A low-effort Minecraft clone with a price tag higher than Minecraft.
PixARK is an answer to the age-old question: What if ARK: Survival Evolved was also Minecraft? In 2015, Studio Wildcard (the developers of ARK) merged with Snail Games USA, leading to Snail developing two spin-offs of ARK in very different genres from the original. One of them was PixARK. Learning the story of how this game came to be was honestly way more fun than actually playing the game. PixARK is exactly the game you’d expect from a studio working on someone else’s IP after a corporate merger.
The basics of PixARK are pretty simple: just add the hardcore survival mechanics of ARK to Minecraft, throw in a couple of quests, and there you go. The merits of this game aren’t really worth going over because of how astonishingly awful it is to play. From the very first minute of character customization, it’s abundantly clear that as little effort was put into this port as possible based on the atrocious controls in the menus. PixARK’s menus were designed for a mouse and keyboard, and selecting any specific thing on the screen with the analog sticks feels more like rolling dice than navigating a user interface.
If you roll high enough to actually load into the map, you’ll probably spawn in an area full of high-level enemies. The first time I spawned I was almost immediately killed by a level 60 werewolf that obliterated me in a single punch. That same werewolf would go on to kill me three more times in the next 20 minutes. It was extremely rare to see an enemy below level 10, and the majority were at least level 30, so you won’t get the opportunity to explore very far without getting maimed early in the game.
I wouldn’t recommend playing long enough to take on those high level enemies though. Pixark was originally released on Steam’s Early Access service in 2017, and I couldn’t shake the feeling I was still playing an early access game. Controls felt awkward across the board, the upgrade menu feels broken, and the framerate is nowhere near stable. The most egregious oversight that truly makes me think the game isn’t finished is the notification that appears to let you know you have enough skill points to purchase an upgrade.
Upon reaching level two, a text box appeared saying “LEVEL UP IS AVAILABLE! Access Inventory To Apply Points!” After upgrading I finished with two points left—and the cheapest upgrade left cost three points. When I exited the menu and went back to playing the game, the text box telling me that I had points to spend hadn’t gone away. I tried pressing every button and checked every menu item in the settings, and none of them would make the message go away. The only conclusion I can draw is that the message will only go away if you have literally zero points to apply in the upgrade menu, which hasn’t been the case for me since I was level one. This is such a glaring oversight—one that’s impossible to miss—and demonstrates just how little Snail Games USA cared about fine-tuning this game.
The Switch doesn’t have an Early Access program like Steam does, but make no mistake: this is an early access game through and through. What little merit PixARK has is thoroughly overshadowed by how blatantly unfinished it is. It’s astonishing that a Minecraft knock-off would be listed on the eShop at a higher price than Minecraft, but it’s truly mind-boggling that the actual game is in such a sorry state. Do not play PixARK.