March 7, 2011

Impressions – PixelJunk Shooter 2

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , — Mister Raroo @ 3:13 pm

PixelJunk Shooter 2
There is certainly a sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. Even tedious work can be fulfilling once the task at hand is complete, providing a sense of relief and a feeling of accomplishment. But, when all is said and done, work is work and play is play, and while work can sometimes seem fun, in most cases the type of gratification I get from both differ greatly. I’d honestly rather play than work, no matter how gratifying the work might be.

PixelJunk Shooter 2 is work, and just like any type of work there are definitely payoffs that come when you complete what you set out to do, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a good time while you’re doing it. Too often the only real reward you get from playing comes from the relief of finally passing sections of the game that were proving annoying and frustrating—which are numerous, unfortunately.

PixelJunk Shooter 2
For those in the dark, PixelJunk Shooter 2 is the sequel to Q Games’ take on the shooting genre within their Pixelunk series of releases. At the core, players control a cute little craft, flying through various locations and overcoming a variety of obstacles to reach an exit. The game picks up right where the first release ended as well, providing more a direct continuation of events.

But even if PixelJunk Shooter 2 may initially feel very familiar to veterans of the first game, it packs plenty of new ideas into this latest effort. The game again sports colorful visual and audio designs, and I really have to hand it to Q Games for packing a lot of neat elements into a relatively short game. Each level presents fresh ideas, whether it’s equipping your craft with different “suits” that drastically change gameplay, taking on impressive bosses, wrestling with light and dark elements, or even dodging bullet hell projectiles.

Though the word “Shooter” may be in the title, PixelJunk Shooter 2 is more akin to a puzzle game, or even an adventure game rather than a traditional shooter. Exploring the environments and deciding the best course of action needed to progress through each stage is perhaps more important than anything else, making the game very cerebral at times. Going into the game with guns blazing will get you nowhere fast.

Nevertheless, there is actually plenty of shooting going on in the game as well, so itchy trigger fingers will be put to good use. You’ll not only have to take out numerous enemies intent on destroying your ship, but you’ll also have to shoot the landscape to create pathways. Your craft’s weaponry is humble but gets the job done, with its main attack being peashooter-like blasts. You can fire off a barrage of missiles that do some significant damage, but doing so raises the temperature of your craft, with overheating presenting a continual obstacle throughout the course of the game.

PixelJunk Shooter 2
Your ship controls a bit like the spacecraft from Asteroids, providing a feeling of inertia that is akin to sliding around on ice. This can make steering through tight sections troublesome. That said, the sensation of piloting your ship falls in nicely with the overall theme of the game, which can be summarized as fluidity. Everything in PixelJunk Shooter 2 flows—literally, in most cases. A massive part of the game’s progression hinges on managing fluids. For example, you’ll carve out canals to allow pools of water to flow forth in order to cool off your ship and tame rivers of molten lava that are blocking your path. These gameplay elements are where the puzzle-centric side of PixelJunk Shooter 2 comes to the surface, and they represent a significant part of the overall experience.

So, on paper, PixelJunk Shooter 2 sounds like a definite winner, right? Sadly, it is significantly marred by difficulty that is more unfair and unnecessary than properly challenging. Because PixelJunk Shooter 2 is a direct continuation of the first game, its difficulty seems to be set accordingly. The game starts off tough and just gets even more challenging as the game goes on. I actually enjoy difficult games, but there is a fine line between being challenging and being unfair. For example, one of my favorite games of all time is R-Type, which is all about memorizing how to progress through each stage without making any mistakes, and success lies solely on the abilities of the player. PixelJunk Shooter 2, on the other hand, misses the mark because its difficulty stems in large part from loose controls and superfluous deaths.

PixelJunk Shooter 2
Each time your craft is destroyed in PixelJunk Shooter 2 you have to start over at the beginning of whatever section you’re trying to pass. While that sounds fair and actually ties in with the puzzle-like nature of the game, the number of times I had to restart because some enemy destroyed my ship after emerging from a wall without any warning was ridiculous. The floaty nature of your ship makes avoiding these unexpected attackers almost impossible. Even though I quickly began anticipating these cheap attacks, I often found myself starting a level over again because of yet another unexpected death. These moments felt wholly unnecessary and only detracted from what were otherwise cleverly-designed levels. It’s like Q Games decided the game needed to be “harder” and thought the solution was to stick in unnecessary and unexpected obstacles.

As a result, PixelJunk Shooter 2 is challenging in many of the wrong ways, making the game more work than fun. Though I found myself compelled to continue playing the game and always felt a great sense of relief and accomplishment when I made it through a level, I wasn’t necessarily enjoying the game. It was a chore I felt I needed to complete, and I began to question if I’d bother to keep playing the game if it wasn’t for the fact that I was reviewing it. Part of me wanted to continue moving forward to see what neat ideas Q Games would throw at me next, but another part of me just wanted to turn off my Playstation 3 because I was getting so annoyed and frustrated.

Obviously, I have some really conflicted opinions about PixelJunk Shooter 2, and in that sense it is a very tough game to review. I would love to give it a high score because I am impressed by the game’s aesthetics and variety of inventive gameplay elements. However, PixelJunk Shooter 2 is a very masochistic game, with difficulty that stems more from questionable design choices than legitimate, fair challenge. I can appreciate many aspects of PixelJunk Shooter 2, and it made me feel a sense of accomplishment at every bit of progress I made, but in the end I can’t truthfully that say I enjoyed it.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress