Pixeljunk Shooter is the brainchild series from indie developer Q-Games. With the Playstation Plus Instant Games Collection I was fortunate to download and play Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate, which fuses the first and second Pixeljunk Shooter games into one flowing narrative.
Scientists, being the curious fellows that they are, decide to dig deep into the planet’s surface in search of minerals and riches – that I can only assume will benefit the planet. What they find however, is a lot more than they bargained for. Using your subterranean vehicle you must blast your way deeper through various caverns and passageways to rescue as many stranded scientists as you can – that is before all the monstrous and environmental perils consume them.
Upon reading that introduction you may think Pixeljunk Shooter has a lot in common with another Sci-Fi arcade space shooter – Resogun. Besides the fact that both games feature a ship or vehicle, that is used to save humans, both games in essence couldn’t be further apart. Resogun caters for two types of players. There are those who will spend endless hours perfecting their skills in the hope to be the best in the world or those who just enjoy a quick blast in the hope they beat their previous score. Pixeljunk Shooter is more about puzzles and manipulating your environment, than it is about destroying an endless flurry of baddies. So even though Pixeljunk Shooter has a pick up and play mentality its challenges are totally different to Resogun.
Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate is broken up into stages, each of which has around 4-5 short levels. In each level you will need to rescue all of the scientists before being able to progress to the next area. Players must shoot an assortment of unusual underground creatures and take care not to let the various environmental hazards such as lava, magnetic fluid or ice destroy them or any innocent bystanders. It’s also very easy, whilst fighting off several underground creatures, to accidentally shoot a scientist you are supposed to rescue – not that I….er… did that of course. And I never once actually destroyed parts of the cavern, causing a liquid fiery bath to cascade down the rock face and envelop one of the planets best and brightest.
So yes, you may have gathered from my previous statement that the environment plays a big part in the game. Initially you will be presented with simple challenges like shooting soft rock to form a new pathway. Slowly these challenges become more interesting, yet still simple. For example you may come across a pit of boiling lava that blocks your path but you also happen to notice, conveniently placed above the pit is a vat of water, only being held back be some soft rock. Blast it and you’ll soon see the fiery depths melt away. It is this constant manipulation of the environment that is prevalent through the game. More substances and differing elements are introduced the further you progress and Pixeljunk Shooter requires you to figure out which is the best method to counter each hazard. With the understanding of each puzzle, you are not only saving scientists along the way but are fast becoming one yourself.
In typical arcade style, the narrative isn’t fully explained and nor should it be. Besides one oversight on my part, which not only required me to grapple up scientists but also needed me to collect diamonds embedded in the walls to be allowed to advance to the next stage, everything in Pixeljunk Shooter makes sense. Yes, the puzzles can be challenging, but besides the occasional prompt from a scientist when you encounter something completely new, you are pretty much left to your own devices. All of this is incredibly rewarding when finding secret rooms or fathoming, what appears to be, an insurmountable challenge.
Speaking of insurmountable challenges, Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate doesn’t shy away from boss battles either. Yes, those curious scientists dug a little too deep and awoke various gigantic beasties. Boss battles, in my opinion, are becoming stale. Not because of a lack of difficultly but because just about every game replicates an idea they saw from another game. A majority of the time the boss battle can be my least favourite part of a game as they are often mundane. Whilst Pixeljunk shooter doesn’t necessarily break many boundaries in this area, the boss battles feel fresh, inventive, challenging and most of all varied. No two bosses are the same and their attack patterns frequently change throughout the skirmish.
Overall Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate is a challenging, yet rewarding, sci-fi space shooter that has hours of gameplay. The introduction of new stages and puzzles keeps the game from getting repetitive and the overall stylistics, music and quirkiness of this arcade indie makes Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate a must have.