PixelJunk Shooter
by Invictus


Basic Information:
Developer: Q-Games
Publisher: Q-Games, SCEE, SCEA
Date of North American Release: December 10th, 2009
Date of European Release: December 10th, 2009
Date of Asian Release: December 24th, 2009
Price: $9.99
Trophies: 1 2 10


Overview:
The PixelJunk line of games have been dominating PSN sales and gamers' thumbs since the Network launched back in late 2007. Each iteration has offered us something different - racing, tower defense and platforming.

Now we get PixelJunk Shooter. Is it any good? Let's find out.

Gameplay:
PixelJunk Shooter is a vast departure from other games in the series, as is expected. Introducing a delightfully simple shooting mechanic and some beautiful physics interactions, this game can offer some delightfully fiendish and heart-pounding situations for you to deal with.

The controls are solid and feel fairly intuitive, which is a plus for something yearning so much toward simplicity. Nothing feels awkward or clumsy, and any frustration from your inability to succeed is not the fault of the button layout.

Instead of life, your ship has heat - warm up by shooting or flying too close to magma. Overheat, and you'll crash and die. For an instant cooldown, you can submerge yourself in water. This feels like a totally natural approach to the regenerating health system, and offers some interesting strategies.

Where this game really shines, though, are in its physics. Magma interacts with water which interacts with ice which interacts with gas - and everything in between! Some of the simplest puzzles require you to harden magma by pouring water on it and shoot through the resulting rock; while the more complex ones will have you selectively tunneling into chambers filled with different hazards that you can accidentally expose the scientists too.

It sounds almost too simple, but the most satisfying, complex entertainments come from basic ingredients, and PixelJunk's gameplay is no exception.



Singleplayer:
Right off the bat, you'll be treated to a nice, Star Wars-esque opening sequence which lays out a basic story: mankind has colonized the stars, and giant mining corporations are constantly on the prowl for resources to feed the hungry industrial machine. Contact has been lost with such a mining operation. You pilot a simple little craft on your missions to find and rescue the personnel associated with the project.

While the addition of a story is nice, it has little bearing on your playing experience. Only when rescuing Special Survivors (which are few and far between) will any sort of narrative thread show itself, and it's a bit weak in any case.

The singleplayer, while great, does feel like it's lacking something. The gameplay is fun, the length of the campaign is solid, but it just lacks that extra bit of fun. What does it need? A buddy, perhaps!



Multiplayer:
When you get tired of singleplayer, I suggest inviting a friend over - PixelJunk Shooter offers cooperative splitscreen play for two friends who wish to help innocent miners together.

Multiplayer is both completely different, and exactly the same as singleplayer. While nothing new is introduced, the simple introduction of a friend completely changes the gameplay dynamic. Vicious puzzles can now be solved in your favor, and not having to restart each small segment upon death is very gratifying in some of the more challenging rooms.

Whereas I could only stand singleplayer for so long, I played multiplayer with my friend for hours, and we had a great time. As they say, everything is better with a friend, and this game is no exception. Stick to multiplayer if possible.



Technical
As with all PixelJunk games, two areas where this title really stands out are its audio and video.

The graphics are phenomenal - beautifully crafted backgrounds adorn each stage, and the sprites are all nicely done. The art direction is well done, as usual, and running the game at full 1080i, you can see every little detail that was painfully worked in to give the visuals that extra layer of polish.

The wonderful graphics are complimented with amazing original music. Composed by High Frequency Bandwidth, every track has a distinct technopop flavor that's quite catchy and makes the experience more enjoyable. However, I'd suggest alternative music if you begin to have difficulty in particular rooms, as these songs will grind on you after large amounts of time looping and restarting.


Trophy List:
In terms of trophies, this title isn't all too interesting. We've got a variety of things (collect all treasures, kill X amount of enemies, rescue all survivors) which in the end have you basically completing the game to 100%.

Nothing too innovative, but nothing too challenging, either. Unlike previous PixelJunk titles, Shooter's trophies are fairly achievable. Some will require a bit of time, though, so be prepared to spend several hours on this title.



Gameplay: 9/10 brilliant
Singleplayer: 7/10 good
Multiplayer: 9/10 brilliant
Technical: 9/10 brilliant


Overall: 8.5/10 superb


Overall this game is a very enjoyable title, and well-worth its $9.99 price tag. Unfortunately, a few things like repetition hold it back from greatness. Still a very good game, and a solid purchase for anyone who's a fan of previous PixelJunk games or in the market for some fun cooperative play.