Axel & Pixel

Axel & Pixel

Axel & Pixel

More of the Samorost?

Fanged tadpoles, giant turtles with tank-treads for back legs, obese juggling beetles and magpies wearing pink toupees: Axel & Pixel's rolling countryside is a colouring-in book representation of Dante's milder cheese dreams. Settled in an esoteric circle somewhere between divine comedy and inferno, the scrapbook aesthetic combines photographic backgrounds with Terry Gilliam-esque creature animations to create something at once soothing and unsettling.

The effect is heightened by one of gaming's most exquisite ambient soundtracks, one that teeters between twee heartbreak and raw menace. This would also be an appropriate way to describe the game's premise, which has you directing Axel, a red bereted painter, and his chubby hound Pixel in pursuit of a rat that has stolen the keys to their house. Fail to catch him before winter sets in and Axel and Pixel freeze to death, a menacing fairytale chaser worthy of Grimm himself.

As in Samorost and other mute, ponderous adventure games of this ilk, your interactions with the gameworld flow through a magic pointer, used to prod the scenery and inhabitants to trigger micro-events. Poke a berry on a tree branch and it comes to life, swelling and ripening before your eyes. Click on it again and it drops to the ground for Axel to collect. Click on the upturned acorn-holder nearby and Axel will crush the fruit inside it. The resulting mulchy liquid can then be used on another item in the environment as you follow the elaborate puzzle sequence to its conclusion.

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