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Ode to Pixel Days

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Rating: 3.9/5 (99 votes)
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Ode to Pixel Days

DoraIn Talha Kaya's artsy platformer Ode to Pixel Days, Hans believes retro isn't just a set of graphics... it's the key to winning the heart of the beautiful cheerleader who shuns him because he's ugly. Believing everyone would be happier if we all looked the same, he builds a magical machine that begins slowly downgrading the people of the world... after all, the only thing standing in front of true love is what's in the mirror, right? Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move and [spacebar] to interact when prompted. Ode to Pixel Days is definitely a personal experience, but it doesn't really feel like it becomes an actual game until the latter half when it incorporates more actual puzzles and platforming instead of just simply walking from point A to point B and squishing something along the way. It's a combination of elements that almost feels a little unbalanced, since if you're primarily interested in the story you can be put off by the fiddly bits, and vice-versa. But where some players will dismiss as being too artsy and navel-gazing, others will be able to appreciate it for the personal story it is and the remarkable amount of thought the developer has put into crafting and telling the tale. Cynical? Bittersweet? Still too idealistic? That's up for you to decide. But as a heartfelt expression of a personal journey, Ode to Pixel Days is worth experiencing.

Play Ode to Pixel Days


Speaking purely as a player and not as a reviewer, I was sort of hoping that the point of the game would be a bit more about

not putting people on pedestals. Hans loves the cheerleader because she's pretty, which is just as shallow a reason as her rejecting him because he's ugly. It's great to play a game where the emphasis is on self esteem and finding yourself, but there are so many games out there already about getting the gorgeous girl that I feel there aren't enough that deal with the concept of men viewing these women as trophies rather than actual people.

Were it not for the fact that this game was intended to be a personal story about a particular experience, I'd say it missed an opportunity to examine the other side of the equation... that of people getting hung up on the gorgeous girl or the handsome guy and then discovering that they're real people with real feelings and problems and not some golden idol, instead of turning out to be always shallow like the cheerleader here. The game SORT OF touches on this in a roundabout way when it says the cheerleader misses being different, but since for her that means "pretty and popular" she's still just two dimensional.

Admittedly, a game about a guy who twists the world to essentially force a girl to be in a position to fall in love with him because she has no other choice and then she has to fight to reclaim her individuality would have probably been drastically different in tone. It still made me sad when the in-game text mocked her for being useless and bouncy, because while there are certainly people like that, what does it say about Hans that he loves such a shallow character for such a shallow reason too? I wasn't completely rooting for him throughout.


This pretty game reminds me Small Worlds. And what is more, Ode to Pixel Days develop its conception in a philosophical sense.

Unfortunately there are no 6 mushrooms as a mark here...

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmg9uM_dtV_F2QNKat4cHAuN3IRTjuixn8 February 18, 2013 2:07 PM

So the moral of the story is

Ugly people should jump off of cliffs.

Just kidding.


I can't see to

get past Big Hans in the lightblub room


I agree, Dora. Also, the moral seems a bit muddled given that

Hans kind of commits suicide at the end.


I think I would have been floored if,

At the end of the game, Hans refocused into a completely non-pixelated photograph.


I agree with Dora.

I couldn't stand Hans. If he had the right to judge by looks, then so did the cheerleader! And if he kept asking her out and asking her out and asking her out even when she clearly wasn't interested, maybe it stopped being about his looks so much as about his creepy behavior.

He never even thought of her feelings. What strengths did he have to bring to the relationship? Was he funny? Smart? A good conversational partner? Did he have interesting hobbies or skills to talk about? Were there other girls at his school that might have been a better match for him? A lot of my friends at that age were awkward, funny-looking nerds, and they weren't doomed to a life of loneliness- they seemed happier than the rest of the school! Why? THEY PAIRED UP WITH EACH OTHER. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't wish Hans on an awkward, funny-looking nerd girl, either. It just says a lot about him that instead of looking around for other people to date, he's fixated on someone who doesn't even want to be around him.

