by Kiran Sury
reviewed on PS3
What the hell is a Pixeljunk anyway?
Q-Games has shown itself to be a very capricious developer with its PixelJunk series. After Racers (a racing game) and Monsters (a tower defense game), it released Eden, a platforming/trance music hybrid that had absolutely nothing to do with its predecessors. PixelJunk Shooter is no different – as a puzzle/action game with Asteroid controls, it manages to carve its own niche in the PSN space, while still being a whole lot of fun.
Shooter has a simple premise. Scientists involved in a mining operation on an alien planet have gone missing, and it is up to you to pilot the rescue ship and bring them to safety. Along the way you will have to deal with the geophysiology of the planet as you venture ever deeper, as well as various indigenous fauna that are quite rightly angry at the disturbance. The controls are simple: one joystick moves the ship, one aims it, one button shoots and one fires the grappling hook. Hold down the fire button, and you fire missiles. Twirl the stick and you do a bullet-deflecting spin move. It’s not complicated. The challenges, however, are anything but.
Earth, Wind, and Fire
The game is broken up into three episodes of five stages each, with each stage containing 5 or so levels and each episode ending in a boss fight. You can play the stages in what order you want, but all stages must be completed before moving on. You must complete each level in order within a stage. If you play half of them and then quit, you’ll have to start the stage over from the beginning. Your goal is always the same: rescue (or kill some accidentally) all of the scientists and collect any treasure (diamonds strewn across the level, some in plain sight and some hidden) before making your way to the exit. You can die as many times as you want in the level – you’ll just start back at the beginning of the level. Kill too many scientists, however, and you’ll have to restart the stage. Since the goal is to collect all the scientists, I often manually restarted the level when I killed one, just to be a perfectionist. The levels are never exceedingly long, and your scientist-death-quota is lowered when you gain enough stars. Stars are to Shooter what gold coins are to Mario, so it’s never a problem.
The main challenge isn’t picking up the scientists themselves (one touch of the grappling hook automatically scoops them up) or killing the enemies, who usually die in one or two shots. The difficulty comes from navigating your way through the various elements in the levels to get to the survivors. For example, a survivor might be safely sheltered by some rock, but the rock is underneath a pool of lava. Simply shooting through the lava and into the rock will open a path, but the lava will flow down and incinerate the survivor. You’ll first need to find some water to cool the lava to rock and then tunnel through. Each episode introduces new fluids to play with, and by the end you’ll have to deal with water, lava, rock, flammable gas, ice, and a strange black magnetic fluid, to name a few.
No Pros and Cons at this time