Final Thoughts on Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One

If you’ve played on a PlayStation system since the PS2 era, you’ve probably heard of the Ratchet & Clank series. They’ve had a number of titles out over the course of the PS2 and the PS3. They are some of the characters that would come closest to mascots of the PlayStation. I’ve played most of the games, and today I’ll be looking at Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.

Story

Ratchet and Clank All 4 OneThe story isn’t all that different in basic structure from other Ratchet and Clank adventure. The game starts with Ratchet and Clank escorting Captain (err… President) Quark to an awards ceremony. The ceremony turns out to be a trap laid by Dr. Nefarious, but the trap backfires and all four are caught up in the trap. Upon getting out of the trap all four characters are caught by someone collecting powerful alien life forms across the galaxy.

This predicament requires all four characters, despite their former antagonism, to work together, figure out how to get home, who captured them, and maybe even save a planet or universe in the process.

Gameplay

The Ratchet and Clank games have all been action based 3D platforming games and All 4 One does not change that. The bulk of the game will be about running, jumping, and using gadgets to get through the level while blasting any enemies that get in your way.

The most significant difference between All 4 One and other Ratchet & Clank game is that All 4 One focuses on being a co-op game above all else. The majority of the other games in the series have been single player experiences, but All 4 One allows for up to four players to fill the shoes of Ratchet, Clank, President Quark, and Dr. Nefarious. Even if you play alone the computer will play as a second character for areas where you need another player to proceed.

While this does change a little of the Ratchet and Clank formula, it doesn’t change that much. You still get cool weapons that you get to level up and cause lots of damage with. Only with the co-op you get a damage bonus if you’re both using the same weapon on the same enemies. Also certain gadgets will require both characters in order to solve certain puzzles in order to proceed.

Other stalwarts of the Ratchet and Clank series also make an appearance. The regular bolts as currency that allows you to buy weapons and weapon upgrades. There are large collectible bolts that are color coded for each of the characters you play. These unlock different costumes for the characters. You will also discover critters that you can suck up with one of your new gadgets. Critters allow you to unlock test chambers. The test chambers are tests that upon completion will unlock a part of the RYNO VI, which in this iteration is a giant robotic armor.

Themes

The obvious theme throughout the game is teamwork. You can find this theme both in the story of the game and in the game play. Teamwork has really always been a part of the Ratchet and Clank games, focused largely on the teamwork between Ratchet and Clank. All 4 One expands on that a bit added the need to work with the sometimes villain, sometimes hero, but constantly bumbling Captain Quark and the super villain Dr. Nefarious. This adds a different layer to the teamwork theme, as it is not just friends working together, but friends and enemies who have to put aside past animosity and work together.

Teamwork is also evident in the gameplay. The game is much easier when you work together well with those you play with. While not a particularly hard game, working together and communicating well will make the game easier and more fun.

Other than teamwork, there aren’t any other major themes that I remember. It’s a fairly lighthearted game, with a few exceptions, built around the ideas of saving the world and battling villains.

Positives

  • Personal Favorites – I’ll be honest, Ratchet and Clank are probably my favorite mascot duo from the PS2 era. I’ve always enjoyed the banter between the two characters, the gameplay, and the varied and unique weapons. This game is more of that even with the different gameplay elements.
  • Intergalactic Humor Award- Ratchet & Clank games have always had a decent amount of humor and this game continues in that vein. I’ve always enjoyed the humor and this game provides more of the same.
  • Fun with Friends – The co-op is fairly well done and was enjoyable to play with other players. While I do think there were some things that detracted from the choice to go co-op, as a co-op experience it was a lot of fun.

Mixed

  • Paper Weapons – While the weapons came in a fun variety of styles for this game, I felt that many of them lacked the power of previous installments. I wondered in part if this was due to the co-op focus. It seemed that the weapons on their own were not as powerful due to the need to use them in tandem with your co-op partners. I could be wrong, but that is how it seemed to me.
  • Weaponized Clank – While Clank has punched and smacked people with a staff in previous games, I don’t remember him ever packing heat too often. If he had the ability to use Ratchet’s weapons all this time, why is he just now getting in on it?
  • Willing to Try Something New – While I have mixed feelings on the turn to co-op, I have to say that it’s nice to see them try something new. Not that I’m particularly thinking they needed to mix things up, but still instead of following the formula they were trying to branch out in different directions which can be a good thing.

Negatives

  • Doesn’t Quite Live Up to Previous Titles – While I enjoy Ratchet & Clank and even enjoyed this game, it still wasn’t quite as good as most of the other games in the series. It reminds be a bit of Deadlocked in the PS2 era. A good game that simply isn’t as good compared to previous installments.

Overall Impressions

I enjoyed Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. While it had its flaws, my family had a lot of fun playing it together. While it was not a game I could recommend at a full retail price of $60, at its current price (which is around $20 as of writing) I would. It is a very competent co-op platformer. The main downside is that it isn’t as good compared to previous installments. It doesn’t make this a bad game, it may just leave you wanting a bit more than you received.

Final Thoughts on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Marvel is quite a popular brand these days due to the popular movies they have been producing lately. Before that rise in popularity, Marvel’s characters were used fairly often in video games. Now not all of them were good, and it didn’t gain them the level of popularity they seem to be enjoying now, but they were still there. One such game that didn’t come out that long ago (2009) was Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.

Story

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2From what I understand Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 largely follows the Civil War storyline that happens in the comic books. I know that the ending of the game is quite different from the ending of the comics, but I’m not sure how much beyond that is different between the two.

Basically, because of the number of incidents involving superhumans, like the strike on Latveria that you take part of at the start of the game, the United States government has decided that all super powered individuals need to register with the government. This decision divides the super hero community into two camps. One group is against the registration and is led by Captain America. The other group is supportive of the registration and led by Iron Man.

You get to choose which side you want to join and for the middle of the game fight against the opposing group of heroes and villains. The ending part has you dealing with a threat that arises due to the nanites the pro-registration group used in some of the super-villains to control them. It creates an enemy that unites both groups once more and gives them an enemy to combat. It’s not an exceptionally deep story, but it was entertaining enough.