And then the conclusion is that he's been treating her as a shiny pretty trophy... but he doesn't NEED a shiny pretty trophy, he can already be awesome! Nothing about how, um. Women are people.

I choose to believe that the narrator is unreliable about her, and she's not just jumping along stupidly, she's confused and horrified about why this is happening. And she also has a NAME.


Being trapped in a relationship with a controlling individual who trivializes the victim's emotions and feelings, and controls her comings and goings, but then sympathises with the abuser? All before he jumps off a cliff?

Wow, there's a winner of a video game.


To Dora and Hyena's points:

I saw the whole game as a lesson on the depravity of unchecked desire. When we continue to feed a fantasy that can never be fulfilled, that isn't love; it's self-centered greed. The developer kind of describes this, but, sadly, I think he may have missed even the most important point in his own life: find something bigger than yourself to live for! True love is about the other person and we tend to be happiest when our attention is diverted outward instead of inward.



I think this is what I enjoy most about art games, to be frank. :) Reading other interpretations. None of them are ever "wrong", even if they're not the messages the developer intended, because you're still sparking a reaction and emotion in the player, even if it's one you disagree with, and every interpretation is valid.


All matter of gender roles aside, I feel that the creator did hit the nail on the head.

I feel that the Idea of physical appearance was used as an example in this story as it's the one that people most identify with, sometimes it could be same interests / hobbies or dare I say sexual kinks that attract one to another.

I've chased the idea of being loved by someone for whatever reason and sometimes the harder I try, the faster they run... Even I must realize, If I blindly chased someone out of obsession and they eventually accepted me, I may eventually not want to be with them because I never took the time to get to know them, to know who they are on the inside. This is relationship disaster.

I think this game demonstrated this very well. We (as Hans) chase that what we think we want, but never know what it is we need since the idea of love never plays by any rules other than that of a primitive visceral instinct.

That's why I tend to think of relationships as building a camp fire. You have to start out small with tinder and shavings to build a stronger flame. The stronger the flame, the bigger pieces of wood it can handle. If you use a whole log on a weak flame, it will be smothered and eventually die.

But that's just me :P


I also feel that one of the key elements of the Art VS. Video games debate is:

Art is more of a subjective entity = "How does this painting make me feel"

Granted, art has this too but games need to be seen more objectively = "What was the message the creator was trying to convey? What feelings might they have had while making this."

Finally, knowing my emotional response, the creators feelings that went into the game and the difference between the two.

Again, just my opinion.


I can't seem to get past the room where it says "I think you shouldn't lose the box on this one." Am I not timing my jump correctly?


Ah, I figured out how to get past the place I was stuck.

Anyway, as far as analysis:

This game was not at all about suicide. When you become the original Hans again, the text says, "I don't think this castle can hold your dreams anymore." The castle was the falsehood, the overly analytical drama of adolescence, that Hans created to cope with his insecurities. Hans erased his individuality to the lowest common denominator (pixels) to get the girl to like him: he did what he had to do to fit in. Getting what he wanted didn't work out and as the game suggested, he missed the Old Hans. And now he is free of the walls he built with the valuable memory of what he learned from this experience. He abandoned the castle - the facade he built himself - that prevented him from being who he really was.

I think that in grade school, everyone liked the popular girl/guy because that's who they think they're supposed to like. (Until you figure out that "average" people are more attractive because they are actually unique.) So pretty much everyone goes through this as a teenager.

I didn't care for this game, it was a tedious to get this message across. Then again, it obviously made me think so that's certainly something positive!



I think what you're saying can apply to any media type, really. Some books aim to tell a straightforward story, some books aim to leave it up to the reader to interpret part of all of the content in their own way. Neither is better or more intelligent. They just are what they are. Some paintings are very straightforward, and some games thrive on "how does this make you feel?" (I'm thinking specifically of Yume Nikki and its assorted fangames, which have so much symbolism and so little direct information or obvious authorial intent that fan activity is almost entirely centered around trying to interpret stuff.)

