One of the indie highlights of the PS3 catalogue, both Pixeljunk Shooter games have now been combined into one handheld package. And they’ve definitely not lost anything in the transfer.
Having “Shooter” in the name might be doing the game a disservice, as there’s a lot more to it than that. Yes, things need to be shot, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The aim of the game is to go through each level rescuing scientists who have become trapped, easier said than done with each level getting deeper and deeper into an increasingly unstable planet.
The fluid mechanics are what really set Pixeljunk Shooter apart. Through each level you encounter lava, water, oil and various other hazards. And the way each of these interact with one another is what really makes this such an enjoyable game. For instance, you may come across an impassable area full of molten lava, and above you might see some weak rock that has a layer of water trapped. Shooting said rock releasing the water cools the lava, turning it into rock which can be shot freeing the path to the trapped scientists. This is the most basic of puzzles, with levels getting increasingly harder as the game progresses. And as you get further into the game newer elements get brought in, ranging from new enemies to switches that open up other areas. Lava isn’t the only thing that needs cooling too, unless you’ve obtained a shield then getting too close to the lava also heats up your ship, get too hot and your ship shuts down crashing into the rocks below. The only way to cool it being a quick dip in any water you can find.
There are also additional suits for your ship that add a new element to the puzzles. Some reverse the effects of water and lava; others have a magnetic effect that pushes oil out of the way. All of these little things combined make some of the best, well designed levels you can find on the Vita.
It has to be said screenshots really don’t do the game justice. The way everything interacts with one another looks amazing. The fluid physics are just a delight to watch, drips going over walls, splashes as your ship flies through the water, all in a bright, colourful world. With each new area reached having its own distinct style and appearance.
If you fancy a break from the single player then there is also an online mode for you to try your hand at. An interesting concept, a one on one game where it’s split into rounds with you and your opponent taking turns at grabbing scientists and returning them to your “base”. It won’t hold your attention for that long, but it’s nice that it exists as a throwaway extra.
The major downside to this package is that Pixeljunk Shooter 2 can be considered the weaker of the two games. It’s by no means bad, far from it. But when you go from the first game seamlessly through to the second the game appears to hit a peak when the first game ends, before quality starts to slightly decline as the second begins. The addition of the Hungry Suit is probably where it went a bit wrong. Turning your mobile ship into one that can only move in four directions is not the best of design choices. While the levels themselves are quite cleverly designed, having to ‘eat’ the rocks and push them out the way, controlling the ship is not a fun experience.
While if you’ve already played Pixeljunk Shooter 1 and 2 on PS3 there is very little here to bring you back, if you’ve never experienced them before then this really is the perfect time to jump in. The Vita managing to further cement itself as the indie platform of choice.