The PixelJunk franchise is rapidly developing a reputation for originality and innovation, and Shooter helps to bolster that identity. The PS3 exclusive download title takes a familiar genre, that of the multi-directional dual analog shooter, and turns it on its head through several clever mechanics. With frequent additions to the formula, the game delivers a well-paced sense of exploration and discovery. Throw in some 2-player cooperative play and PixelJunk Shooter becomes one of the best titles you’ll find on PlayStation Network.
Shooter has a simple plot behind its great gameplay. Contact has been lost with a mining world, and you are sent in to investigate and rescue survivors. Piloting your ship into the planet’s crust, you uncover a planet filled with grand underground reservoirs of water, great lakes of lava, and other stranger substances. By shooting out loose rock, you can send one liquid or vapor crashing into another, always with a unique result. For instance, water merges with lava to create new breakable ground. Your health is tied to your ship’s heat. So if you skim a little too close to that volcanic vent, you can always drop into a nearby pool to cool off. Along the way, the local wildlife take constant potshots. While dodging and destroying those baddies, you’ll also swing about to grapple and pick up the helpless miners and scientists scattered throughout the sprawling cavern complex.
The game’s most impressive feat is its unique approach to liquid dynamics. It’s fascinating to watch the different substances splash together, and learn all the unique ways to manipulate the environment to your advantage. New “suits” for your ship also change up the experience, giving you the ability to shoot out spouts of magma or repel magnetic substances. Hidden gems and hard-to-rescue survivors offer a reason to replay and polish your route through a level. New levels regularly present surprising twists on previous challenges. Perfecting a speed run with a cooperative buddy is even more fun than tackling it alone. There are even a few mammoth boss fights punctuating each of the game’s three major sections.
What is harder to communicate about the game is its inimitable style. The seemingly plain graphics observed in a screenshot take on a life of their own in motion, mostly in thanks to the stellar fluid physics on display. The audio channel is filled with a chill mix of beats and samples that at first seems out of place in the sci-fi setting, and then somehow starts to feel just right. PixelJunk Shooter carries just the right challenge to evoke concentration, but never so much that it halts progression. The concept is original, the aesthetics are striking, and the game behind it all is a simple, condensed package of fun.