Friday, December 18, 2009

PixelJunk Shooter

For the last couple years, Q-Games have been making the PixelJunk series of games, quick downloadable titles on the PlayStation Network that have apparently been improving over time, though this is the first one I've been interested in. The "Shooter" title was chosen in a contest, and I don't think it's quite an accurate name for what the game really is. Yeah, you and possibly a second player fly around in little space ships, shooting at enemies, but that's not the core of the experience. It's really more of a puzzle game, as you have to figure out how to get through the levels while interacting with the game's big technical gimmick, fluid dynamics. When you first start playing, there's both water and lava flowing around, one protecting you and the other putting you in danger. When they touch they form destructible rock, and subsequent areas start introducing different fluids and special suits for your ship that all have their own properties. It never gets too challenging, because the game gives you hints on what you need to do and new elements are introduced slowly enough that it never gets confusing.

The basic progression is you're traveling deeper and deeper under a planet's surface, rescuing miners who have been trapped and also collecting hidden diamonds. Once all the miners in an area are gone, either rescued or killed, the way to the next area is opened, although only so many can die before you have to start the whole level over. The diamonds feel like something that should be an extra for completionists, but you need to have a certain amount by the end of each episode to unlock the boss level. This was fine the first couple times, but in the final episode, I had to return to earlier areas to get enough diamonds for the final level, which seemed like a lame way to handle it. Although I did notice how much my ability to track down missing items improved when I managed to quickly destroy the game's first two levels and get enough diamonds.

I think I enjoyed the game's presentation more than anything. The graphics are really nice, with a cool, cartoon look and the physics on the fluid interaction aren't perfect but still a lot of fun to screw around with. The music was unique and interesting, and the sound effects were good, with a lot of very useful and memorable queues. The game ends before it can get really challenging, and teases an "encore" paid add-on like the last two PixelJunk games had to see the end of the adventure. It's not that the game was too short, because about four hours of solid fun are enough for about ten bucks, it just doesn't feel like you get the full arc of gameplay you'd expect from a finished product. The boss fights are generally highlights, and help the game earn at least part of that shooter name. It's not the best thing I've downloaded off the PlayStation Store, but should be good fun for people who like to think a bit while dodging enemy fire.


Patrick Carr said...

The game was named by fans in a contest before anyone had played it, so that might explain why it doesn't feel quite right for the gameplay.

Also, I like PJ Monsters a lot more than PJ Eden, so I have to disagree with the 'improved over time' comment. PJM is easily the best tower defense game I've played, and the full version is reasonably cheap nowadays. I highly recommend checking it out.

I want to buy PJ Shooter, but I'm probably going to wait until the Encore version comes out, and also until I've finished some of the co-op games that I already have (NSMBWii and Little Big Planet, notably). Thanks for the writeup!

Adrenaline said...

I don't mean it was necessarily a linear progression of quality, just that they've definitely gotten better since Racer. I'm not sure I'm really into tower defense, but it's definitely more of a consideration after playing this.