Pivot Pilot Review
Slipping the tip through tight spots
Pivot Pilot is a puzzle-platformer where not only can you impale yourself on spikes, but you also get to control an easily-broken mechanical arm, doubling your chances of screwing up and getting really, uncontrollably mad at the game. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing with puzzle platformers, but a few aspects of Pivot Pilot drive that from a healthy, monitor snapping rage to a frothy, baying anger that will make the neighbors worry.
You play as a boy in some sort of weird facility, one filled with spinning cogs, laser barriers, machine guns, fiery pits, and spikes. The sort of place that safety inspectors go to and are never seen again. You have to navigate forty different stages of these dangers, all of them causing various degrees of frustration as you double jump and guide your mechanical arm through them.
Jumping around through these kinds of places has been done before, but the arm makes it special. It’s a three-part arm, and you can control different parts of it, shifting them to the left or right. This lets you bend and twist the arm in different ways, allowing you to guide it through the level and position it however you need to get past your next jumping puzzle.
It’s interesting to have a platform you can set up for yourself, and gives you what feels like a bit of freedom to play around with how you beat each level. However, the platform you can stand on, which is just the very tip of the arm, is extremely fragile, breaking on contact with any surface. If you don’t keep this in mind all the time, you will continually smack that thing against walls, breaking it and having to redo the level.
This might not be a big issue, but keeping how its three sections move in mind when you shuffle it around makes it hard. Moving each section left or right doesn’t sound hard, but once you’ve got one section all the way turned around (they can spin a full circle), will you remember what direction left or right will spin it? Will you be able to call it up when you’re about to get hit by a spinning cog that will kill your character or break the platform? If you do, you’re a better person than I.
It doesn’t help that your hitbox seems just a little bit too big. I often found myself getting clobbered when I felt like I had enough clearance. It’s only a slight difference, but I felt it often. It’s also a little frustrating that your character’s movements are a bit slippery, making the simplest jumps hard to pull off at times. It’s especially hard when jumping on the tip of the arm, as I almost always slipped off.
While these issues are frustrating, they result from mechanics that make the game stand out from other puzzle platformers. Trying to maneuver the three pieces of a mechanical arm while avoiding traps and hitting buttons keeps your mind very busy, forcing you to stay sharp as you play. Your doom can come from any number of angles when you have this many things going on, and the game does a good job of pacing new traps and problems throughout play. It can be irritating because it’s quite hard more so than from the slippery movement and over-large hitbox.
“aspects of Pivot Pilot drive that from a healthy, monitor snapping rage to a frothy, baying anger that will make the neighbors worry”
Just the same, if you aren’t in love with the three-part mechanical arm, there isn’t much to keep you playing. The visuals are sparse, offering variants on steel halls and mechanical facilities, and the techy-sounding music grows old after a time. It doesn’t look or sound especially impressive, showing most of the efforts going into the game’s varied, complex stages.
Slipping the tip through tight spots makes for challenging fun in Pivot Pilot. Yes, it can be scream-inducing when you move the arm one way when you’re expecting to move it another, or when you slip off a platform, or when you get hit when you feel you shouldn’t, but overall, Pivot Pilot feels like a fair challenge with a neat mechanic. Just one that will make you do damage to your electronics sometimes.