Gameplay

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 employs a top down style of gameplay. You get to choose a squad of four heroes to make your way through levels fighting enemies, accomplishing goals (like destroying certain objects or finding a certain person), and usually defeating a boss or two in the process.

This is basically the same style of gameplay as earlier entries took starting with X-Men Legends and continuing with X-Men Legends II:Rise of Apocalypse and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. So if you’ve played any of these games, the style of gameplay should be familiar.

The game controls largely like a beat-em up. Your buttons attack, jump, and grab/pick up. Each hero also comes with four powers that use a combination of two buttons. There are also team up powers that allow you and one of your allies do a combination attack to do larger damage.

The levels you travel through contain collectibles that will unlock artwork, bonus simulator missions, information about characters, bonus attributes, or new characters.  So exploring the various levels and environments are encouraged. I think that should take care of most of the aspects of gameplay.

The only other thing that I can mention is that the game does support co-op. A second player can drop in and out as a member of your team and fight alongside of you. I didn’t really use it, but I imagine it could be fun to do.

Themes

While the game doesn’t really treat it with the gravity it could, the major theme is about power and how those who wield it are monitored. This is at the center of the civil war, but also comes into play both at the beginning and end of the game as well.

It happens in the beginning when Nick Fury leads an unsanctioned attack on Latveria after gaining intelligence that the country is not as peaceful as it is appearing to be. Is this use of power proper? Is the governments ignoring of a legitimate threat okay, because everything seems okay on the surface?

It is as I’ve said at the center of the whole civil war. Do superheroes need someone to monitor them? If they do, who watches those in control of that monitoring? Is it quite power that unmonitored power and power monitored and controlled too much can both be bad things?

This also comes at the end, but it is reduced. It is perhaps even an answer to some of the potential questions raised earlier. The actions of those who tried to control power by questionable means created a new problem that was maybe even greater than the first. If the beginning showed the potential danger of power outside of any control, the end showed the danger of misuse of power by the ones in control.

As I said though, the themes are there, but aren’t really dealt with in any serious fashion. I mean part of this could simply be the fact that we’re dealing with superheroes with fantastic powers so it just reduces the impact a bit. Regardless, I think it is an interesting theme to come across.

Positives

  • Playing a Comic Book – You get to basically take up a group of your favorite Marvel heroes and fight your way through a story pulled from the comics. It’s a pretty enjoyable setup for the game really.
  • Heroes Fighting Heroes – The downside of these kind of games is that after you’ve fought a good portion of the villains in the first game, where do you go? Did you think have the heroes fight each other? If so, you weren’t the only one. It certainly adds a different spin on things.

Mixed

  • A Button Masher – The game’s controls are pretty simple. While I think this is a pretty good thing for accessibility, it can tend to make the game rather repetitive after awhile.
  • An Interesting Mix – I feel that the character roster does a pretty good job at hitting some of the most popular Marvel characters, but the roster is actually smaller than the previous entry in the series (not counting system exclusive heroes). This doesn’t matter that much, as you may just stick with your favorites, but it also seems strange to downgrade the roster too.
  • Different, But Not That Different, Paths – Part way through the game you can choose to be either pro-registration or anti-registration. While this is made out to be a pretty big decision, it really isn’t. It changes some of the characters you can use for some missions, and gives you slightly different missions that aren’t really too different.

Negatives

  • Who Invited Mr. Freeze – While not a huge issues, I did experience a fair number of freezing during my playtime with the game. It wasn’t like it was every time I played, but it was often enough to make an impression.
  • Limited Time and Place – As I said above it Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 didn’t have as many characters as the previous entry, but it did continue a practice from it that was highly annoying. They had characters who were only available for certain systems or as DLC. While the DLC may not seem bad, this game had some messed up DLC due to licensing. The DLC disappeared for awhile, came back for a bit again, and then disappeared for good. I think console exclusive characters have no place, and they handled the DLC horribly for this game.

Overall Impressions

To be honest I’m not sure if I can recommend Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 or not. I had fun with it and enjoyed it despite some negatives and shortcomings the game had. Those who enjoy Marvel or have played the earlier games that are like it would enjoy it. It’s not a horribly deep game, but is an enjoyable button masher to play through. The only thing that holds me back from even a tentative endorsement is that the game seems to be a bit expensive these days. Amazon is out of stock, at least for the PlayStation 3 version, and the marketplace has it for over $100 for a new copy.

I guess my thoughts would be if you find a nice cheap copy, it would be worth it. However, I would not recommend spending the asking price for the remaining new copies out there. It is a fun game, but there is little groundbreaking about it. The fact that there is the potential for technical issues and that the DLC is completely unavailable also detract from my recommending it too highly.

Final Thoughts on Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

This week I would normally be giving my thoughts on a book, but since I haven’t finished a new one yet (I’m close to finishing both the books I’m reading now, but not quite there) I’ll simply move on and look at a video game. The game I’ll be looking at had quite the mouthful of a title. The full title is Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, but often it is shortened down to Runner2, or as I often call it Bit.Trip Runner2. So what kind of game is this rather long title? Let’s jump in and find out.

Bit Trip Runner 2Story

There is a bit of story to Bit.Trip Runner 2, but that’s not really the core of the game. Basically you play as the hero of the Bit.Trip world, Commander Video, who is sucked into another dimension by his nemesis Timbletot after being hit by a fusion beam. In this new dimension you seek a way to get back home and defeat Timbletot. Between worlds you get a bit of plot narration through a cutscene, but the story is pretty much along the lines of early console platformers. You play the hero progressing through levels to defeat the villain. It’s not a deep story, but as I’ve already said, the story isn’t the primary focus.

Gameplay

While the story is not the primary focus, the gameplay is. Bit.Trip Runner2 is a platformer for those who want a bit of a challenge. The game always seems fair in the challenge though.

The game drip feeds you new moves, particularly in the first world, in a way that tries very hard to not overwhelm. That and the moves themselves aren’t very complicated. You learn various moves like jumping, sliding, and kicking which have their own buttons. While later in the game there are more complicated moves combining these basic moves, liking having to kick while sliding or jump while sliding, these moves are typically only added to the mix once you’ve had plenty of time to get the moves down.

