There’s a cutesy retro look to Awesome Pea that somewhat belies its nature as a super-tough, unforgiving platformer. With the default graphical settings making the game look like a monochrome Game Boy game, albeit with a distorted CRT filter (the CRT filter can be removed, to give the game a cleaner visual appearance), it undeniably stands out in terms of its looks.
There’s little preamble here; you’re in charge of a bouncy, jolly-looking pea who needs to progress through stages for…reasons. These levels are accessed through a Mario World-esque overworld map and each is a relatively short but incredibly unforgiving platforming experience, with obstacles not unlike those found in Super Meat Boy – which seems to have been quite an influence on Awesome Pea. There are a number of different settings, including castles, moving trains and towers to ascend.
Your Pea protagonist can double jump and controls nicely, but one wrong move onto spikes, an enemy, moving obstacle or a projectile sees you catapulted back to the very start of the stage you’re on. That wrong move – which can happen right at the end of the level – can mean repeating the entire stage over again, which can be frustrating. To add to this frustration, the collision detection – particularly when it comes to projectiles and antagonist characters – can sometimes seem a little inconsistent. To add to this, there are certain stages that feel a little unfair in their construction; in particular, the levels where your Pea is falling and fireballs ascend, seemingly at random, with little warning.
Despite these problems, Awesome Pea does provide a mostly fair, albeit incredibly hard, challenge for those players who err on the masochistic side with their choice of game. It scratches the same kind of itch that the aforementioned Super Meat Boy does; levels are short and there is definitely a compelling urge to try to reach the exit despite the fact that you’re kicked back to the level’s start after one mistake. Though the deliberately retro, Game Boy-esque visuals are simplistic, they’re generally clear in terms of what is harmless background scenery and what is a lethal piece of foreground architecture, object or enemy; they do their job nicely and I couldn’t lay the blame for my repeated failures at the graphics; rather, it was either my fault entirely or, more frustratingly, the inconsistency with the collision detection that would lead to my demise. There are a few instances where it’s unclear how to proceed in a level, but this is less the fault of the visuals and more to do with the sometimes shoddy level design.
It should also be noted that – despite the already high level of challenge inherent in the game – there’s further challenge in trying to collect the treasures sadistically dotted throughout each level. However, attempting this in addition to just trying to reach each level’s exit is one for the true masochists out there.
With my biggest complaint about Awesome Pea being the occasional problems with collision detection – along with the level design issues that sometimes rear their head – it’s only really the level of difficulty that I’d highlight as being something you’ll need to be aware of before you take the plunge. Thankfully, there’s a decent-sized demo available on the eShop – and I’d recommend giving that a spin before spending your hard earned cash on it. The difficulty feels like it’s the most obvious element of the game that’ll determine how much you enjoy it – I did appreciate my time with Awesome Pea, but it’s definitely not a game that I can recommend without caveats.
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Developer: Sometimes You
Publisher: Sometimes You