Review: PixelJunk Shooter

Every so often, a game ably strikes a balance between being accessible yet challenging, simple yet beautiful and short enough to leave you wanting more yet long enough that, upon completion, you are left with a sense of accomplishment. From Q-Games and in the same series of PixelJunk games like Racers, Monsters and Eden, Shooter continues a tradition of taking a familiar feeling game and making it something special. Sure it was released at the end of 2009, but it's new to me and definitely holds up three years later.

PixelJunk Shooter employs the bare minimum in terms of story to motivate the player and explain the end goal. A whale-shaped mining ship, The E.R.S. Piñita Colada, reaches a planet only to discover a distress signal stating that the miners have been captured. You must search high and low in three main areas, each with five associated levels.

PixelJunk Shooter has quickly become one of my most beloved download-only games.

In order to rescue the captured miners, you fly a small ship around each level blasting enemies and avoiding environmental hazards. The ship controls like other twin-stick shooters: left stick to move, right stick to aim and R1 or R2 to shoot. There is also a grappling hook (L1 or L2) that is used to pick up miners and the collectible gems that are scattered around each area. It can also be used to carry tools or, with certain power-ups, allows for parts of the environment to be rearranged. The power-ups change the ship weapons or what will damage it. Normally, lava damages and water cools, but the inverter suit allows you to fly through the lava while avoiding water.

What's that you say? If only there was a built-in video capture with direct YouTube upload to share your gameplay. Well, you're in luck. Check out the video below to see my playthrough of the first level.

Trophy hunters, don’t be dismayed by the fact that PJ Shooter is just a PSN game. The trophies are all related to gameplay elements and the collectibles. These are the types of trophies I like to go for as they encourage the player to experience all things the game has to offer but aren’t necessary to complete the game.

Even after finishing the game and getting all the collectibles, I still have two reasons to come back for more: score-chasing and two-player mode to share with a friend. Score-chasing is all about destroying multiple enemies in quick succession and finishing levels promptly. This can be done on the fly (sorry) or it can be experimented with to find the best order or method of dispatching your foes. Two-player mode allows for a friend to flop down on the couch next to you and join in on the campaign. There isn’t any online co-op here so invite a friend over and share this game with them.

PixelJunk Shooter has quickly become one of my most beloved download-only games. It now shares a spot amongst the likes of Journey as a personal favourite. Between the chill exploration, the variety of enemies and environmental hazards, the collectibles and the frantic boss battles, this game has a little something for everyone. I strongly encourage you to pick this game up ($9.99 on PSN), or revisit it, if you enjoy twin-stick shooters (Dead Nation or Super Stardust), space shooters (pick one) or just games in which everything works and makes sense.

*For the purpose of this review, the PS3 version of the game was played.