Review: PixelJunk Shooter (Steam)

PixelJunkShooter

It would be hard to deny that Q-Games has made some of the best and most unique downloadable games for PlayStation systems since the studio began developing games under the PixelJunk moniker. Racers, Monsters, Eden, Shooter, SideScroller, and 4AM each provide a different visual aesthetic and gameplay style while also including a steady increase to challenge and difficulty. By the time you finish playing a PixelJunk title there is no doubt that Jedi-like reflexes have been honed, and a true mastery of the mechanics can give a wonderful sense of gratification and accomplishment. Sadly, there are some gamers who have not had the opportunity to play many of these great titles because they originally were only available in the PlayStation ecosystem. Fortunately for all of us, Q-Games and Double Eleven have been working together to bring the PixelJunk brand to Steam, most recently including the fantastic PixelJunk Shooter.

PixelJunk Shooter plays like a twin-stick shooter, only with a stronger emphasis on puzzles and exploration as you pilot a subterranean ship to rescue miners trapped underground. The left stick moves the ship in whichever direction it is pointed and the right stick aims for shooting. Tapping the left trigger or bumper activates the ship’s grabber arm while the right trigger or bumper are used to shoot (holding down the trigger/bumper will fire rockets). The ship has a temperature gauge on the bottom of the screen which rises when too close to magma. If the gauge fills up the ship can overheat and explode, but moving into water will cool the ship immediately (or alternatively moving away from the source of heat will cool the ship over time).

Rescuing miners unlocks a gate in each stage of a level. Each level presents new environmental challenges with some of the most spectacular fluid physics ever seen. Water, magma, and magnetic oil spew, pour, and flow around the levels, both as obstacles and means of traversal. Survivors sometimes are trapped inside the various liquids or just beyond, and use of the full 360-degree range of aiming with the rescue ship comes into play by either shooting a hole in the environment to change the direction of the liquid or, through ship power-ups, changing the actual consistency of the liquid entirely. Water on magma becomes rock. Water and ice naturally becomes even more ice (which can then be manipulated with the ship’s grabber arm). Magma mixed with the magnetic oil generates a flammable gas. Another ship upgrade will invert its structure so that magma doesn’t cause damage while water does.  A final upgrade repels the magnetic oil as if the ship were a giant magnet itself.

Underground, Ice and Factory are the three distinct areas of Shooter which contain five to six levels each and a final boss battle. A crab-like spider, an armor-plated fish, and a rogue-minded drilling mech cap off each area, showcasing the genius minds of Q-Games. Patience, quick reflexes and precise shooting offer a nice change of pace to the liquid labyrinthine regular levels.

While Shooter isn’t a particularly hard game to beat, the magic of the experience lies with collecting all of the surviving miners, as well as finding all of the diamonds in each level. Additionally, the game grades each attempt by how quickly you complete a level, and how high of a score you earn. When enemies are killed in quick succession a point multiplier is applied. Collecting little stars that drop from each enemy while the multiplier is in effect dramatically boosts your score. A global leaderboard can be seen and compared for each level, as well as one for overall performance. Shooter also comes to Steam with local 2-player co-op intact. When the game first launched on PS3, many fans were upset that the game didn’t support online 2-player matches, but I prefer (with this game in particular) playing while sitting next to my co-op partner so that we can better communicate when things go south and quickly adjust to whatever may be suddenly on screen.

For all the beauty of the liquid mechanics that Shooter offers, as well as the satisfying and precise feel of control over the ship, the one thing that makes Shooter a true must buy is High Frequency Bandwidth’s thumping soundtrack. A mashup of trance, techno, and pop rock, HFB’s music adds a level of magic to each session with subtle tempo shifts to quick head-bopping riffs that complete and enhance the experience.

If any PC elitists (and there are plenty out there) have never had the chance to play PixelJunk Shooter because they refused to stoop so low as to buy an inferior console, I can’t recommend enough playing it now that it is available on Steam. While I do find it a bit weird to play one of my favorite games on PS3 with a 360 controller, Shooter on PC is still like putting on a pair of old, long lost, comfortable shoes. And for all the PS3 trophy hunters out there, Q-Games has cheekily added a Platinum trophy achievement for all of you who wanted it but never got it on PS3. Go buy it now and get that long sought after Plat!

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Fantastic visuals
+ Tight controls
+ Amazing music
+ Leaderboard score chasing
+ Finally a Platinum Trophy!

Cons:
– Boss battles can be frustrating

Game Info:
Platform: Steam
Publisher: Double Eleven Studios
Developer: Q-Games / Double Eleven Studios
Release Date: 11/11/2013
Genre: Multidirectional Shooter
Players: 1-2 (local co-op)

Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.