Unlike many of the platformers of older generations, Bit.Trip Runner2 has you automatically running through a level. So all you have control over are the moves you learn. This does add to the challenge as you have to have good reflexes or play until you have a memory of the level to know what is coming up next. If a level is too difficult there are three difficulties that you can play the levels at (easy, medium, and hard) so you can always adjust to suit where your skill level is at.

During each level you, I’d say there are always four basic goals (some of which are more optional than others). The first is simply to get through the level without getting hit. The second is to collect the gold and multiplier upgrades throughout the level to complete a level perfectly. If you accomplish this, the third basic goal is unlocked which is to try to hit the center of a bulls-eye at the end of the level. This will give you a completion rating of Perfect+ for that level. The fourth goal is to try to score the highest amount of points for a level.

You will die a lot throughout the game, but the penalties for dying are rather small. If you get hit during a level you will either rewind to the beginning of the level, or if you have reached the checkpoint in the level, you will simply rewind to the checkpoint. There are no lives, and the level allows you to keep trying as much as you want to.

Throughout the levels there are also secret paths, golden cartridges, and treasure boxes. These collectables allow you to unlock new characters, alternate outfits, and bonus “retro” levels that go back to the style of some of the earlier Bit.Trip style of pixel graphics.

After progressing through a world you have fight a boss character. In many ways these boss fights are like any of the other levels, but simply have times where you need to kick the boss to damage it. The boss battles also have a number of checkpoints so you don’t have to restart the battle from the beginning every time you get hit, which is nice.

Themes

With a story that is rather limited in scope, the themes that are within the story itself are fairly limited as well. You get a fairly basic good vs. evil tale that isn’t really developed too much.

Beyond the story though, I think you could argue that Bit.Trip Runner2 can promote other themes, like persistence, pattern recognition and memorization skills. These may be silly things to think of as themes, but so much of the game is about being able to know what action to do when faced with a particular challenge that I don’t think it is too much of a stretch. Add in a fairly limited punishment system that seems to promote memorization and retrying and it’s a pretty convincing case. Maybe theme would be the wrong word to use, but they are certainly things that the game promotes, even if unintentionally.

Positives

  • Let There Be Color – Bit.Trip Runner2 is a colorful and fantastical game. It does a fairly good job of displaying whimsy and fun parallel to danger and gloom. It just creates a rather unique and fun environment to run around in.
  • Energetic Soundtrack – The music also helps create the whimsical feel to the game. It is catchy and rightfully so, because you’ll probably be hearing some of the songs quite a bit.
  • Play it Again – Bit.Trip Runner2 has a decent amount of replay value for a smaller, indie game. You can go for the high score on levels, search for unlockables, or go after trophies by perfectly completing every level on all three difficulties.

Mixed

  • Easy to Learn, Hard to Master – As I said earlier the controls are fairly easy and responsive, however the game does get fairly difficult. Personally, I didn’t think that it was ever too hard especially after getting the controls down and practicing a bit. Some may very well disagree and find the game too difficult though. With an easy difficulty level this shouldn’t be too big of a thing, but I understand that not everyone likes a challenge.
  • Great for Short Bursts – While I enjoyed Bit.Trip Runner2 it was not always a game that I enjoyed playing for long periods of time. Sometimes I would, but it was often more enjoyable if I tackled a few levels and then moved on.
  • Repetition is Repetitive – A good portion of this game is about repetition. If you’re stuck on a level you will have to repeat it until you are able to pass the obstacle that is barring your way. Even if you don’t get stuck, levels can start to feel repetitive after awhile. This might be why I enjoyed the game more in short bursts.

Negatives

  • Shoot the Bulls-eye – One of the most frustrating aspects of the game for me was the Bulls-eye that showed up if you collected all the gold and multipliers for a level. There were times where I did really good at consistently hitting it, but then other times I was terrible at it. As I said it was the most frustrating part, and wasn’t all that enjoyable to me.
  • Running by the Scenery – This is a minor gripe, but the world of Bit.Trip Runner2 is so colorful and often so alive in the background, but because you’re constantly running the background has to be largely ignored. If you don’t then you’ll probably make a mistake and get sent back to the beginning. You kind of want to see all the stuff going on in the background because it is enjoyable to look at, but doing so typically results in messing something up.

Overall Impressions

Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien may be a mouthful, but I found it to be a highly enjoyable game. It is a challenging game, but I found it to be a fair and enjoyable challenge unlike some games. It rewards both natural skill and practice. It also places the challenge in a colorful and entertaining world. Throw in a decent amount of replay value and you have a game that will be enjoyable to play for some time, even if you may not play it in long sittings. It is definitely worth the $5 price tag for the PlayStation 3 and even the slightly higher prices for the Vita or on Steam.

I should also note that I played this game on the PlayStation 3, and a controller helps immensely. I remember trying the earlier Bit.Trip Runner on the PC with the keyboard and it was not very fun. So I do recommend playing with a controller for the best experience with this game for whatever platform you choose.

Final Thoughts on Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves

I know it’s been a little while since my last look at the Sly Cooper series, but I had finished a few games in between the second and third installment and figured I’d write about them first. I played Sly Cooper 3 as part of the Sly Cooper Collection that came out on the PlayStation 3 just like I did the previous two installments. This was the last Sly Cooper game for the PlayStation 2 and it took quite awhile for the series to gain another entry. Did this game fall flat or did it just take a break on a high note?

Sly 3 Honor Among ThievesStory

The story picks up around a year or so after Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves and starts us of with an assault on an island that houses the Cooper Vault, the vault of Sly’s family. Dr. M, who has put up defenses to protect the vault and keep it for himself, finds then and captures Sly. Sly then has a flashback and we get to play through the story to see how we came to this point.

We see that Sly learns about the Cooper vault from one of his father’s associates a man named McSweeney. After going to the vault and finding that Dr. M had turned the island it was on into a fortress to attempt to claim the vault for himself. Upon seeing this Sly need to get the Cooper Gang back together.

