With the combination of digital distribution and independent developers genres like the side-scrolling shooter type of games made a comeback during the last console generation (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii) that is still going fairly strong today. This has allowed for different takes on the mechanics beyond just shooting bad guys. One of these games that has some different mechanics is Pixeljunk Shooter for the PlayStation 3.
There isn’t much of a story to Pixeljunk Shooter, but there is a little bit to set you up. It’s the future and mining operations on distant planets is a reality. You are on a your spaceship, the ERS Piñita Colada, when you receive a distress signal from one of these mining colonies on a nearby planet.
You respond to the distress signal and attempt to save those who broadcast the signal. You disembark your ship in a smaller rescue vessel to travel down in the mines to find trapped miners and rescue them. It’s not bad for a setup of the story, but it is hardly anything too original either.
While there are some aspects of Pixeljunk Shooter that are fairly unique, the basic setup is pretty standard. You can shoot basic missiles to destroy your enemies or makes paths through levels and as a secondary fire you have homing missiles as well. In addition to this you have a claw that you use to rescue workers and utilize other items to help you through the environmental hazards of the game.
These environmental hazards are really what sets Pixeljunk Shooter as being rather unique. The first thing to mention is that instead of a traditional life bar or simply dying with one hit, you have a heat bar. The heat bar not only increases by getting hit by an enemy, but also by shooting your homing missiles and being too close to lava. If your heat bar fills up too much then your ship overheats, crashes and you die. However, things like water will cool your ship off faster if you dive into a pool or stream of water.
The heat bar is a pretty smart decision when you’re wanting to make environmental hazards and puzzles a large part of your game. As you progress through the game you’ll experience a number of different environmental obstacles. You’ll find water, dirt, lava, ice, gas, and a magnetic black liquid. What’s interesting is that you have have to use or be careful of various combinations of these liquids to progress.
These various substances can interact with each other. You can use water to change lava into dirt. Lava can melt ice or if it touches gas it sets off a chain explosion. These interactions are pretty fun and provide a bit of a puzzle aspect of the game. You have to figure out how to use the different environments to get past the level without killing yourself or the miners that you’re trying to save.
The environments change a bit between the three areas that you have to traverse. The first one mainly has you dealing with water, dirt, and lava, the second adds ice, and the last adds gas and the magnetic liquid. At the end of each of these areas you also fight a large boss before you’re able to progress.
Since there isn’t much of a story it is hard to have significant themes. The only real plot point is that you’re helping rescue people in need, and while that’s not an insignificant theme, it’s not a theme developed by the game. It is simply used as setup and little more.
- A Lighthearted Game – Everything about the game, the art design, the little guys you need to rescue with the Help! speech bubbles over their heads is a pretty lighthearted affair. It’s a game that says it’s okay just to have fun.
- Simple Premise, Fun Interactions – It’s a game that has fairly simple controls and goals, but maintains fun by way of the various environments and puzzles that you have to figure out in order to progress.
- Two for the Mines – Local Co-Op is a feature that I think is too often overlooked. Thankfully, Pixeljunk Shooter is able to be played with friends or family in this way, so two of you can make a rescue mission together.
- Who Made That Man a Gunner – Sometimes if you’re not paying attention to where you’re shooting you can accidentally take out a miner or cause a environmental catastrophe. This isn’t a huge thing as you can just take your time and make better shots, but it can be tricky while trying to shoot enemies who are close to your miners.
- Smallish Side of Tiny – The game is pretty short. It’s a fun ride and there are collectibles to go back and find, but it’s still on the short side. However, this is really the only negative I can really think of.
Pixeljunk Shooter is a game that I would really recommend. If you only have a PS3, I’d totally recommend it. Even if it is a short game it’s very fun and unique enough to stand out from other side scrolling shooters. Admittedly, if you own a PlayStation 4 or a PlayStation Vita the better way to go would probably be to buy Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate which includes both Pixeljunk Shooter and the sequel Pixeljunk Shooter 2 for less than buying them separate on the PS3.
Either way though, I’d recommend the game. It’s a lot of fun, can play it with a friend or family member.