Pixel Ranger is a pixel-based shooting game where you’re a cowboy hell-bent on keeping flying creepy things out of the sky by any means necessary. It might not have real emotional heft, but it’s the most fun I’ve had playing an iPhone game all year.
Enemies flood the screen while you tilt your iPhone to the left or right to move. Tapping the screen fires your gun into the air. The catch is that your ammo and life run on the same meter — a pixel counter. When you shoot something, it explodes like a LEGO into a half-dozen little pieces. So using few shots to kill as many enemies as possible becomes the real goal. Pixel Ranger even keeps track of your multi-kill shots, and points them out as you go.
If you fire off a lot of shots and don’t hit things, you’ll run out of pixels (and life) fast. When you do it’s game over. It’s such an ingenious way to frame a simple shooting game, and it couldn’t be more fun to play.
There are only two modes — one raises the stakes in short little levels, while the other offers endless play, akin to an arcade cabinet. I can’t decide which I like best. The former is nice if you know you don’t have much time to play, but staying alive in the endless mode feels like true gaming triumph when you manage to stick it out a little longer on each playthrough.
If you like retro-style shooting games, Pixel Ranger is absolutely one of the best I’ve ever played. It’s fun, easy to get into and more rewarding each time you jump into it. Just don’t start shouting off cowboy-style phrases while you play. Your roommate might find it weird — not that I’d know anything about that.