Sly and Bentley seem to still be working together despite Bentley’s injury he sustained at the end of the last game forcing him to be confined to a wheelchair, but Murray is not with the group. He blamed himself for Bentley’s injury and left. So Sly and Bentley seek to get the gang back together and break into the Cooper Vault.

As they do this though, they realize they’re going to need more than just the three of them to pull off this heist. So they wind up recruiting a group of thieves for this job, some of which are pulled from past enemies.

Gameplay

Largely the gameplay is very similar to previous Sly Cooper games, particularly Sly 2. It is still a 3D platformer that incorporates stealth and combat. Like Sly 2, this one includes the use of a health bar, ability to use Bentley and Murray, and upgradable abilities.

Of course there some changes and additions to Sly 3, but I’d say that not too many of them are too significant. With a larger crew you can also play as some of the other members you’ll recruit at times. Also with this installment, Sly isn’t the only one who can pickpocket. Bentley and Murray can also pick pockets, although their methods are a little different than Sly’s.

Some of the abilities are different, like disguises, and there are some different mechanics added, like airplane dogfights and pirate ship battles, that take place in some of the different chapters of the game. Another difference has been the removal of the clue bottles and vaults from the game that seem to be replaced with challenge missions and treasure hunting.

Overall though, this is still another Sly game and if you’ve played the first two, then you should have little trouble adapting to the gameplay of this game. Most of the things I’ve listed are fairly minor and don’t really make too much of a difference to the base game.

Themes

Like the previous games friendship and teamwork are a major theme present in this work. In some ways it seems like it is more developed as a theme than in the previous games. You see this through the rebuilding of the Cooper Gang, and also by the comparison that comes up later in the game between Sly and his gang and Sly’s father and the group he used to work with.

Behind this theme is the question of whether or not the Cooper Gang is a gang built on friendship or simply convenience. Each seem to have to wrestle with this at some point in the game. Murray does in coming to terms with Bentley’s injuries and the fact that Bentley doesn’t blame him at all. Sly has to face it in wondering if he is using his friends simply as tools or if they truly mean something to him. Bentley also has to deal with this, as Dr. M tries to convince Bentley that he is just a tool used by Sly and not a real friend.

One could also argue that there is a theme of knowing your limits. The Cooper Gang has been able to achieve some pretty impressive things before this, but with the task before them in this game they know they need more than the three of them. Now this could be more of a we need a reason to add more characters move than an intentional theme, but I’d still argue that it’s there.

Positives

  • Another Sly Adventure – The Sly games have been an enjoyable series to get into. Likable characters, fun locations, and grand adventures make for a fun series. Sly 3 continues that tradition and delivers more Sly Cooper goodness.
  • Tighter Experience – While for the most part Sly 2 improved upon the mechanics and flow from the first game, Sly 3 manages to make the experience even tighter. Some of the control issues I had with the second game didn’t make a reappearance in the third. Some things like automatically selling the items you pickpocket also makes for a little less unnecessary travel which is also nice.
  • It’s Personal Again – While Sly 2 had a story that had higher stakes, the way it was executed just didn’t work for me anyhow. With Sly 3 they somewhat returned to making the story seem more personal to Sly. While it doesn’t make the stakes very high, after all they’re just wanting to get into the Cooper family vault, I thought it flowed much better than the second outing.

Mixed

  • Too Many Characters? – I understand some of the reason to add new characters and everything too the mix, but I wonder if the addition of four new characters to the team was really necessary. They made it work, but when the theme seemed so centered around the unity of Sly, Bentley, and Murray it felt weird to have so many extras.
  • Don’t Have a Clue – For this game they removed the clue bottles and the vaults which I didn’t know what I thought about. On the one hand I welcomed it because trying to find them could be a bit tedious. On the other, it was kind of fun to find them all and use them to open a vault with some new ability. Doing that was more enjoyable and seamless to the world than the master thief challenges they added.

Negatives

  • Nothing to See Here – Honestly, nothing stuck out as being fully bad in this game. Overall it lacked anything that I didn’t like at all, just some things I was a bit mixed on.

Sly Cooper CollectionOverall Impressions

Even though I didn’t play through the adventures of Sly Cooper and his band of thieves until late they have all been enjoyable to play. Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves is no exception to this. In fact I might even put it as the best game out of the first three. It had a story that I’d say was almost as strong as the first, with smoothed out gameplay and tight control. It maybe got a little heavy on supporting cast, but I still think they made it work well. Even if the games may be a bit older, I’d recommend Sly 3 and really the whole Sly Collection for anyone looking for some nice E rated fun that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Final Thoughts on Sly 2: Band of Thieves

I few weeks ago I gave my thoughts on Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus the first game in the Sly Cooper series of games. Since I played the first game as part of the Sly Collection that was released for the PlayStation 3 and includes the first three games of this series, I will now get to the sequel, Sly 2: Band of Thieves. Did it improve upon the first game or fail to reach the same level?

Sly 2 Band of ThievesStory

The story begins with the Cooper Gang breaking into a museum in Cairo to steal the parts of Clockwerk, the main villain from the first game. The trio wants to find and destroy the parts before they’re used again for evil. The problem is they’re too late as they are already stolen by a group known as the Klaww Gang. This sets up Sly, Bentley, and Murray up for a globe trotting adventure to recover the Clockwerk parts.

Gameplay

While much from the first game is retained, there are a number of improvements and changes that have been implemented for the sequel. One of the most significant of these is that you are now able to play as Sly, Bentley and Murray who all have slightly different play styles.

Sly’s style remains very similar to the first game and while there are some differences that I’ll get to later, in terms of basics though he’s largely the same. Bentley is armed with a sleep-dart gun and mines that he can use in an effective combo, he is also able to hack computers, which initiates a hacking mini-game. Murray simply uses his brute strength to pick up items and enemies and can also go toe to toe with enemies in combat.

Another significant change is the inclusion of a health bar in the game as opposed to the one hit death (two if you had a lucky horseshoe) from the first game. Associated with this is the removal of a lives system. You can just restart a mission if you run out of life. You also have an energy bar that you use to do any of the special moves or abilities that you obtain during the game.

