Pixel Lincoln Preview

Basic setup of the game - Pixel Lincoln scrolling through the levels
Well, because of this blog and people that I have met through it, I occasionally I have the opportunity to do something cool.  This time?  I got to play a game of Pixel Lincoln with it's designer, Jason Tagmire.  Now, due to schedules and such, I only got to play a single game of it.  Because of that, I'm not going to call this a review (hopefully after the project funds on Kickstarter I'll be able to pick up a copy and do a review at that point) - this one is simply a preview so that you can know what's going on with the game when deciding if you want to back it on Kickstarter.

What is Pixel Lincoln?  I know that I was wondering this after checking out their campaign page.  It's a deckbuilding game based on a DS game, based on a different game??  What??  Well, basically, what happened is that Jason made a little game that he was showing off at conventions as a novelty, more than anything - kind of like, "hey, this is neat."  Well, a local (video) game development studio thought that it was cool and decided to make a Nintendo DS game from it.  That's pretty cool.  I don't know the details on that, but I think that it should be coming out sometime in the quasi-near future.  However, in the meantime, Jason got to keep playing around with this "Pixel Lincoln" character.  When doing so, he came up with the game that you see on Kickstarter.

So, a few game designers seem to have gained inspiration from classic video games recently.  I don't know that I can blame them - I played a ton of Nintendo games, myself, as a kid.  So, now we have Puzzle Strike, which is a Tetris/boardgame hybrid, BattleCon which is a throwback to Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter 2, and Pixel Lincoln. Instead of the fighting or puzzle genres, Pixel Lincoln takes its inspiration from the classic sidescroller.  It really reminds me a lot of the old NES game "Bad Dudes," because of the pixelation and the scrolling through levels to fight mini-bosses and bosses.  There's also an element of Super Mario Bros, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, and maybe even some Double Dragon involved.

Purposeful pixelation and over the top items
How does it feel like an old video game?  Well, obviously, the first thing is in the purposefully pixelated artwork.  But, the actual game is played in an interesting sidescrolling fashion.  There are levels that your character attempts to fight his way through - represented by cards that are in front of your character.  As you encounters each card (item, enemy or character), you must decide how you will deal with that card - do you want to jump over it (like in Mario), do you want to fight it (if it's an enemy), or do you want to purchase it (if it's an item or character)?  To start the game, you have a few jumps (which are worth $1 and allow you to avoid cards that you don't want to deal with) and a few "Bearderangs" (which are ranged weapons that deal 1 damage).  Any enemies that you defeat go into your score pile - and any items that you purchase go into your deck to be drawn later.  And, once you get to the end of the revealed cards, 5 new cards come out and you continue fighting your way through - just like having the screen transition in some of the old games.  (I can still see the end of the level for TMNT: The Arcade Game where suddenly Bebop shows up as a boss and you have to fight him.)

Really, the initial setup reminded me of Ascension, and I was very concerned that the game was going to be far too reactionary and chaotic. When we played, it was two player, so it might have some of that feel with more people playing.  However, in our game, I didn't have that frustration.  It's very odd - you are still reacting, but you have both more and less control as you react.  You have less control, because you have to react to every card in the line.  Yet, you have more control, because you can choose to end your turn instead of reacting to the card - thus prepping your hand to deal with that card on your next turn (or just jump over it, if you've got the right card).  It really just has a completely different feel than any other board game I've played.

Losing life is less common in Pixel Lincoln
Another game that I think it needs to be contrasted with is the Resident Evil Deckbuilding Game, though, they really work drastically differently in every way.  The main reason that I will make the comparison is that both of the games go for the "you don't know what you're going to encounter while exploring in the game" concept.  In Resident Evil, bluntly, this annoyed the snot out of me.  I would setup for an amazing turn, and then I would encounter some tiny monster that was barely worth any points.  Then, I'd have a pretty good hand - one that would kill everything but the final monster.  So, inevitably, I would run into the final monster and die.  In Pixel Lincoln, however, you get to see what's coming - at least the next few things that are coming.  And, when you get to "a new screen", you aren't forced to deal with any of those new cards immediately - you can end your turn and draw back up before resuming.  Plus, the boss is at the end of the level!  As life should be.

Now, one of the other hot words right now is "deckbuilding."  Yes, this is a deckbuilding game, but a lot of the traditional strategies and feel of "traditional" deckbuilding games (Dominion) isn't really in place here.  One of the main deckbuilding strategies is to get rid of all of your initial cards, since you will be buying better ones.  But in Pixel Lincoln, there aren't any jumps that you can buy (in the game we played at least), so you will need these initial cards all game, unless you intend to defeat/purchase every card you encounter.  Yes, you might be better off by getting rid of the Bearderangs, but that's about it.  And, there are still a few times that you can cull a few cards from your hand - when you encounter a "Level Checkpoint."  Notably, this is also when you deal with bigger bosses: the mini-bosses and then the final boss for the level.

Overall, I don't think that Pixel Lincoln is going to revolutionize the way that you look at boardgames.  However, I do think that it provides a fresh new game that gives a very different gaming experience from any other boardgame that I have played.  I enjoyed the game that I got to play of it, and I intend to get a copy of the final release.

Hopefully I've helped shed a bit of light on what Pixel Lincoln actually is, and helped you make a decision on whether this is a game that is worth funding on Kickstarter.  If not, I understand (after all, it's not my game), but if you're interested in supporting Pixel Lincoln, you can check it out the Pixel Lincoln Kickstarter campaign.


  1. The kickerstarter link at the bottom doesnt work for me

  2. Sorry about that - should be fixed now.