But if someone thinks a piece of media might have some issues with sexism, then it's okay to talk about those potential issues, even if it seems like the creator didn't mean to be sexist. Prejudice is not always a person jumping up and down screaming that they hate the [insert slur of your choice]s. Prejudice can also be a person valuing one group of people more than another, and sometimes they aren't even consciously aware of it. When they create, sometimes these views can come out. Sometimes people can accidentally create a work that reflect prejudices they don't have, but this can still be bad because prejudice isn't just an individual flaw that some people have, it's a widespread problem with society that's often seen as completely normal. Even if someone didn't mean to be prejudiced, their work is still adding to all the media out there where one group is more treated as more valuable than another.

If we can only talk about prejudice in fictional works when the author clearly intended to be prejudiced, then we're missing the point of what prejudice is.

So if someone, say, makes a game where the male character's problem is poor self esteem because of his looks and also not being able to force a girl to love him, and the female character's problem is that a guy she doesn't like is changing reality to try to make her love him and in the process taking away everything that's important to her, and yet all of our sympathy is supposed to be for the guy... then you can like that game if you want. You can think of it fondly and experience real emotion while playing it and take something away from the experience. That's your right.

But if I think there's a gender problem and I want to point it out, I damn well have the right to do that, too.


As hyena eloquently points out, part of the appeal about art games is that they get people talking and discussing their interpretations. Talking about where we personally felt a game fell short, or a view that was only partially explored from one angle, doesn't mean I hate the game. It means I saw something else and a different potential in a game than its creator did, which is going to happen when you're talking about feelings on the vast sea of the internet where you have different people with different thoughts, emotions, and experiences... all of which impact how we view things. :) I think sharing and accepting that perspective, even if we don't all agree with each other, is important.


@ hyena

My apologies if you were offended, I have no way of knowing if "gender" is a deeply rooted issue for you.

I only feel for the protagonist because the whole game takes place inside of his head, and at the end of it, he changes his mind and leaves his fantasies behind. He learns that it wasn't the outter world but the world inside of himself that he needed to reflect upon, his morals and values and yes, even how he viewed women which he too changed. Is there and issue with gender in todays society? Yes, but both sides suffer from all angles.

In the epilogue of the game where the world is seemingly black and white, you are given a tiny bit of freedom to either walk away or pursue something that was not meant to be, and that's what I found most potent about the game. Everyone is subject to their our tribulations in life in one way or another, we have to strive to overcome them mentally otherwise we allow ourselves to be victimised by the world around us in any format.

When all is said and done however, one thing holds true, something that I live my life by
"No one can make me feel anything, I don't choose to feel on my own."

We are never devoid of choice.
even when bad things happen, we still have the choice to move on.

bluegriffin18 February 19, 2013 7:15 PM

Did anyone go to the extras button? The creator of the game explains The Meaning of The Story and Narration.


Sadly however, this is no longer about an artistic and meaningful game but about people who look for reasons to feel persecuted when there isn't any. Had the gender roles been reversed, I'm sure there would have been a vast difference in response.


Actually, Ruesiken, I would offer that at this point the only thing sad is that we have someone who is unwilling to simply say, "That's an interesting perspective I never would have considered myself" and instead chooses to attempt to invalidate the opinions of others in what comes across as a rude and dismissive fashion because they don't fit with their own.

Were the gender roles switched we would surely have had a vast difference in response, yes, because it would have been a vastly different dynamic. As it stands, the story features a man pursuing a woman he labels as shallow because she doesn't want him, even though the only reason he wants her is because she is beautiful. That is its specific plot, and that, not some hypothetical gender swapped version (again, which would have greatly impacted the dynamics) is what we are choosing to talk about as we feel relates to us and our own experiences.

