I played Pixel Lincoln for the first time the other day, and here some quick impressions. The game is a light deck builder styled after an 8-bit side-scrolling videogame. Simple, clever mechanics simulate the horizontal movement of a side-scroller as you make your way from one checkpoint to the next, battling various minions and bosses with absurdist weapons like the beardarang, and wearing a duck on your head for no particular reason. Almost like a co-op game, everyone works through the levels together, battling not each other but the enemies that come off of the level deck – though it is possible to have some players on different levels – trying to gobble up victory points along the way.
For a deck-building game, the deck-building here is pretty minimal. In each level, there are only three potential items to buy and add to your deck, and you’re at the mercy of the level deck, as everything – items, monsters, and NPCs – is shuffled together, and you can only buy items that cross your path. Revealing the cards this way helps the humor, dribbling the jokes out gradually rather than laying them all out on the table up front, though a deck building game will of course fit far fewer jokes into the box than other humor-oriented games like Munchkin or Killer Bunnies. For a game that leans so heavily on the sheer wackiness of its concept and cards, I doubt there’s enough material here to keep that aspect of the game fresh for more than a dozen plays.
As for gameplay, the game is decently fun. As its theme suggests, it’s a simple, light game. There aren’t too many tactical decisions to make, as your hand often leaves you with only one viable course of action or, at most, the choice to either take down an enemy for victory points or buy an item. And, as card-buying opportunities are so few and far between, it doesn’t seem like there’s much opportunity to pursue an overarching strategy. But there are opportunities to screw over your friends, and that usually makes any game more fun.
I should mention that my impressions are based on a single, abbreviated play. Four of us played through level one; level two would have added another batch of (presumably better) items and, therefore, more opportunities to form a strategy. We also stumbled our way through the level, three of us having never played before and one of us remembering rules incorrectly. This seems like the kind of game that you want to be able to blast through quickly without having to consult a FAQ. At this point I don’t know that I’d buy this game (MSRP $45) unless I found it steeply discounted, but the taste I got was enough to make me want another go at it. My first (partial) playthrough was fun in part due to the simple novelty of playing a new game, but it hinted at potential for more fun to be had, and I’m looking forward to a complete playthrough unencumbered by rules confusion.