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Tuesday | October 23, 2018
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PixelJunk Shooter (PS3)

PixelJunk Shooter (PS3)

2009 has been a strong year for the Playstation Store (PSN) with a plethora of fun and enjoyable games being released month after month. Developer Q-Games released one of the most addictive ‘tower defense’ games a long time ago (PixelJunk Monsters) and they follow it up with our review title today – possibly one of the best games on the store.

Pixeljunk Shooter is a straightforward concept – you take command of a ship which you fly though caverns with the mission of saving endangered miners placed throughout the environments. While you attempt to do this you have to combat a plethora of enemies.

The game is set in ‘old school’ 2D and it is none the worse for it either as the graphic style and overall ‘feel’ of the game is very charming and anyone with gaming history throughout the last decade will surely be reminded of ‘better days’. The ship is easy to fly and the dual analog stick methodology comes into play – the left moves your ship and the right is used to aim. R1 and R2 shoot and L1 and L2 use the grappling hook.

While this all sounds very traditional and perhaps a little ‘run of the mill’ developer Q games are never a company to produce something boring – the rather unique shifting environments are handled by fluid dynamics. So the game will start with a mixture of water and lava which operate in a very realistic real world style and later on the developers integrate ice and flammable gas which bring a very rich dynamic to the game world. The whole system needs to be seen in action to fully appreciate the attention to detail, because when these elements come into contact with each other they also react as you would expect. Ice coming into contact with Lava for instance means that the ice will melt but turn the lava into rock. In cold areas water can turn into ice and gas can explode causing fire. So while the individual elements are great on their own, its only when they meet other elements does the full scope of possibilities become apparent.

It is this element interaction which is the basis for the main game mechanic. For example sometimes you will be tasked with rescuing miners that may be trapped behind flowing lava, so you need to turn that flowing lava into rock by freezing it, then breaking through to get them out. There are sections of the environment which may be blocked by ice so you need to use fire or manipulate mirrors to direct laser beams to melt it.

Additionally the developers have incorporated a heat system to the ships hull, when you are near fire or lava and get touched by it or come into close proximity, your ship temperature rises so you need to distance yourself or cool it before it catches fire and blows up. Sometimes if your ship is on fire and you manage to crash into water it will be possible to continue … a fantastic last ditch method to try saving yourself. There are some occasions later in the game when you don’t need to worry about ship heat levels, but if I go into further details it may very well ruin your enjoyment of the game.

So in effect the game is massively addictive to play … every time you enter a new environment you have to deal with any given situation by first analysing it and then working out how to approach it. This is also a game to kick your brain into action because if you mash the button and just shoot everything in sight then you will assuredly end up killing all the miners on the level and making a mess of the mission. For those of you who hate puzzle games then fret not, because it doesn’t require much lateral thinking, most of the levels are easy enough to work out, but they are just tricky enough to reward you with a fuzzy warm feeling inside when you are successful.

As well as rescuing the miners you also have additional goals of acquiring hidden diamonds which you pick up with your grappling hook. There are also hidden passageways that are home to many other goodies which help to maintain interest, however there is a story based element, told by special miners you rescue. This story is very simple, yet charming and wonderfully constructed – again I don’t want to ruin it for anyone so I will just say that rescuing the miners is much more enjoyable than intentionally getting them killed! If you miss some miners on previous levels the game will detail what you have yet to achieve in a wonderfully constructed user interface.

The game is split into three sections and each of these areas has a boss character you have to destroy in a fight. These are really reminiscent of old Super Nintendo 2D arcade titles and I really enjoyed the construction. You need to find their weak spots and make sure you take them down, while avoiding a barrage of gun fire and missiles being launched in your direction. Each of these bosses are brilliant and will remain in my memory for a very long time.

Multiplayer is catered for with cooperative play – locally. Additional game concepts are in place – for instance if one of your ships overheats then the other player can try rescuing it with the grappling hook while they recharge. Playing with a friend is great fun and while I was showing the title to a friend we actually replayed the whole game. If that isn’t a good reflection of how much fun this game is then I don’t know how else to recommend it !

Q-Games really are masters of the downloadable game and their offerings on the PSN are further enhanced by Pixeljunk Shooter, their finest title to date. The mechanics, the graphics and the implementation of different worldly elements works a treat, if you miss this game then you really are depriving yourself of such a charming and addictive experience.


A magical title which brought me a lot of enjoyment.
The graphics aren’t state of the art but they certainly work wonderfully within the contexts of this game.
Super score of atmosphere enhancing musical pieces and great sound effects.
If you try to collect everything you certainly get value for money – its also replayable with a friend and still great fun in 2 player mode.

A store classic, no question about it.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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