Double Eleven Studios step into the fray again by porting PixelJunk Shooter over to the PlayStation 4 and Vita, but not only a port, they’ve overhauled the graphics, effects and pulled episode 1 and 2 together into an Ultimate bundle as they did with PixelJunk Monsters. And they’ve made it cross-save compatible, as well as being a cross-buy purchase. So, the incentives are there, what’s to stop you from getting it?
Nothing. That’s what.
PixelJunk Shooter originally hit the PlayStation 3 in 2009, followed up by PixelJunk Shooter 2 in 2011, and was one of the best downloadable titles to appear on the PSN (in my opinion at least). The game does what all the other PixelJunk games do and puts a unique spin on a genre that makes it feel fresh and new. The idea with Shooter is that it’s a return to the old skool side-scrolling affair where you shoot the enemies and dodge the bullets, the twist is that it’s actually more of a physics based puzzler than a true arcade dodge-the-flashing-red-projectiles-fest.
Taking control of the ship, you move from cavern to cavern in a mysterious planet rescuing lost miners and engineers, and unravelling what’s happened to the exploration team. Progress is made through manipulating the environment in various ways to clear a path to the exit, once you’ve picked everyone up that needs help. The hazards start out fairly simple – lava that heats the ship up, enemy “cannons” that fire at you from the walls – and get more complex as you journey down through to the core of the planet. Health is basically heat resistance and you regenerate by cooling down in the air, or faster in water, and lives are controlled by how many workers you manage to accidentally waste (it can be very easy to do!). This actually frees you up to attempt the sections of a level as many times as you want without anything other than a slow completion time.
The environmental management is what sets this game apart from others, and the fact it’s so well done. Lava is a problem, it overheats your ship, so the best way to deal with it is drench it with water to cool it and turn it into rock. Rock can be blasted through to access other areas of the cave network. After lava you encounter ice which obviously melts in contact with heat, but freezes water, trapping you if you not quick enough to see what’s going to happen. Gases appear that are explosive when combined with lava; magnetic fluids semi-track your movements and create toxic gas if water comes in contact; there are loads of things to be aware of as you search for survivors, and this is just from episode 1, episode 2 knocks things up a notch. Add to this collectable gems to find in each area, secret chambers and rare scientists, boss battles, a global leaderboard, and local co-op and online competitive modes - there’s a lot to keep coming back to.
The transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 is, frankly, superb. The added effects and visuals the extra horsepower enables has turned what was already a nice looking game into an absolutely stunning one. It’s all brilliantly smooth to play, with the ship responding exactly as you want via the DualShock 4. There are no other new implementations – the lightbar, speaker, touchpad and camera don’t get a look in – but they aren’t needed for this game. The soundtrack suits all the situations well, and the audio is crisp and clear, which should be a given for every game (though sadly isn’t always). In short, the PS4 does a cracking job of giving you the definitive PixelJunk Shooter experience.
It isn’t all sweetness and light unfortunately, the drawbacks come in the form of the Vita version. One of the things I was most looking forward to was playing PixelJunk Shooter on the move, and with it coming out just as I was going away for a couple of days, I thought it was perfect timing. I wasn’t expecting the game to be as pretty as it’s PS4 cousin, and it really is not a patch on it, but I did expect the same gameplay, and this is where I found it suffered a bit. I can’t work out if it’s the change in screen size, the game itself, or just the controls, but I find it very difficult to accurately control the ship on the Vita. There’s one section reasonably early on where you have to navigate underwater before it freezes – no issue on the PS4, but 20+ retries on the Vita. And I experienced that type of situation quite a lot through the time spent on it (which was more than I spent on the PS4 for less progress). It looks and sounds like PJS, it just doesn’t quite play like it.
Like Flower and Flow, PixelJunk Shooter can be played on all three of Sony’s currently produced platforms, though both the former maintain a consistent gameplay experience whilst adapting to the changes in architecture, which demonstrates it can be done. Whilst I can’t knock the fact that both the PS4 and Vita versions come for one price (and free if you grab it from Plus before July), and the cloud saving is the best I think I’ve seen embedded in a game, I am a little disappointed in the controls for the Vita. They mar what is an otherwise excellent experience. Please don’t take that as a reason to not buy the game (the score below should give you a decent recommendation!), but just be wary that if you’re only playing on the handheld there may be some frustration ahead. Now, where’s PixelJunk Eden?
Review code for PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita was provided by the Double Eleven PR team.