PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate
- Street Date:
- June 3rd, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Bill Braun
- Review Date:1
- June 23rd, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Sony Computer Entertainment of America
- Q-Games/Double Eleven
PS4 version reviewed.
Q-Games, a second-party studio partner for Sony Computer Entertainment, has been creating videogames across a variety of platforms since the mid-2000s. Founded by Dylan Cuthbert – famous for 'Star Fox' – the studios primary focus and recognition has been developing games under the 'PixelJunk' moniker. Although not an entirely new title added to the franchise, Q-Games decided to combine their 'PixelJunk Shooter' series into a single offering to be made available on the PlayStation 4; inclusive of updated visuals and physics-based mechanics. But is this 'Ultimate' edition of the well-received PlayStation 3 titles worthy of separate play through, or does it simply fall into the category of another unnecessary HD remake?
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate' is, at its heart, a 2D twin-stick shooter, comprised of the first two iterations of the game that were made available for the PlayStation 3. More than a simple 'HD' remake to join the ranks of other such upgrades for this latest generation of consoles, 'Ultimate' is the full package and, quite simply, the best way to experience Q-Games' title.
Commanding a small ship through the subterranean caverns of an uncharted planet, it's your job to rescue the scientists and other workers trapped miles underground. Starting off armed with only a blaster and grappling hook, you'll navigate the rough-cut passages, seeking out survivors and buried diamonds, while avoiding traps and facing a variety of otherworldly foes.
'PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate' is a near perfect blend of twin-stick shooter, puzzle, and dexterity game, and the developers at Q-Games do a spot-on job of holding your hand through the initial levels, while gradually ramping up the difficulty. Although the controls are tight and responsive, they are also quite floaty when navigating your ship, making the maneuverability more frantic in tighter situations.
Each new, unexplored cavern will require that you save the scientists before moving on to the next level and before five of them meet an untimely death. Spending the extra time needed to locate the specified number of diamonds is not only a great deal of fun, it will also help to unlock later levels.
Accomplishing these tasks seems fairly routine and simplistic. However, new levels make way for new tools. Your blaster may be swapped out for a lava cannon - allowing you to burn your way through the rock and stone - but get too close to the heat and your ship will burn to ash. The scientists also don't take kindly to friendly fire, accidental or otherwise.
Where the heat of underground volcanic eruptions will put a quick end to your rescue efforts, pools of water will cool you down in an instant, as well as turn that molten lava to hardened stone. Later levels also mix in combustible gas and freezing ice (to name a few). Each new element brings with it its own set of complexities and puzzles to work through and, as a result, further develops 'PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate' into one of the more challenging and fun indie titles you'll have an opportunity to experience. Resolving each set of levels with a unique boss battle also breaks up the gameplay and keeps things fresh and interesting.
Adding to the opportunity to play through 'PixelJunk Shooter' 1 and 2 in a single package is the available online multiplayer. Although I struggled early on in finding an opponent – whether from the result of server issues or a lack of players – the end result is worth the wait. In a simplified head to head variation on capture the flag, one invisible ship is tasked with navigating the randomized map, locating scientists, and dragging them back to the starting point, while your opponent utilizes radar to hunt down and destroy these efforts. Objectives change sides and a final winner is declared after a few short rounds. Additional abilities and weapons can be unlocked for future events and your scores are tracked, making it ever more inviting to jump into your next match.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
I had previously hinted at the puzzle mechanics of 'Ultimate' taking the form of a variety of elements: solids, gasses, and liquids. While adding to the overall complexity of the individual puzzles, it is the physics-based mechanics that ultimately steal the show. The fluid simulations of both water and lava make for a mesmerizing and realistic experience, and I can only image how difficult it must have been to develop such active visuals.
Everything about these elements – from particle resolution and shading to the wonderful use of colors – boasts an overall increase in visual fidelity from the game's original release. Add to this the increased 60 fps and the final delivery is both smooth and visually stunning. I was continually impressed by the amount of depth 'PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate' was capable of delivering when considering its 2D foundations.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
While certainly the weakest link, 'Ultimate' is the type of game that neither requires nor needs a high performing audio track to heighten gameplay. Explosions sound like explosions, the shaking ground warns of a volcanic eruption, and the childlike cries from scientists killed too soon will haunt my dreams for nights to come.
The most standout feature of the audio can be found with the interesting blend of musical genres. From jazz to a weird merging of record scratching and funk, the soundtrack to 'PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate' somehow, oddly, feels right. In any other videogame setting it would be interpreted as unusual and out of place. But given the light-hearted nature of this game, it fits like a well-worn slipper – loose, comfortable, and familiar.
'PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate' is constantly prompting you to do better – whether in the single player campaign, or through honing your skills with the online component. And if score chasing is a favorite past time of yours, look no further as there are plenty of opportunities to better yourself. Add to this the option to play through the game in co-op and you've got even more reason to further explore the deepest regions and most treacherous caves.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
As more and more games are released for both the PlayStation consoles and the PlayStation Vita, the first question that often comes to mind is the option of cross-play and cross-save. Rest assured that the updated version of 'PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate' provides availability for both. Play with your friends across either device or take your game progress on the go, the developers at Q-Games have you covered.
While there have been a number of AAA titles released for the PlayStation 4, the idea of developing HD or 'Ultimate' versions of prior games continues to be a presence. Whether it's an updated 'Tomb Raider' or the future release of Naughty Dog's award winning 'The Last of Us', this trend is certain to continue until the PlayStation 4 further solidifies itself within the videogame industry and new IPs are developed. Some of these updated titles have been obvious cash-ins, while others truly provide a fresh experience. I believe 'PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate' falls into the latter of these two categories. It delivers enough reason for fans of the original series to play the game again, and an opportunity for gamers new to the series to experience it as a complete collection.
- Online Versus
- Offline Co-op
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