This leads us to another major change in the game how abilities are obtained. In the first game you unlocked them by finding clue bottles scattered around a level. You can still find certain special abilities with this method in this game, but the majority of the abilities will be obtained by purchasing upgrades through ThiefNet at your safe house where you begin the level. This is the new use for coins, instead of gaining extra lives you buy upgrades for your characters.

The upgrades are a bit different than the ones from previous games. Sly gains abilities that add properties to his cane, or allow him to drop a smoke bomb to escape enemies. Bentley mainly adds upgrades to his bombs, but also has abilities to increase his speed or allow him to have a jet pack. Murray gains abilities that increase his strength and allows him to perform powerful new moves. So you get a variety of moves and abilities that are in tune with their own unique way of play.

There are a few other additions like levels being larger and more coherent as opposed to being broken up in the first game. You also gain the ability to pickpocket with Sly which comes in handy and is used either to steal necessary items off enemies or just to gain some extra coins. So while I’d say there is quite a bit of stuff carried over from the first game, there is also a good number of additions that update mechanics and add some variety to the play.

Themes

Like the first game friendship and teamwork is a major theme of the game. In fact I’d say it is ramped up in this installment because you’re now able to play as all three members of the Cooper Gang. This allows for more flexibility in seeing how important everyone is to each other when things go south. It feels like they actually work more as a team, even if Sly is the leader of sorts.

There is also the theme of protection from evil that the first game didn’t have. In the first game the main drive was revenge against the villains who killed Sly’s parents and stole the Thievious Raccoonus. In this game Sly, Bentley, and Murray are focused on preventing Clockwerk the villain from the previous game to be rebuilt and set loose on the world again.

Positives

  • More Sly – This game has more Sly Cooper. I really enjoyed the first game quite a bit so I also enjoyed getting to play as Sly Cooper and his friends once again.
  • It’s So Smooth – In terms of gameplay a lot of the more disjointed components of the first game have really been ironed out and makes the whole experience smoother. Locations are much more coherent. The inclusion of a health bar makes for a more enjoyable experience than just having one hit kills (even if I did kind of enjoy that from the first game).
  • Around the World – Levels are not only smoother, but they are also fun and take place all over the world. Over the course of the game you wind up in Paris, India, Prague, Canada, and an airborne blimp.
  • Kind of Like Candy – Sly 2 is not a difficult game. Some people may dislike this and call it too easy or too short. To me games like this are kind of the video game equivalent to candy. They’re easy, mainly marketed to kids, but are enjoyable.

Mixed

  • Watch for Falling Raccoons – While overall the controls in these games are well done, I felt that Sly 2 just had a few more issues than the first game. I found myself having difficulties every once in awhile on things that shouldn’t have been too hard. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like the controls weren’t as sharp in this outing.
  • Intriguing Story, That Ultimately Falls a Bit Flat – The story for Sly 2 takes a fair number of twists and turns, and they’re enjoyable for a good portion of the game. However, the reveal of the final boss just fell flat. It felt like it lacked any proper motivation for that twist and just didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me anyhow.

Negatives

  • Does Interpol Do Background Checks? – Members of the Klaww Gang are part of Interpol. How in the world does this happen? I mean have we never heard of background checks or anything?

Overall Impressions

This was another enjoyable outing for Sly Cooper and his friends. In total I’d say that it is an improvement over the first game in many ways. The only two places where it didn’t seem quite as good as the first was in story (mainly the last quarter or so) and the tightness of controls. Neither of these problems are deal breakers and I found the game to be fun, even if it isn’t too hard and can be completely relatively quickly. So I would definitely recommend Sly’s second venture especially if picked up in the PlayStation 3 collection of Sly titles.

 

Final Thoughts on Double Dragon Neon

I remember renting Double Dragon for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) growing up. It was a 2D side scrolling beat em’ up and also had a couple sequels. They were tough games that had no qualms with having you restart the game completely after you lost all of your lives. I remember enjoying the games quite a little bit and was intrigued when I saw that it was being rebooted. Even more so when it was going to be a free game for the PlayStation Plus service. This reboot is called Double Dragon Neon and is both very similar to the game that it reboots and is not at the same time.

Double Dragon NeonStory

This is one area where it is very similar, the story isn’t really much of a story. The game begins with Billy’s girlfriend Marian being kidnapped and you play as Billy, and a second player can play as his brother Jimmy, to set off after the kidnappers.

Gameplay

At its core Double Dragon Neon is a throwback to the original game. It is a 2D beat em’ up, with a lives system and an overall slower pace than many games today. The game does include some modern touches though.

The most significant of these is probably the upgrade system. During the game you can obtain cassette tapes of two types. One of these will upgrade your base stats while the other type will give you a special move that uses a separate energy meter. The more cassettes you obtain the stronger their effects and you can increase how many you can use to level up by spending mythril at the “Tapesmith.” You either obtain these cassettes by defeating enemies or by purchasing the tapes at shops that you can find in certain levels.

There are other modern touches as well. There is a stage select that allows you to choose any level that you’ve already finished. The game also has a dodge mechanic that if timed right causes you to “gleam” which increases your attack power. You can also unlock different difficulty levels after defeating the game which helps you gain more money, cassettes, and mythril than lower levels.

Another aspect of the game that can’t be missed is the 2 player co-op. It can be a lot of fun to play with a second player and take out bad guys with a friend. You can also give high fives to each other to cause a gleam, split health between the two of you, or just fake out your co-op partner and watch them get a face full of dirt.

Themes

As usual a game with limited story has limited themes. You can take a negative or positive view on the quest to rescue your kidnapped girlfriend, but honestly that is just a setup and probably serves to connect it to the original Double Dragon than anything else.

