Friday, May 28, 2010

PixelJunk Shooter

PixelJunk Shooter
Developer: Q Games
Publisher: SCEA
Action - Playstation 3
1-2 players
PixelJunk Shooter

When I got a PS3, several people recommended that I get all the PixelJunk titles. I'm not entirely sure what the PJ branding indicates, but they seem to be simple 2D games with High Definition visuals. Seems like a fine combination to me. PixelJunk Shooter is the most recent PJ game from Q Games and well... it's a shooter. Sorta.

Although it has bullet dodging and shmup'ing elements, Shooter is more like one of those classic rescue games. Each stage has a certain number of people that you have to fly around and save before the exit is opened. Then you move onto the next stage and you do the same. Although this might seem basic, there's a lot of modern tweaks to make it interesting. The first thing you notice about Shooter is the fluid physics. There are three primary elements you'll encounter: water, lava and oil. All of them have their own attributes to them, but their motion is very realistic in their fluidity. The liquids flow and drip rather than a constant pour, making for some interesting interaction. These fluids are very critical to the game. Lava is a destructive element, and touching it not only harms you, but it can kill people you're trying to save if you don't get to them in time. But lava can be neutralized with water, thus forming molten rock, that you can also use to your advantage or disadvantage.

Therein lies the simplicity, and yet the brilliance of Shooter. You have your classic shooter elements with enemies that try to shoot you down and bosses at the end of each area, but it is ultimately a puzzle game where you have to figure out how to save everyone without losing any of them. Enemy locations, gates you can interact with, the natural flow of lava and water, and various suits your ship can "wear" for special abilities - all of these things are meticulously designed as puzzle tools. And like most modern games, saving people is just a form of collectathon. You don't have to save everyone to move onto the next stage (they could also die, which also accomplishes that goal), but it is far more rewarding to. There are also tons of crystals that you can collect too - many of which are hidden or somewhat obscured until you trigger some events.

I personally loved PixelJunk Shooter more than any other PS3 game I've played. Maybe my love of 2D is hard to quench, but Shooter has that kind of clever gameplay that feels familiar, yet completely fresh. Perhaps more than anything else, that's the kind of game that resonates best with me. Some may complain that the game only has 3 areas (15 stages), but if you actually 100% everything, it'll take some time to get through all of that. Plus, PixelJunk Shooter 2 is already in the works, promising new ideas and a lengthier run-time, so I couldn't be happier.