As hyena and myself have said, there are many games out there that choose to represent women in a particular way, and by making a game essentially entirely about getting a girl as a good part of its structure, we both felt in different ways that there are other ways the game could have handled that aspect. You are, of course, free to disagree. All I would ask of you, and any of our readers, is that you do so in a respectful fashion instead of what could be taken as a passive-aggressive attack on two people who only offered up how they felt and why. Choice of words are everything, and discussion is only helpful if one side chooses not to go on the attack. :) We welcome and encourage all open-minded discourse on the site, whether players agree with each other on every topic or not. Respectfully, all we ask is that we all treat others and their opinions as we would ourselves want our own to be.


To be honest, after my playthrough, I was confused with the last screen. After reading the extras, it made a whole lot more sense - and I was able to see how the author's intention got through.

As I thought back on it though, something else nags on me:

It is the simple fact that despite the imaginary setting the author preludes to, Hans still understands the cruel reality of the entire situation.

The way that this game is set up is that this all takes place in Hans' imagination - or basically, a dream. A dream that he, in theory, should be able to control and be master of.

But in this dream, Hans must know deep down inside how superficial his crush (both Hans' feeling and the cheerleader herself in this context) must be. At the beginning of this game, Hans probably was unwilling to admit that either his feelings or his target of affection is superficial.

For me, I feel that Hans imagined that machine not necessarily to make him and the cheerleader the same - instead, the machine was more intended to allow both Hans and the cheerleader to strip their 'appearances' and judge each other based on their 'personalities' - how real affection theoretically should be done. While it had the unfortunate side effect of making them into the same 2 pixels, it is only then when Hans really understood how shallow his feelings are. This is why the castle starts breaking down with pillars crashing down on you after the cheerleader runs away - Hans (at least by the narrative, which should be interpreted as his consciousness) realizes how be really feels about the cheerleader (instead of his superficial crush).

To be fair, I really can't find myself to criticize Hans. Yes, he was wrong to try and force the cheerleader to be with him, and he was wrong to criticize someone of being superficial when he is superficial himself. But... that is how a crush works. Crushes need no rhyme, reason, or logic. Many crushes are superficial at best, and people have a bad tendency of confusing it with real love. And sometimes, like in the case of Hans, people will do anything just to get their crush return some signs of affection.

I suppose, though, that this means that Hans ultimately decided to face his reality instead of escaping into imaginary fantasy - and we all know that there are people who would prefer to remain in their fantasy. I suppose that this is the symbolism behind the castle - it is a place where you can remain 'safe' - at the cost of your 'freedom'. Breaking the castle and killing your old self is a dangerous thing, and takes a lot of work (reflected by the increased difficulty during the latter half of the game) - but doing this will allow you to be free to make your own choices - and allows you to see the reality of the world. Even if that reality is as cruel as the person you are interested in doesn't even acknowledge your existence.

This game is quite thought provoking, and reading some of your comments have made me think about the game under different contexts. Interesting play :)

inheritance.fan February 20, 2013 3:56 PM

I'm stuck at the "Better not lose the box on this one" puzzle.

inheritance.fan February 20, 2013 4:07 PM



To quote Dora: "Were the gender roles switched we would surely have had a vast difference in response, yes, because it would have been a vastly different dynamic.

Do you not find this statement in itself sexist? Would it not imply that the double standard holds true: ie "It's ok when a woman does it, but when a man does it, it's wrong."

Sadly we will never agree on this topic, that's just how it is.


That isn't what I was saying at all. If gender roles and thus the dynamics were reversed, we would have to be talking about an entirely different plot in a vastly different way with its own set of issues. I would still have problems with it but I would not be making the same complaints about it I am now, because the current game we are discussing is about something entirely different your hypothetical game. I apologise if you misunderstood me.


After taking much time to reflect upon this situation, (because my hot headed passion seemed to have gotten the better of me) I realize while trying to make a point, I started playing the game "Who's Right?" and when someone plays that game, all parties suffer. as Jimmy Stewart says "there are two types of people in this world, those who are right, and those who are pleasant." My overall less than pleasant tone was passive aggressive and for that I too apologize.