Positives

  • Puntacular – I really enjoyed the humor in the game. To appreciate it you either have to have a knowledge of the 80s and/or a love of puns. There are so many puns in this game. From “brodacious” to “terra firmative” after landing back on earth from a space dojo, to the skeleton boss yelling “Bone voyage!” after beating him for the first time only to have him escape. If you don’t like this type of humor you’re probably going to struggle.
  • Neon Extravaganza – I remember the original Double Dragon being a bit more serious, but you will not find that here. Everything is tinted through the lens of the 1980s. While part of this is the humor, it is beyond that. The use of cassettes as the main power up, the music, the using a pencil rewinding a cassette as the revive animation, and the references show that this game is not about taking itself too seriously. It is a bright, wacky, quirky game and I think it is all the better for that.
  • Better with Two – Co-op really does add a good degree of fun to this game. I say this with one caveat, the game is somewhat difficult so the skill of your partner could influence your enjoyment. It’s not enough to move this to the mixed category, but it needs a mention.

Mixed

  • A Not Quite Retro Challenge – I wouldn’t say that Double Dragon Neon is as difficult as the old NES beat em’ ups, but it isn’t an easy game either. The controls, while rather simple, take a bit of getting used to in terms learning how fast and what the range of your attacks are. It also takes learning the attacks and patterns of the variety of enemies that you’ll face. One thing that does help is the level up system which allows you to gain a bit of strength if you’re struggling to get past a point.
  • Lives Flash Before My Eyes – I’ll be honest the way they set up lives can be a bit frustrating. You can buy extra lives during a level, but at the end of the level you lose any extras you may have had, on the other hand you also gain any lives under the default number. If you had a great stockpile of lives, then this is frustrating. If you passed a level with no lives left this is a sigh of relief. This is probably done to make it so you can just stockpile lives to tackle some of the more difficult levels, but can be kind of frustrating especially upon entering levels that have no place to purchase extra lives.
  • Short, but Sweet – There are only ten levels in the game and it doesn’t really take that long to get through the game if you are just going for beating the last level. That said there is also more to do if you want. It can get to be a bit repetitive and grindy, but more often it is a lot of fun even considering these things.

Negatives

  • Picking the Nitpicks – Honestly, everything I’ve thought of here is so minor that I hardly can consider it a serious negative. What nitpicks do I have? The biggest is the co-op life steal, because typically if you’re using it, it means you’ve been burning through lives. Another nitpick is the whole Linda enemy type running around in corsets and lingerie I mean really you’re fighting martial arts in the streets and even stranger locations wearing that? Ahem, anyhow beyond these things there is nothing too major I can think of here.

Overall Impressions

Double Dragon Neon was a lot of fun to play. The humor, the art style, and the music create a great setting to play in and the gameplay retains some of the old beat em’ up feel while adding some modern touches. It’s a fun game all the way around, but it can be a bit difficult. It is also a bit short and the replay value may vary from person to person, but it is also only $10 on the PlayStation Store, so it isn’t the most expensive game out there in the least. Given all this I’d recommend it quite strongly. It has flaws, but these flaws pale in comparison to the fun I had with this game.

Final Thoughts on Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

I often comment here about how behind I am in terms of video games. It seems that I rarely play something right after it releases. The distance between the release of a game and when I get to it varies wildly. I didn’t really get into the PlayStation 2 era until late so I missed a lot of games from that time. In the case with Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus I played it as part of the Sly Cooper Collection released for the PlayStation 3.

Sly Cooper CollectionStory

The story here follows the titular character, Sly Cooper. Sly is the descendant of a long line of raccoon master thieves. This line of master thieves has a book called the Thievius Raccoonus that has the accumulated knowledge of the Cooper family and would enable you to become a master thief.

Since Sly was the most recent Cooper he was set to inherit the Thievius Raccoonus from his father. However, his father was killed and the book was stolen by members of a group known as the Fiendish Five. Sly was then sent to an orphanage where he met his two best friends Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippopotamus. It with this group of three friends that Sly decides to seek after those who killed his father, bring them to justice, and retrieve the Thievius Raccoonus. In addition to the Fiendish Five standing in your way you also have to avoid the tenacious Interpol agent Carmelita Fox as she seeks to put Sly Cooper behind bars for his own thieving ways. All of this however is a very family friendly affair and is rated E for Everyone.

Gameplay

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is largely focused on 3D platforming with stealth elements. You control Sly Cooper for the majority of the game and you seek to infiltrate the five lairs of the Fiendish Five and put an end to their schemes. You do this both by sneaking past security systems, defeating enemies, and finding ways to get past obstacles using your special thief abilities.

You will also engage in combat during the game as Sly can use his cane to defeat enemies. However, Sly can be defeated in one hit, unless he has a lucky horseshoe that gives him an extra hit, so using stealth to sneak up on enemies is beneficial.

Each level in the various lairs also contain bottles with clues on how to open a safe that will include a unique move for Sly Cooper. There are also coins to collect in each level that will enable to you gain a lucky horseshoe after collecting 100 coins. If you already have this horseshoe you will gain an extra life.

In addition to playing as Sly you also have other missions where it allows you to play as or at least support either Bentley or Murray. Murray will drive in races, need protected by Sly on a turret while he runs to a particular location, or you’ll play as Bentley while he is hacking electronics in a cyber tank game.

Themes

There are a decent number of positive themes in Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. The most significant is that of teamwork and friendship. The team of Sly, Bentley, and Murray is tight knit despite there great differences. Sly is clever, cool, smooth and agile; Bentley is smart, no-nonsense, and nerdy; while Murray is strong, boisterous, and maybe not the smartest tool in the shed. All of their strengths are needed to accomplish their mission and it is the friendship between these three that remains a theme through the next two games as well.

You also have the theme of revenge, but it plays out here much differently than most other games. In most other games it is about killing those who are in your path, this is evident in the Assassin’s Creed games I’ve commented on elsewhere. With Sly Cooper you are defeating the various members of the Fiendish Five but ultimately you help bring them to justice and not doling out the sentence yourself. With only one exception the members of the Fiendish Five are all placed under arrest.

If there is one theme that may cause some case for pondering it is the fact that Sly himself is a thief. He is escaping from the law himself throughout the game. Sly is  a thief in the mold of Robin Hood, he steals from criminals or in order to find criminals. This doesn’t negate the fact that he is a thief, but does put a more positive approach to the whole thing.

