Monday, December 14, 2009

Messing with the Fluids... The Pikeljunk Shooter Review

Note: The gameplay footage consists of me playing utilizing the YouTube upload feature.

Pixeljunk Shooter is the fourth title in the franchise that started off with Racers, Monsters, and Eden. These are some of the better downloadable games out there on Playstation Network with consistent sense of providing original and unorthodox gameplay experiences. Shooter continues Q Games' notion of providing that same experience by taking a similar concept, the twin-stick shooter, and then mix it in with interacting with water, lava, ice, and toxic to make it feel original. The two concepts combined together make Shooter one of the better downloadable titles to come out on PSN this year and if you're a fan of the Pixeljunk franchise, this game should not missed for the ten dollar purchase.

There is a sense of story in Shooter in which you are a ship sent to the underground of a planet to rescue survivors and explore the depths of such planet witnessing any diversions that you affect the experience. The controls in Shooter are not exactly like a normal twin-stick shooter as there is still a button to shoot, but the ship does indeed maneuver like such games. There is also a grapple button to rescue survivors, attain gems to unlock more levels, and pull switches. These survivors can be killed if they are not saved in time or if they are accidentally killed by your shots, which happened to me in certain situations. Having five survivors killed will end your game and you have to start over from the beginning of the level you started, but extra lives can be gained easily by gathering a hundred coins from the levels or killing enemies. Your ship does not technically have a health meter, but instead a heat meter at its normal state as being close to lava does heat up your ship and you have to let it cool down by water to replenish. Being shot by enemy fire also does not result in an instant death as it will raise your heat level up to the warning state, but bumping to them sure does. Other than playing it alone, there is an option for local co-op as well with two ships transversing the underground depths.

The big idea of Pixeljunk Shooter is interacting with the water, lava, ice, and toxic in the three worlds that consist of five levels each with the last level ending in a boss battle. This interaction basically makes it somewhat a puzzle game along with the shooter figuring out how to navigate through these levels alive. It is common sense how these fluids interact with each other affecting the levels from water on lava turns to rock, the lava dissolves the ice, water and toxic = gas, gas and lava = explosions, and so on. You get a sense of satisfaction seeing them interact with each other to make certain areas open as the level design is top notch. These puzzles are not that difficult to figure out as I rarely had a hard time navigating through these levels. Speaking of difficulty, this game is among the easiest of the Pixeljunk games as it is more forgiving to beat the game, there is no harsh penalties, and it is not as frustrating as say the later sections of Eden. Shooter is however a short game being downloadable as it takes a handful of hours to beat as each level for the first time takes 15-20 minutes to beat, but longer to 100% everything rescuing all the survivors and finding all the gems/hidden areas. It does also leave the door open for the inevitable Encore expansion.

Graphically, Shooter retains the same style of the Pixeljunk franchise with its use of colors, which still works and looks beautiful. The thing that strikes me is the water, lava, and toxic physics, which do matter in a game like this where they interact with each other. The soundtrack is also awesome as it fits the tone and theme of the game even though it may be a departure from previous Pixeljunk titles. Like Eden, Shooter does have YouTube support in which you can upload your recordings to YouTube, which is a neat idea and the quality of the videos are great. It will be interesting to see how the community utilizes this feature from high score runs, speed runs, getting 100$ tuns, or any random turn of events.

Pixeljunk Shooter is another superb game in the franchise as Q Games manages to innovate yet again with combining a twin stick shooter and puzzle elements with the fluids into one. These concepts together truly make it feel original and unorthodox as you don't experience games like these every day. It is definitely a game to relax to playing compared to most games out there as there is not as much frustration unless you are trying to find everything in the game or you accidentally killed a survivor by firing like a mad man. There is enough replay value to keep playing even though it can be beaten in a few hours, but the door is clearly open for downloadable content or the inevitable "Encore" expansion. For ten dollars, Shooter is worth your time and money being an unique experience only on the Playstation Network.

Score = 9/10

  • Unique concept of throwing an environmental twist to the twin stick shooter
  • More forgiving than previous Pixeljunk games
  • The various fluids interacting with each other turn out great as the physics are truly astounding.
  • Great soundtrack fitting to the tone and theme of the game
  • YouTube upload feature works
  • Yeah, online co-op could of worked as it is local only as teamwork and voice chat is a necessity.
  • Over before you know it, but leaves the door for more with the "Encore" expansion

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