Collectible Review: Pixel Pals

Pixel Pals are the coolest collectible figure line to come along since the advent of Funko’s Pop! vinyl toys about seven years ago.

Created by Performance Designed Products (PDP), Pixel Pals are small figures depicting iconic video game heroes as 8-bit pixel art mosaics. They’re aesthetically similar to the type of crafts made with Perler beads ironed together on peg boards, just with carefully designed arrangements of colored pixel squares instead of circular beads. 12 character options are currently available, including 8-bit Link, 8-bit Mario, Mario, Fire Mario, 8-bit Luigi, Luigi, Vault Boy, Black and White Vault Boy, Mega Man, Solar Blaze Mega Man, Ryu, and Chun Li.

At approximately 5″ tall and 1″ thick, the figures are a compact size that doesn’t take up a lot of desk or shelf space, but are also not so small that they feel inadequate or poorly valued. (You’ll find some photos at page bottom showing how well they hold up standing next to other figures on my wall o’ geek.) Nendoroids are super cute, expressive, and beautifully crafted, but by comparison they seem so overpriced for how small in stature they are. Pixel Pals are also more substantial than amiibo and Pop! figures at only a marginally higher price point.

In terms of quality, the plastic casing has a solid heft to it, avoiding the light, chintzy feel of a cheap plastic. Pixel Pals also have a special surprise you won’t get from other collectibles like this. In a normal daylight setting they stand out as nostalgic mini-statues of pixelated characters. But when darkness falls, a pair of AAA batteries and the quick flip of an on-board switch turns each figure into a shining beacon of pixel art awesomeness. The clarity of the individual cells is well defined so that the color of each pixel really pops. There isn’t any blurring of lines or colors to make the characters hard to distinguish. (I don’t have the greatest of cameras so the picture at page bottom showing the figures in the dark doesn’t capture how sharply lit they actually appear in person.) The lighting and pixel designs faithfully capture the personalities and distinguishing appearances for each character.

They’re surprisingly bright too, strong enough to illuminate an entire dark room with a faint glow. I’ve used one as a reading light while laying in bed before going to sleep, and as a hand lamp to quickly look at something on my desk without having to flip on the actual room lights. For kids, a Pixel Pal would make an amazing nightlight. I’m not sure what the official battery life is supposed to be, but so far I’ve tallied around six hours of aggregate use with no signs of the light strength beginning to dim out as of yet. So they do seem to last a good while, though the need for AAA batteries does limit their capacity as a daily use light source to keep on for extending periods. Part of me wishes PDP had gone all out with USB connectivity and rechargeability. But then another part of me realizes that such functionality would have undoubtedly resulted in a more expensive price, so I’m not mad at the decision to go the standard battery route.

Equally cute and nostalgic, Pixel Pals hit the sweet spot balance of being collectible and displayable while offering an extra element of clever functionality, all in one hand-sized package. Specifically for hardcore collectors who like to keep their items in pristine condition, each Pixel Pal comes in attractive window box packaging, numbered and printed on the back with a general description for the included character so you can collect ’em all like a set of trading cards. The boxes stack up nicely for clean shelf display as well. Another neat thing to do is to turn a figure on and then put it back in the package, effectively creating a boxed character lamp. The effect is pretty damn sweet. The figures themselves are thick enough that you can even stack them on top of one another, and they’ll stay pretty stable unless you shake the surface or, you know, there’s an earthquake or something.

Overall the Pixel Pals look great and feel like they were crafted with a lot of quality and attention to detail for such simple, retro designs. At $15 a pop, there’s no reason not to brighten up your geek collection with a Pixel Pal or two. Or three. Or, hell, all twelve. Just remember to save up for later because PDP’s got more characters on the way.

Buy From: Amazon or PDP for $14.99 each.

Disclosure: 8-bit Link and Ryu Pixel Pals were provided to VGBlogger.com for review by PDP.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles.

Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere.

Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn’t mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!