Positives

  • Quality Family Friendliness – It seems that as the average gaming age has increased there has become a decreasing amount of quality games that you wouldn’t mind having your kids play. Even though this game is a bit old in its original incarnation it is still a nice family friendly game that is also a quality gaming experience and not just some cash in movie or television series tie-in.
  • Good People, Good Places – The world of Sly Cooper is a stylized version of our world with anthropomorphic characters and a fairly memorable cast of characters, particularly Sly’s group. The levels are fun and while they do wind up falling into some standard level categories they still manage to be well done.
  • Does Everything a Raccoon Can? – I thought that the controls for this game were pretty solid. New moves are added as you go on and it winds up being a rather satisfying platforming game.

Mixed

  • The Fractured Fiendish Five – For a group of criminals the Fiendish Five make for good antagonists, but also a rather disjointed story as well. They seem to be working together in their attack on Sly’s father and mother, but lack any kind of cohesion during the actual story. I understand why this is, so that the stage setup can focus on one particular enemy, but it winds up hurting the story a bit.
  • The Old is the New New – Do you remember the last platforming game you’ve played that uses a life system? Not many of them do anymore. It winds up being a fairly archaic mechanic, but it was one that I actually kind of enjoyed seeing. Sometimes it made for some frustration, but I also enjoyed experiencing it again.
  • Playing an Older Cartoon – Even with the HD upgrade, you can tell that Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is an older game. It has a great art direction, and the visuals haven’t aged that badly, but you can still tell it is an older game.

Negatives

  • Over Too Quick – Sly Cooper’s first outing is a bit on the short side. This isn’t that much of a negative though at least with the Sly Cooper Collection. It probably would have been a bigger issue when buying it on the PlayStation separately though.

Overall Impressions

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was an enjoyable game and I would highly recommend it. The game is a good 3D platformer, with fun characters, solid gameplay and is a game that you can purchase to let your kids play or not have to worry about them watching you as you’re playing. Considering the game is part of the Sly Cooper Collection there is little reason not to get the collection as you get the three PlayStation 2 Sly game’s for very little (Amazon has it for a little under 15 dollars as of writing).

Final Thoughts on Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

It has been quite some time since I’ve given my thoughts on a somewhat larger game. The truth is I complete less of these than I do the smaller “indie” or arcade titles, but today I’ll be talking about my thoughts on Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood which is a sequel to Assassin’s Creed II that I’ve given my thoughts on before. As usual some spoilers of the previous game will be given here although I’ll try to keep the spoilers for this game at a minimum. Of course this game is old enough now that many will have already played it.

Assassin's Creed BrotherhoodStory

Since it is a sequel to Assassin’s Creed II it should not be a surprise then that the story picks up right after the events of that game. This includes both the story of Desmond Miles in the present and Ezio Auditore da Firenze in 16th century Italy.

Desmond’s story focuses on his team’s continued effort to find the modern day resting place for the Apple of Eden. After escaping from the Templars at the end of the last game Desmond’s group sets up camp in the ruins of Ezio’s headquarters from Assassin’s Creed II. After setting up and gaining access to power they work at sending Desmond into the Animus to continue following the life of Ezio.

Ezio’s story starts after the last game as well. Ezio decides to spare the life of Rodrigo Borgia, now known as Pope Alexander VI, and escape the Vatican returning to Monteriggioni. After arriving home though, Monteriggioni is besieged by Cesare Borgia who kills Ezio’s uncle Mario Auditore, destroys Moneteriggioni, and recaptures the Apple of Eden that Ezio took possession of in the last game. So Ezio sets off to Rome in order to get revenge on Cesare and retrieve the apple for a second time.

Also with a story centered around Assassins, revenge, and a rather large conflict it should come as no surprise that this game is rated M and is meant for an older audience.

Gameplay

Really not too much has changed since Assassin’s Creed II. This is not a bad thing, just  understand that this is more of the same formula and if you’re expecting a large deviation from Assassin’s Creed II you aren’t going to find it here.

That’s not to say there aren’t some differences though. Instead of taking place at a number of cities and locations in Italy, this game takes place in Rome (Roma) almost exclusively. Due to this there is no separate location like Monteriggioni for you to upgrade like in Assassin’s Creed II, rather you are restoring Rome by freeing it from Borgia influence. You do this by destroying Borgia towers that are located throughout Rome and then opening shops, buying monuments, and repairing the city in these freed portions of the city. These upgrades to Rome provide you with money over time like Monteriggioni did in the previous game.

One other large change is the inclusion of using Assassin recruits to help you with your missions. As you free Rome from the influence of the Borgia, you wind up being able to recruit people into the Assassin Brotherhood. After this you can use them to help take out enemies or send them on their own missions to gain items, experience, and more money.

Another major addition is the inclusion of a multiplayer component to the game. This is the first Assassin’s Creed to include online multiplayer and it allows you to go head to head with other assassins. One could argue the necessity of such an inclusion, but it was a new feature anyhow. Otherwise most of the additions weren’t too different and could be easily adjusted to given a bit of time, like new enemies, added goals to missions for 100% completion, more combat abilities, etc.

Themes

Honestly, the themes are pretty flimsy in this game, even compared to Assassin’s Creed II. The main motivation behind Ezio’s mission is revenge and reclamation. This time around though the revenge theme isn’t nearly as interesting. You know who killed your uncle and why from the beginning so it lacks the sense of mystery the previous game did. It also lacks the emotional impact as well. By now Ezio is a force to be reckoned with, not a young man who has to learn how to be an assassin to avenge his father and brothers.

Even the control versus freedom theme of the previous game seemed reduced and put off on the margins. If anything the major theme of the game seems to be about building up enough power and allies to effectively counter the templars. It just seemed to be a bit flat in terms of themes. The goal set before you was more important than anything else. Maybe it was because the story veered from the ideological war between the Assassin’s and the Templars to trying to stop the cataclysmic event that was mentioned at the end of Assassin’s Creed II that caused the themes to take a back seat, I’m not sure.

