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Disclaimer - This article includes an affiliate Amazon link which benefits us financially and the review copy was provided by Double Eleven.
PixelJunk Shooter was originally released in 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 one 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.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate has a simple plot that works well for the game and gives fans a good excuse to play it. Players' mission is to find scattered survivors on different planets and collect treasure, then return home to safety. There is not much else to it.
Gameplay shines the most. Players control a ship and explore a variety of environments such as mining facilities, planets, lava, and ice caves. Gamers fly around trying to rescue survivors hidden throughout the level and use weapons to destroy destructive debris to find hidden treasure and enemies. Players also solve puzzles later. One must be careful when using their weapons, because sometimes they can accidentally hit a survivor and kill them instead of saving them, which will lower the overall score. Players tap their attack key to shoot bullets, or they can hold it down to fire missiles, but missiles can overheat one's ship quickly if they don't use them wisely. Once players find all of the survivors in the area, they're free to continue to the next area.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate incorporates liquid physics that look and feel realistic. For example, if players need to put out lava, they can find a suit that gives them the ability to spray water, and every droplet will realistically drip down a slope and into the lava. However, gamers have to be careful with the physics. For example, if they are using a magma suit and don't pay attention, they can burn the survivors with their clumsy lava spraying skills. Users can also kill themselves by overheating if they're too close to the lava for a certain period, so must find water as soon as possible to cool off. If one has a water suit, they can spray water right above them so it drops on them to reduce heating. As fans progress through the game, they will also find a light suit that gives their ship a flashlight in darker areas, and an inversion suit that lets them swim in lava but makes water dangerous. There are more suits, and each one creates unique mechanics that complement the core gameplay in an exciting way. There are many puzzles in PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate that involve using the different suits to players' advantage. Fans can also find hidden paths that have special secret survivors who are not part of the level completion, and of course, treasure.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate includes both of the games and connects them seamlessly. Both games are structured throughout a total of six episodes, and each episode has five levels, with a boss fight in the last level. Each of those five levels has multiple areas players have to navigate before they finish. Both titles took a good chunk of time to complete, especially if someone is trying to achieve 100% of everything the first time and have a perfect run.
The boss fights are fantastic—even by today's standards. They're creative, representative of a boss fight and not a gimmick, and they also incorporate new elements that players have learned along the way. The Giant Spitter in PixelJunk Shooter 2, for example, plays out like Space Invaders, where players have to dodge a ton of bullets and kill minions before being able to do damage to the boss. As the fight progresses, the Giant Spitter changes his patterns, and it becomes harder and harder to dodge his attacks.
Q-Games decided to add multiplayer. There are two ways gamers can play: Friend Battle and and League Battle. The former allows fans to play with their friends from their friend list while League Battle is a ranked mode. In multiplayer, users can equip their ship with different items by buying them with "Q’s"—in-game currency earned by playing League Battle. The better players perform in League Battle, the more points they will get. League Battle is simple; there is a total of two turns, and for each turn, players 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, competitors switch sides and start again. After that, the turn ends and turn two begins. If players have an equal amount of survivors saved after turn two, a tie-breaker ensues.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate's multiplayer can be quick and silly fun here and there, but overall it feels unnecessary. Q-Games would have been better off providing more single-player content. The online play lagged at times; during a Friend Battle session, mid-match disconnections occurred. Considering the game's simplicity, such issues shouldn't exist.
The visual style in PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is simple yet clean, crisp, and pleasing to the eye. Most importantly, it fits the theme of the game. Everything is consistent in terms of menus, environments, shading, score screens, and the actual in-game art. The soundtrack is also fantastic. It’s relaxing and unique, and fits perfectly into this type of a game. When playing, gamers feel relaxed rather than tense, and they can just enjoy exploring caves at their leisure as they look for survivors and treasure. The music itself is a mix of pop and ambient with low-key vocals of people talking. Nothing has changed much other than the upgraded visuals in the Ultimate version. If veteran fans liked what they saw in the past, this version is prettier. However, one small problem is with the music ending abruptly at times, feeling as if it bugged out. However, it didn't happen frequently.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, in a nutshell, is a good product, but if one is looking for anything new, they won't find it unless they've never played the original versions of PixelJunk Shooter 1 and 2. The game is fun and addicting and does a good job challenging the player as they progress through the two titles. The multiplayer doesn't really add much and is unnecessary. Plus, it lags here and there and may disconnect during the match. Overall, if gamers are looking for a good indie game with solid mechanics, pleasing visuals, and good music, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is worth a look.