I understand your point of view that when a man chases a woman for her looks and then dismisses her because she no longer interests him, I agree with you, it's very shallow and happens all too much beyond the game and in real life.

My thought, which perhaps I so poorly conveyed was on a larger scale beyond that of this game. Perhaps when we as a society, stop looking for injustices where they were never intended, maybe then the healing process of humanity can begin. I base that not just off of negative connotations like sexism but that of racism and bigotry.

we may not agree, we may not see eye to eye, which is fine. That's part of coexisting. I feel that continuing to debate or "argue" is moot at this point since I'm not out to make enemies or piss anyone off. This was never my intent. So for that I offer my apologies to you, Dora and Hyena.

With that, let's call a truce,
and do what we've come to "Jay is Games" for, to play some great games that perhaps can cause some more meaningful discussions.

I promise I'll keep my passions in check :)


I don't think either hyena or myself were "looking for injustices which were never intended". :) I personally said that I felt the game had missed an opportunity to explore another facet of the relationship it was portraying. We have so many games where "guy chases girl" or "guy chases girl, but turns out guy didn't need girl anyway" that it would have been nice to have seen a game that offered another perspective. That's all. :)

I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that a game caused you to think about issues you personally have experienced, or to examine underlying themes. I would personally offer that the healing process of humanity might be better begun when we accept that those around us might have their own reasons for their feelings and start looking at the "why" rather than offering up reasons why they shouldn't be offended. Words win wars, move continents, change hearts, and change perspectives. It's what we've got.

Regardless, apology accepted. :) We love passionate discussions here. Just remember to keep an open mind and a thought that everyone else is, and has just as much right to be, as passionate as you are too even if you don't agree.


I think it would be just as wrong, in real life, for a girl to obsess over a guy that didn't want to be with her, try to force him to date her, and trivialize his feelings... or for a guy to do the same to a guy, or a girl to do the same to a girl. When anyone does these things, they are bad.

BUT the version shown in the game runs into some particular biases about men and women and relationships that are real biases people can have- pretty women are the only women who matter but the ones who want pretty men are shallow, men struggling with loneliness and rejection are more sympathetic than women struggling with unwanted attention, beauty standards shouldn't matter when the potential couple is an unattractive guy and a pretty girl (but there's rarely the same push for unattractive women to be taken seriously as potential partners), women are status symbols for men, etc. With the genders reversed, I'm pretty sure I'd have still said something, but it isn't exactly the same.

(And yes, I'm aware that there are biases out there that are harmful to men. I'm not the best person to understand them, but I think discussion on those would be a positive thing, too.)

I've read the developer's statements and I don't think he's a bad person. He seemed like he was focusing on Hans' need for self-acceptance over everything else, because it was a very personal game, at the expense of any focus on Cheerleader's feelings. I don't think he meant to be sexist, and his response made me feel like he's willing to learn from the parts of this game that came out unfair. I think this is a good ending all around!

But I wasn't looking to get offended, I was looking to goof off and play a cute pixel game. "Wow, that's pretty sexist" was the natural reaction that I had. I personally believe in trying to be aware of prejudice and discussing it openly. But that's just me. If other people don't want to be part of those discussions, or if they have conflicting opinions, that's really okay! I just don't like being told that my opinions shouldn't even be expressed.

Thank you for apologizing, Ruesiken. I'm also not looking to debate any further, I just wanted to clear up how I felt. But in the future, please keep in mind that people with different opinions from yours aren't just being difficult for no reason?


My own two cents.

The gameplay:

I thought the puzzles (even late in the game) were easy. It never took me more than a few tries, even to defeat the final boss. The whole game can be finished in about 20 minutes. Obviously, if you're looking for a difficult or gameplay-centric game, don't look here.