Positives

  • Is It Better to Have Loved and Lost? – The story of this game wasn’t the most engaging in my mind. However, a set of stories that were told through side missions relayed a rather tragic tale of Ezio’s old flame Christina Vespucci. This string of missions and the story surrounding it held the most emotional impact of any of the other missions in the game, at least for me.
  • Still an Assassin – I enjoyed the gameplay from Assassin’s Creed II, it was a lot of fun climbing, assassinating, exploring the beautiful locales. Brotherhood is more of this. It’s a solid formula that allows for an enjoyable experience.

Mixed

  • Virtual Assassins – For better or worse, Brotherhood ventured into online multiplayer. I did get to play it a little and it was pretty fun, but I also wondered if the story didn’t suffer from the inclusion of it. Maybe it didn’t, I don’t know, but I just had mixed feelings with the online multiplayer aspect of the game.
  • Look at What I Found – The Assassin’s Creed series of games has always been very collectible heavy and Brotherhood is no different. They are fun to collect, but reach a point where they become a bit tedious after awhile. On the plus side you can buy maps that give you the locations of many of the collectibles, but it can still be a bit much.
  • Improving the Present – While I was disappointed with Ezio’s story, I felt that Desmond’s storyline was actually a little better this time around. The group felt a bit more tight knit and I felt that the most significant developments between the two stories happened in the present storyline. Now, the story still isn’t all that strong, but I felt that it at least improved as opposed to Ezio’s story. Plus they end it on a massive cliffhanger, which can just drive you a bit nuts.

Negatives

  • Once More, This Time With Less Feeling – I was largely disappointed by Ezio’s story of Brotherhood. As I said earlier it felt like it revisited the story of the first too much by following the path of getting revenge on someone who killed a family member and trying to find the Apple of Eden again. It just felt like you weren’t much further along at the end of this game than you were the end of the previous. The only real accomplishment felt like the establishment of a stronger Brotherhood/Order of Assassins. Maybe it is just because I thought the story of the first game was well done.
  • Online for the Latecomer – With the inclusion of multiplayer comes the reality that those who pick this game up late are going to run into troubles enjoying the multiplayer aspect of the game. Particularly since there has been three other Assassin’s Creed games with multiplayer as I write this. I know that I’ve had issues connected to games while I was playing and I only imagine it is not much better at this point.

Overall Impressions

I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. While the story is a bit disappointing compared to Assassin’s Creed II, the game itself is still fun to play and there is plenty to do. Even with a bit of a lackluster story, there are things that happen here that you do not want to miss if you’re interested in the story of Assassin’s Creed. With that said I would recommend it, maybe not as much as Assassin’s Creed II, but it is still a fun game, I just hope the story gets a little better after this.

 

Final Thoughts on Galaga Legions DX

There is a trend in many areas of media to reboot or remake certain games, movies, or television shows. This can be done by trying to make a faithful remake only with updated graphics and special effects or it can be done by changing various things about it like tone, details of story, or whatever other aspects those in charge want to change. The game I’ll be looking at today is what I would call a remake with a bit of twist to its gameplay, that game being Galaga Legions DX for the Playstation 3. This game is a remake or “sequel” to the Galaga series of games which originated over thirty years ago.

Galaga Legions DXStory

Story here is non-existent. You control a spaceship that shoots alien bug type things. Why? You don’t really know. You just do because they’re trying to kill you and you get points for it.

Gameplay

Galaga Legions DX is a twin stick shooter, so that means that a lot of the game is about pointing your guns and shooting  whatever is in that direction. While you try to shoot the various insect bugs you’re also trying to avoid them and anything they shoot your way. Now I’m not that familiar with the older versions of Galaga, but I do think that they tended to start you off at level one and your goal was to see how far you made it as the levels proceeded to get more and more difficult.

Galaga Legions DX does things a bit different and is breaks the game down into ten areas broken into five levels each. Each level has a set number of waves for you to complete, but they also have a time limit as well. So the goal is to try to finish each wave as fast as possible. Each wave gives you the path the enemies will take for that wave and then proceed to send a massive amount of enemies on the screen for you to take out as fast as you can.

Themes

Is kill everything as fast as you can a theme? A game with absolutely no story has a hard time producing many themes. This is just a straightforward arcade shooter.

Positives

  • No Long Hauls – One of the bad things about the play until you die style of games is that as you get better at the game the amount of time commitment to the game continues to grow. The way Galaga Legions DX handles it allows you to play a fun quick game and try to achieve a new personal best or best a friend’s time.

Mixed

  • The Modern Take is a Bit ADD – This game is just kind of all over the place. Lines are going all over the place, enemies are entering the screen and getting blown up, lights are flashing all over the place. It can be a bit much for those who are sensitive to such things. This can also be kind of cool as there is pretty much always something going on, but it really depends on what you can handle. I don’t have a problem with games like this, my wife on the other hand gets overstimulated pretty fast.

Negatives

  • Limited Options – Compared to other twin stick shooters out there I just felt that Galaga Legions DX just didn’t have that many options. The different levels weren’t that different from each other, you didn’t have any ship customization options, there wasn’t even an ability to play local co-op. It was pretty much only about the quick level playing experience, which I just found lacking after awhile.

Overall Impressions

To be honest I wasn’t super impressed with Galaga Legions DX. Maybe this is partly due to the fact that I’m not that knowledgeable about the Galaga series in the first place, but it just didn’t really impress me. I was able to have fun with it, but I would say that there are other shooters available that had more depth and weren’t quite so bright and flashy.

It’s a good game for those who want to play a nice quick game and not get sucked into a never ending mode that only ends after you die. If you’re wanting more than that, it is lacking. It’s fun, but it just has a very limited scope.

So would I recommend it? I don’t really know. As I’ve said it is fun, but it doesn’t have much substance. I kind of want to lean towards a no, I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s really a close call.

Final Thoughts on Pixeljunk Shooter

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.

Pixeljunk ShooterStory

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.

Gameplay

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.

Themes

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.

Positives

  • 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.

Mixed

  • 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.

Negatives

  • 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.

Overall Impression

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.