart when your pea is reduced to mush.
The pea in question has the ability to double jump in mid-air and it’s in this fine detail where the devil lies. We spent several hours on one particular level convinced that the game was bugged, only to crack its mystery suddenly after dozens of aborted attempts.
After that eureka moment of finding the sweet spot, we were replaying the level just to beat our previous times. It’s this die-and-retry mechanic that keeps you coming back.
There are twenty five levels, set in varied locations that each provide plenty of challenge and replay value. Awesome Pea can never compete with much higher-profile indie platformers like Super Meat Boy or Celeste, but it’s still worth a playthrough.
This is a game built for speedrunning – by its very nature, its mechanics are easy learn but difficult to master. With a bigger audience this could prove a popular streaming title to watch players tear their hair out over.
The console launch of Awesome Pea gave us a welcome opportunity to dust off our PS Vita and it seems a perfect fit – mainly because handhelds like the Vita and Switch have a ‘suspend’ mode that allows you to take instant breaks, thereby avoiding console shaped holes in your living room wall.
If you’re a retro fan with a hardcore-platforming itch to scratch, we recommend checking out Awesome Pea. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you if your console ends up flying out of the window.