That being said, I'm glad the gameplay was so simple, because that allowed the game to maintain its focus on the story and the mechanics to enhance the narrative.

The story:

I loved it! I thought it was a brilliant way to tell the personal growth story I've seen time and time again. The idea of making everyone "the same" via sprites with fewer pixels was an interesting one. The narrator, though, was my favorite part of the story, especially when he/she started talking directly to Hans.

My personal interpretation: The entire story took place in Hans's imagination, and the jump at the end signified the act of letting go of something he could never have. The part of the story where they became two pixels was the part where he realized that neither one of them would be happy if they were together anyway. He would see her as annoying, a burden, but hold on to her- and even chase her as she ran away- because he worked so hard to make their "romance" a possibility. She was the one who saw through the denial first, and her running away could be seen as a metaphor: Hans was the one running away from the fact that he was clinging to false hope.

Also, to be with her, they would both have to strip away their personalities (becoming two pixels). Ironically, the one who wanted their individuality back was the girl he though had no personality in the first place. Hans, meanwhile, accepted who he was only after realizing how miserable he was when he was pretending to be something he wasn't. That process wasn't entirely his doing; most of it actually came from the girl leaving him. But Hans had to face himself and complete the journey on his own.

TL;DR: I thought this was a wonderfully well-thought-out narrative.

Also, my response to the debate above: I actually didn't see any problems with the gender roles in this game, because I've seen (and, I'm loathe to admit, experienced) this type of superficial crush in both directions, including the equally superficial rejection. It didn't matter to me that Hans was a boy and his crush was a girl. Talha Kaya could have swapped their genders, kept everything else the same, and the story would have been just as believable to me.


I was enjoying (maybe not quite the right word for a morality tale) the game until I rage-quit after failing a level about 10 times.

I found the gameplay to be too difficult toward the end (? not sure whether I was near the end when I quit). I couldn't get through the

level with
"Hans, I feel something dangerous. Just keep walking no matter what." I found it too tedious and too finger-hurty to keep trying to get past the obstacles, so I gave up.

I don't mind an art game having puzzles, but I don't think it should ramp up the physical skill level to the point where some less skillful or maybe less tenacious players won't get to experience the entire story.


About two and a half years ago I played this game and had gave my thoughts in the comments. Sadly things got ugly and this was the one post I made on JIG, that had such a backlash, that it never really sat well with me.

I've decided to revisit this game and see if I feel differently about the game or the message it was trying to convey since gender identity and gender politics are more relevant today than ever.

After playing through it it seems that I still hole my original opinion. This game is not offensive, but to further analyse this we need to suspend our personal subjective ideologues for a moment and strip away the gender roles of the characters, since they could easily be swapped and the message stay the same.

I will retell this story using shapes in place of genders.

Once upon a time Triangle was in love with Square but because the sum polarity of society deemed that having more points is of higher social standing. Square did not return the affection. Triangle was destitute and dreamed of living in a society where everyone was equal. (A sensible dream for us all to agree on, I'm sure.) So Triangle created a machine to reduce everyone from a 2 dimensional entity to a one dimensional entity. At first it seemed great since everyone was now a line and appeared the same. Triangle soon realized that it's not how many sides or points one has, but who they are on they choose to define themselves. The machine was reversed and the greatest trial yest was for Triangle to accept itself for the shape it was. In the end it decided to free itself from it's preconceived notion that having more points is better, it had to open up and fly away into a new horizon of thinking in order to find the happiness in itself. (the castle representing the construct and limitations of one's mental barriers)

So the game is really about equality and how we should each see within each other something more valuable and precious than what we see...
No one was ever remembered for their looks or gender but for the mark they left on the world. Offence is never given and only taken. For anyone who every found this innocent game offensive, then you really need to look within yourself and discover what it is about your life that isn't working for you. Much Like Hans, once you accept you for who you are, then nothing else really matters.

"The only measure of your words and your deeds, will be the love you leave behind when you're done" - Fred Small's: Everything possible


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