This is the one hundred eighty-eighth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Our one hundred eighty-eighth random selection from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality is bouncing into view. It’s Pichón! by Red Mage Games, and its tagline in the bundle reads:

Help Pichón bounce from platform to platform to get the gems and escape f…

Sometimes you just have to roll with the bounces.

Pichón! describes itself as a puzzle platformer, but it doesn’t really have puzzles per se. It’s more that its challenges arise from safely navigating its levels, which have a lot of spiky hazards and switches and such. And navigation is made trickier by the fact that the titular Pichón (Spanish for squab) is constantly bouncing. Players cannot actively jump, only move left and right, so the “puzzle” is working out how to manage the Pichón’s bounces so it doesn’t careen off into danger, and only touches down in safe spots.

The levels rely on several 2D platformer standards to create their challenges. Bounce pads launch Pichón upwards with more power than a normal bounce, letting it reach new heights. Slimy floors dampen its bounces, letting it move through cramped areas without bouncing right into their spiky ceilings. There are multiple types of blocks that break after being bounced on, and switches that toggle color-coded blocks in and out of existence. These are all things that platformer veterans will recognize from classics of the genre, but navigating them as a constantly bouncing bird feels new. Sometimes, the deadliest obstacle is simply a clear patch of ground, since it will send Pichón hurtling upwards when that’s the last thing players want.

The challenge escalates quickly. The first few levels are simple, just showing players how to bounce around, but soon enough there are swathes of spikes and lava that require some very precise bouncing to navigate. Fotunately, restarts after a failure are quick, although they often require repeating a short section of the level. Players’ performance is graded by how long they took to clear the stage and how many times Pichón met an untimely demise, but neither of these actually matter for those who are just trying to clear the levels. Pichón has unlimited lives, and can take as long as needed to clear a stage without having to start over. The ratings might entice players to revisit earlier levels again, however, as otherwise Pichón! is a rather short offering. With twenty levels that only last a few minutes each, it’s easily finished in a single play session.

But it will be an enjoyable session! Pichón! may have simple controls, but feedback is excellent, with each of Pichón’s bounces carrying exactly enough weight. This is partly due to the sound design, which gives each bounce a deeply satisfying thwack on open ground, or a squelch when landing on height-sapping slime. But it’s also due to the visual design, which features lovely pixel art and excellent animations for Pichón’s wanton bouncing. A quick little impact shockwave accompanies each bounce, as Pichón flattens a bit before taking to the air once more with renewed vigor. They’re excellent bounces, is what I’m saying.

The cavernous environments look great too, with lovely shading adorning the rocky walls. The color palette is interesting, with both Pichón itself and the cave walls painted with a reddish-pink color, with bright green accents for other things in the environment. This gives everything a sort of two-color look, even though there are actually more colors in play. It makes Pichón! striking and memorable to look at.

This is a fun, quick play for platformer fans. A few levels bordered on frustrating for me, and the final level adds a twist that may annoy some players, but overall it’s a good time. It explores its central bouncing mechanic thoroughly without overstaying its welcome. If you like dodging spikes in platformers, you should definitely give Pichón! a look. If you missed it in the bundle, it’s sold for a minimum price of $3.99, including versions for Windows and Linux.

That’s 188 down, and only 1553 to go!