Developer: Double Eleven, Q Games
Publisher: Double Eleven
Platform: PC [Reviewed], PS Vita, PS4
Release Date: October 21, 2015 on PC
The PixelJunk series of games is not unfamiliar territory for gamers who spent their hours on Sony consoles, having the PlayStation 4 release of PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate clocking in at 1.4-million downloads. However, the twin stick shoot‘em up has just made its way to PC, opening up a new audience to the bullet flying fun.
At first glance, Steam users may find PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate to be yet another indie title thrown onto Steam for a low price-point. Once introduced to the game, it becomes immediately apparent why it has seen so much success on the PlayStation brand of consoles. The game is incredibly interesting, combining gameplay mechanics that shouldn’t fit on paper, but beautifully mesh on screen.
The game is centered around a failed research trip, where the player is required to transverse different elemental obstacles and slay foreign creatures in order to rescue the abandoned scientists. For a game like PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, a story would generally be put on the backburner, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
For as simple as the plot may be, I loved having a sense of motivation to continue fighting my way through the new challenges. I felt a sense of responsibility knowing I wasn’t there just to slay enemies, but to save fellow humans. It’s a nice change of pace instead of the copy and paste save the day story-trope is to be expected.
There are three main elements to the gameplay of PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate. Players are expected to deal with obstacles, kill enemies, and rescue scientists, effectively making for a shoot’em up that doubles as a puzzle game. While this seems like an unlikely companion, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate weaves the two flawlessly together, marrying a shooter and its antithesis.
While the shooting is fun and responsive, the rescuing portion can make for interesting problem solving gameplay. And, the intriguing draw to PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is the puzzles within each screen.
The moment I was thrown into the game, I never realized I was attempting to resolve or complete a riddle of sorts. All along it just seemed obvious to reach my ultimate goal. I love how seamless the integration is, allowing the idea of being a puzzle game to get out of the way, and letting players focus on the fun of it all. This is largely due to how unique each of the puzzles are.
Instead of fetching items or opening doors, players can manipulate different elements in order to solve the obstacle. Someone may put fire out with a spring of water, or use lava to melt a blockade of ice. Either way, the puzzles were incredibly well-thought out, allowing you to solve issues that they may have never had thought of.
Also contained in each level are hidden diamonds, sometimes buried in rock, or sometimes in a completely secret area. These are used to unlock the boss level at the end of each set of levels, allow you to move on. But, they serve another fascinating purpose.
Casual players can simply collect what is required of them, leaving behind some of the more challenging diamonds that are very well hidden. This is where the door for hardcore players opens, giving an opportunity to replay the levels in order to find all the diamonds. Completionists will earn a badge next to each level that is resolved as such, having a nice reward for your troubles.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is a gorgeous game. Without a single doubt in my mind, it is one of the most unique, but beautiful, art styles I have ever seen. This again revisits my thoughts on how much wider of an audience it can now reach with the transportation to Steam.
The ultimate edition received a major overhaul, which includes graphics. The overall artist effort truly shines on the PC. The water in each level looks like it is actually flowing, with perfectly precise physics, and subtle depth. Each color is slightly washed out, but stand boldly apart at the same time. I am no artist by any stretch of the imagination, but even with my lack of credentials, it is obvious just how much effort was put into the aesthetics of PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate.
For those who can’t push their PC as hard or are more in favor of the classic graphics of the original PixelJunk Shooter games have the option to set classic mode in place, which changes the graphical aspect back to the original design of the games.
To oddly pair the graphics of the game, it’s easy to note the smooth tones of the soundtrack. While you are blasting your way through each level, you will be treated with a strange techno/rock/hip-hop hybrid score of tunes, including some spoken word elements.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is two games mashed into one, PixelJunk Shooter and PixelJunk Shooter 2, each originally released on the PlayStation 3. This yields around 150 stages altogether, making a casual play of the game clock in about 10-hours. However, for the vigilant, the game could easily twice, if not three times as long. There is a ton of content to explore just within the solo adventure mode, giving players their monies worth. In a market so dominated by games that are so incredibly short, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate churns out plenty of hours of addictive gameplay.
To extend the playtime even further, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate includes a co-op for Adventure mode and an Online Battle mode. The online battle mode allows players to upgrade their ships and face off against opponents around the world.
With so many positives about the game, it was surprising to come across an unpolished stone during gameplay. During my playthrough, I had encountered a bug that led to multiple crashes. Sometimes after completing a section, the game would exit to the desktop, resulting in a loss of motivation–and an angry gamer. There isn’t telling what caused it specifically, but it is understandable, albeit an annoyance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is an incredibly feature rich package, allowing PC players to get their hands on two PlayStation 3 classics for only $9.99. Everything about the game just oozes with enthusiasm and it is apparent just how much love went into the development of it. Every inch of every level looks and plays beautifully, and the games combine into one without so much as a hiccup. That combined with the immense amount of content makes for a package that’s hard to pass up.
There was a minor altercation with bug that kept making the game exit. While it doesn’t rear it’s face constantly, it does show up. Hopefully a patch will be released within the coming days. With that being said, I couldn’t recommend this game enough, just maybe hold on purchasing for about a week.