With all the doom and gloom in the world, it is nice sometimes to play something that is full of positivity. No big themes, no aggressive difficulty, just simple mechanics and adorable graphics. Peckin’ Pixels is a small but sweet free management sim where the player raises an increasingly large flock of chickens. While much less stressful than the real-life hobby of raising chooks, this gentle tycoon gives just enough challenge to keep the player invested.
Players are directed around the chicken pen by Squeegy, a sentient rat who gets along surprisingly well with the ever-hungry fowl. The aim of the game is to raise chickens, sell their eggs, and hit certain objectives to unlock different-colored chickens with more valuable eggs. Getting a chicken to lay an egg is easy: feed them enough corn to fill their hunger meter, and the hen will eventually become broody, a sign she is about to lay an egg. Plop her on a nest in time and the egg will be yours, which can be checked on a scale to see if it contains a chick.
Empty eggs should always be sold, whereas raising the chick can vary in usefulness depending on how rare the chicken is and how much spare cash the player has. With this cycle under control, the farm grows ever more prosperous, and you become able to order fancy food that toughens egg shells or makes fertilization more likely.
The challenge in Peckin’ Pixels is gentle. Chickens seem unable to starve (or it at least takes a really long time) and are unbothered if the pen becomes overly full. The trickiest aspect is juggling chickens on and off the nests when the flock gets really large, but a broken egg does not present a large setback, since the game’s economy is rather generous. A set of achievements gives the player plenty to do — have five chicks incubating at the same time, sell 20 eggs, own four chickens of different colors — but never pushes a time limit or other stressful factors common to the genre. I really enjoyed this chilled-out approach, relishing the satisfaction of slowly adding to my flock without worrying about balancing an economy.
That being said, should Peckin’ Pixels decide to add a hard mode, the world of chicken-keeping is surprisingly complex. For example, in real life, the pecking order is a real thing, with new hens introduced to a flock bullied mercilessly until they earn grudging acceptance. Roosters are vital for creating fertilized eggs, but they can also be greedy, scaring hens away from the food. Good fences are critical, as any number of outside threats find chickens a delicious, near-defenseless snack. While I would avoid any of the really disturbing factors, like how easily chickens can turn to cannibalism, a few more obstacles like these could be great should a longer version of the game be made.
Peckin’ Pixels gains a great deal of its charm from the adorable visuals. I fell in love with every one of my chickens and felt terrible when I had to sell one to order food for the rest. The paid version also lets you dress up the birds in little hats, heightening the cuteness to the extreme. Calm clucking makes for a peaceful backdrop, accompanied with nice chiptunes with a hint of country twang. I would have liked the addition of a sound effect for when a chicken was ready to lay an egg. They unleash an almighty squawk when they have finished laying, but a sound for when they are ready along with the visual cue would have helped me get more chickens to the nest in time.
Tycoon games are often really aggressive in difficulty, so the breezy experience of Peckin’ Pixels is a nice change of pace. The ease of use makes the game perfect for those new to the genre or someone who just wants to relax. For those who want to support the game, the $3.00 paid version gives access to dressing up the chooks, and if you are a really big fan, for $1.50 extra you can have your own special hat incorporated into the game.
Next week, since next Friday will be Christmas, I thought we would go with something a bit festive in Corgi Christmas Adventure. The game can be downloaded from itch.io. If you would like to share your thoughts, discussions will be happening in the Discord server.