With the game industry ever growing and gaming now being mainstream, more and more people want to become part of it. Myself included. But if like me, you’d have the skills in creating a concept but not the knowledge to code it. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and game design is not different. For fact, it’s a difficult profession and one that requires a great deal of discipline and skill. Taking many years to develop the skills and even then you have to keep learning as the craft evolves. But it’s simple enough to start learning with plenty of tools now available and Pixel Game Maker has arrived on the scene after a spell in Early Access.
Can it be as successful and widely loved as its older sibling, RPG Maker? Let’s find out.

Pixel Game Maker is none other than an engine that allows you to create a video game similar to titles like DoorKickers and Claire. Pixel art games have become widely known for providing engaging gameplay, pretty visuals even low end pixel count and being assumed that they’re easy to make.

Now it’s rather difficult to look at Pixel Game Maker as the full package as to dive into the role of a game design, requires more than just putting pixels and code together. But I’ll get to that later.

As a tool to developer simple video games and even something a little more complex, this is a good bit of software. As a beginner, you’re taught everything step by step through a series of detailed tutorials that cover movement, piecing together tiles into an actual level and implementing logics to create cause and effect. Thus building together what would be an actual game. While it is broken up in to many easy steps, it will take some time to learn the core basics, then moving forward will require much more time and those hours will rack up massively. So this will require a bit of free time and patience. This isn’t any fault of the software/developers as games design can be a long journey and to learn it, this is the best way without an actual person teaching you.

The UI is clear enough to navigate through with some ease and finding what you need is nothing major. I will say that the UI is pretty cluttered if you’re using a single monitor and there’s not much you can do to adjust it. So it can be a little frustrating when having to move around a number of windows and not having a clear layout like RPG Maker or even something like Photoshop.
There are also still quite a few bugs within the software and usually in the games you make. Now this does happen, it’s common place in gaming as much as chips go with fish. The only problem I really have with this is the lack of information that is present when an error or bug rears its ugly head. Unity has a very information (and very annoying) error log which will inform you where the problem is. Pixel Game Maker just doesn’t inform you (or to best my knowledge – otherwise it didn’t inform you well).

But there’s no complexity in coding but rather fitting the pieces together which you’ll understand through the tutorials. So you can go back, tweak some stuff around and there’s not usually any grievous errors lurking if you keep track of things. But again it would be nice to have some information present in a tab that would help guide you. Also its most likely easier for myself and others who have studied game design and even do some work in it. I do QA and it’s my job to find problems but also resolve them. But for anyone who’s able to deconstruct and go back a few steps will have no trouble figuring out any issues.

For example, early on I was linking together the logic to allow my PC to walk, jump and continue walking. However the PC would walk, jump and stay in this mid jump animation after they landed. I figured I’d go back to the logic and make sure everything was looped together. It wasn’t and so I looped it.

This would be no problem for any medium or pro designer to uncover but a newbie will have very little idea on what’s going on. But that said, it’s a good way for someone new to learn a little problem solving along the way.

Pixel Game Maker is more so a collection of elements for you to put together. There’s a limit of code behind all the actions but you can craft interesting games from what is given. As mentioned previously, being a game designer is all about figuring out pacing, interesting level design and compelling elements such as engaging combat and puzzles. Pixel Game Maker does allow the novelist to begin their career and the Pro looking to experiment, a chance to create, refine and try out new ideas in a safe zone.

There’s a vast amount of tiles to create your worlds with with Sci-fi, Blade Runner inspired pieces being the main highlight, with a collection of fantasy tiles to create your very own version of the Witcher. You can indeed import your own assets to create something even more personal. Of course you have to sort that out yourself but for those looking just to make something, there’s plenty of assets to get you started.

Pixel Game Maker can be of high value for anyone wanting to try out a spell of game design, whether it’s a newbie or a pro game designer. There’s enough here to create and experiment right off the bat but also the capability to import your own stuff and make it work. Its simplicity does work both for and against Pixel Game Maker when you consider it’s easy to learn and immense yourself into. But also lacks some key features that more advanced game engines have. But this is a neat tool to make and learn from, but it’s best for absolute newbies to read up on the basics first.

++ Simple and effective game maker that's great for new comers
+ Plenty of colourful content to experiment and build with
- Clunky interface
- Lack of error and bug logs

A Steam review copy of Pixel Game Maker MV was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.