PixelJunk Shooter is a twin-stick shooter, with a very big focus on physics (specifically fluids). While exploring the underground caves of a planet, you'll have to interact with lava, water, liquid metal, ice and rock in order to save the scientists who are now trapped.
The story is basically that. You're in a ship, trying to save every scientist. And also collecting hidden gems. Whole it may seem a game about exploration, it didn't quite get to that point, in my opinion. But more on that later.
Let's start with presentation.
The graphics' style
is very minimalistic, with soft colours, and yet, it looks great, in my opinion.
It certainly looks unique, and the fluids especially, give it a a special look.
The enemies have a mechanical feel to them, but it fits, along with the Boss Fights.
was less of a standout for me, but it was certainly not bad. Just a bit more faint than I'm used to, staying in the background for the most part. It helped with the light-hearted exploration-y atmosphere, I think it was well chosen for the game they were going for.
The sound effects were in the same vein.
How's the gameplay
First off, the game is divided into 3 areas, each with a few levels. Each level also has about 4 (I think) areas to explore, each of them self contained, and fairly small.
The first area is more vulcanic, the second, deeper, is full of ice, and the third, the deepest, has an industrial feel to it.
Each of them has different mechanics associated with the physics. These are all connected to the area it's set in.
You control a little space ship, propelled by thrusters. The movement feels quite great actually, with momentum very notable in the ships handling. It feels great, even though there aren't section to challenge your pilloting skills. It's still good that the tight control is there while you're just flying around.
Then, you have a Hook/Tractor thing to pick up the gems and the scientists you find, and you also have missiles, to destroy rocks and your enemies.
There are also several different types of ships. You'll find modifiers in specific points of the levels. For the standard ship, lava with overheat you, while water will cool you off. Each time you get hit, you don't instantly die, but your heat will rise substancially. To survive, you can either back away, or dive into water.
Besides, you'll find ship modifiers around the levels, for when you need to actually progress the levels.
There is a Magma ship, that shoots lava, a Water ship that shoots water, and can pull ice with is hook, there's an inverted ship, that is hurt by water, and can dive on lava, and there's also a Magnetic ship that repels the liquid metal. These sound, and play really well, but they're highly limited to the levels. You'll only have access to them in the exact section that you need them, and there's no action from the player in discerning which ship he needs for the given section, unfortunately.
In each level, you'll try to find the scientists
. You have to deal with all of them in each area to unlock the next one (either save them, or kill them). Every time a scientist dies, you'll lose a life. Your limit is 5, but you'll gain another one each time you collect 100 coins
(these are spread around the levels, and also dropped by the enemies).
You also try to find gems
, that are used to unlock levels, or just for achievements. Unfortunately, these are very easy to miss by mistake, and you'll have to replay the whole level if you want to 100% it (it is NOT needed, though. I did some thorough exploration the first time around, found every secret area
, and still missed a couple of gems in many of the levels. I never had the need to replay levels to proceed though, so the game was designed to keep you going naturally, saving these for the completionists. That's really good, in my view!).
There are also Special Scientists
that you collect in your Gallery (yeah, not creepy at all), and these will talk to you, giving you a bit of backstory into their expedition.
The base of the game is out of the way, now.
This game reminded my a bit of Waking Mars. Besides both being about exploring the caves, both are very focused about combining elements (in WM, it's mostly interacting with the creatures, in PJShooter, is with the fluids). While Waking Mars gave you a real feeling of discovery, learning about each species and all about their lives and interactions, that isn't very present in PixelJunk Shooter.
PixelJunk Shooter is a very straightforward game, and also not very challenging. It's something to enjoy casually.
The level design was pretty good, in my opinion, providing good areas to experiment with the fluids, and learn new mechanics without a wall of text. While that was all there and great, the whole game felt like a very big tutorial, in a way. Everything was subtle, but not challenging, and specially not giving the player much freedom.
You'll have everything delivered into your hands when you need it, there's no puzzle solving, or anything, which wasn't what I was expecting. So, if you're looking for an experience of discovery and learning, go play Waking Mars.
If, on the other hand, you want a laid back twin stick shooter with cool physics, give this one a try.
The Boss Fights were the funnest part of the game, for me. They weren't very hard either, as you were pretty comfortable even after getting hit (as long as you were careful). But that comfort gave you the time to learn the Bosses patterns without it feeling frustrating, and led to interesting fights.
I found the game enjoyable, certainly, but in a way that I wasn't expecting. It's very, very linear. There isn't trial and error to understand the fluids, or anything. It's not about learning the mechanics, and then applying them into more complex puzzles. It's mostly about learning on the go, always with simple puzzles. And to be honest... that's fine.
It may not be what you're looking for, but it's good that it exists, for people who do. And it's a very well done game for its purpose.
It's also very cheap on sale and you can easily get it. Go ahead and give this one a try if it sounds appealing!