PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate PC Review
Platform – PS4, PC
Developer – Q-Games
Publisher – Double Eleven
MSRP: $59.99 USD
(Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed on the PC with the review copy being provided by Double Eleven.)
PixelJunk Shooter was released back in the previous console era of 2009, exclusively for the PlayStation 3. The game was highly received for its innovative gameplay mechanics, visual art style, and soundtrack. The developer, Q-Games, eventually released a sequel – Pixeljunk Shooter 2, in 2011, and then PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, in summer 2014, which combined both games in 1 package for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. The Ultimate edition featured 60 FPS, seamless adventure mode between the two games, updated graphics, a new scoring system, a refreshed HUD, and multiplayer addition. Now the Ultimate edition has been released on PC. So how does the game fare today? Is it still a timeless classic and is it worth the money on Steam? Or is it too old and should it be forgotten? Let’s find out.
Story and Gameplay
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate has a simple plot that works well for the game and gives you a good excuse to play it. Your mission is to find the scattered survivors on different planets and collect treasure, then return home to safety. There is not much else to it, and that’s fine because it fits the game’s theme and complements the gameplay as well.
The game shines in the gameplay department the most. You control a ship and explore a variety of environments such as mining facilities, planets, lava, and ice caves. You fly around trying to rescue survivors that are hidden throughout the level and use your weapons to destroy destructive debris to find hidden treasure and enemies. You also solve puzzles in the later parts of the game. You have to be careful when you use your weapons because sometimes you can accidentally hit a survivor and kill them instead of saving them, which will lower your overall score. You tap your attack key to shoot bullets, or you can hold it down to fire missiles, but missiles can overheat your ship quickly if you don’t use them wisely. Once you find all of the survivors in the area, you’re free to continue to the next area.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate incorporates liquid physics that look and feel realistic. For example, if you need to put out lava you can find a water suit that gives you the ability to spray water, and every single droplet of water will realistically drip down a slope and into the lava. However, you have to be careful with the physics. For example, if you are using a magma suit and you don’t pay attention, you can burn the survivors with your clumsy lava spraying skills. You can also kill yourself by overheating if you’re too close to the lava for a certain period, so you have to find water as soon as possible to cool off. If you have a water suit, you can spray water right above you so it drops on you to reduce heating. As you progress through the game, you will also find a light suit that gives your ship a flashlight in darker areas, and an inversion suit that lets you swim in lava but makes the water dangerous instead. There are more suits in the game, but those are to be discovered by you. Each of these suits creates unique mechanics that complement the core gameplay mechanics in an exciting way. There are many puzzles in PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate that involve using the different suits to your advantage to save survivors. You can also find hidden paths that have special secret survivors that are not part of the level completion, and of course, treasure.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate includes both of the games and connects them in a seamless way without having to jump menus. Both of the games are structured throughout a total of 6 episodes, and each episode has five levels, with a boss fight in the last level. Each of those five levels has multiple areas in it that you have to go through before you finish. Both of the games took a good chunk of time to complete, especially if you’re trying to 100% everything the first time and have a perfect run.
The boss fights in the game are fantastic – even to this day. They’re creative, you feel like you’re fighting a boss and not a gimmick, and they also incorporate new elements that you’ve learned on your way through the game. One of my favorite bosses was the Giant Spitter in PixelJunk Shooter 2. This fight plays out like Space Invaders, where you have to dodge a ton of bullets and kill all of the minions before being able to do damage to him. As the fight progresses, he changes his patterns, and it becomes harder and harder to dodge his attacks. I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s something you should look forward to once you play the game.
Q-Games decided to add a multiplayer this time around. There are two ways you can play; Friend Battle allows you to play with your friends from your friend list and League Battle, which is a ranked multiplayer mode. In multiplayer, you can equip your ship with different items by buying them with in-game earned ‘Q’s – money currency earned by playing League Battle. The better you perform in League Battle, the more points you will get. League Battle is simple; there a total of 2 turns, and for each turn, you switch between defense and offense. The player on the defensive side has to hunt down the enemy player and prevent them from rescuing survivors. Once the offensive player is killed, the players switch sides and start again. After that, the turn ends and turn 2 begins. If players have an equal amount of survivors saved after turn 2, the game will be tied and an extra tie-breaker turn will determine the winner.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate’s multiplayer can be quick and silly fun here and there, but overall it feels unnecessary like they would have been better off just providing more single-player content. Also, the online play did lag a little bit at times. At one point during a Friend Battle session, I got disconnected in the middle of a match. Considering how this game is simple in terms of gameplay and visuals, people shouldn’t be dropped from games like that. Therefore, the multiplayer has some technical issues it seems and considering this is a PC port, these sorts of things shouldn’t be happening at all.
Visuals, Art Style, and Music
The visual art style in PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is simple, but it looks clean, crisp, and pleasing to the eye, and most importantly, it fits the theme of the game as well. Everything is consistent in terms of menus, environments, shading, score screens, and the actual in-game art itself. The soundtrack in this game is also fantastic. It’s very relaxing and unique, and for some reason, it just fits perfectly into this type of a game. When you play this game, you feel relaxed rather than tense, and you can just enjoy exploring caves at your leisure as you look for survivors and treasure. The music itself is a mix of pop and ambient with low-key vocals of people talking. Honestly, nothing has really changed much other than the upgraded visuals in the Ultimate version. If you liked what you saw back then, this version is just prettier. The one small problem I had was with the audio music ending abruptly at times. It almost felt like it was just bugging out. However, it didn’t happen that frequently so it’s not that big of a deal.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, in a nutshell, is a good product, but if you’re looking for anything new here, then you won’t find it unless you’ve never played PixelJunk Shooter 1 and 2 before. The game is fun and addicting and does a good job challenging the player as they progress through the two games. The multiplayer doesn’t really add much and is not really needed. Plus, it lags here and there, can give you error issues, and may disconnect you during the match. Overall, if you’re looking for a good indie game with solid gameplay mechanics, pleasing visuals, and good music, then I would recommend you pick it up.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate
- Fantastic liquid physics
- Gameplay is fun and engaging
- Great relaxing soundtrack
- Multiplayer is unnecessary and isn't that much fun and has a lot of connectivity issues
- If you've played these 2 games before then there is nothing new here for you in terms of content
- Not much replaybility once you have collected and did everything in the total of 6 episodes
Also published on Medium.