Review: PixelJunk SideScroller
Shooters are a snow-cone on a summer day to me. They make me feel like I am a kid again. I grew up on games like Gradius and Life Force, so when I saw that Q-Games was taking “The Road To Dawn” from Shooter 2 and making a game out of it… you can say I was a little excited. Now that the game is finally out and I have played through it, I am happy to report that it is probably the best shooter on PSN.
SideScroller takes what you know and love from PixelJunk Shooter and wraps it all up into a side-scrolling shooter. While the fluids — water, fire, acid, gas and magnetic — all appear, they seem to take the back seat this go around. They can all still be found, but you won’t be donning any flame suits while you try to shoot the core. Instead SideScroller offers up a ship with three different upgradeable weapons, a bullet spitting machine gun, a destructive laser and bombs that bounce off their surroundings. To upgrade these bad boys you will need to destroy certain enemies on screen. You will know which ones as they are a different color than the normal run of the mill creature. Each weapon is independent of one another so you will pick and choose which get an upgrade. While this may sound like a great way for this to be handled, I found that I was constantly upgrading weapons which were already maxed out. It may not be a deal breaker, but it could mean that you will be left with a far from optimal weapon when going into a difficult zone.
Thankfully Q-Games has found a way to make the levels seem more manageable with the inclusion of checkpoints. These checkpoints have saved me numerous times and they even work after a Game Over. When starting from a checkpoint you will still have all the upgrades you received up to that point. Weapons will however be reset after a Game Over, much like when you enter a new level. Another feature that some may find useful is the ability to quickly continue from a checkpoint at a lesser difficulty.
Across the game’s 13 stages you will encounter many familiar enemies from the Shooter games. Just a warning to those that didn’t like the bullet-hell mirrors from Shooter 2, they are in this game. But as mentioned before you can lower the difficulty and hopefully make it past them. Doing so, from what I can tell, makes the bullets move at a slower pace and gives your ship a small amount more damage it can take before exploding into a vector eyegasm. The game’s bosses are some of the best I have played in a shooter title. None seem too weak or too overpowered. It all really depends on how you upgrade your arsenal during the battle.
Another rather interesting touch are the changes to the visual aesthetic that happen when progressing through the games different difficulty levels. After completing the game on normal and watching the cut-scene you will notice that the game’s title screen is a different color. Then while playing the game on hard all of the colors will be inverted. Backgrounds are now crisp and white, water has become red, it really makes the game pop. Again after completion on hard you will be treated to a rather old-screen gray-scale filter for your play-through on brutal (You can check this out in the video below). Brutal also adds enemies which are more challenging by having them explode into bullets. I also hear that finishing the game on brutal will unlock the ability to choose your visual aesthetic, so hopefully I man up and make my way through.
Co-op makes a return while only being the local variety. Lives are shared between players so you may want to drop the difficulty down when checking this out. Weapon power-ups are not shared, so you can grief your friend or help them… it is really up to you. When I was playing with my housemate today, we did notice that in all the madness that was happening there were a few occasions where we lost track of where we were on screen. He would end up dead or I would think I was him. There is an option to turn on ship identifiers, but it really didn’t help much.
So there you have it. PixelJunk SideScroller is pretty much the go to side-scrolling shooter on PSN. While there could be a few tweaks made here or there, I think the game is definitely worth checking out even if you aren’t really a fan of shooters. The barrier to entry has been lowered with the checkpointing and new casual difficulty, making this a game anyone could check out.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- The vector style art with changing aesthetics
- Some of the best music in the PixelJunk series
- Fun boss fights along with great level design
- Each weapon had its own uses
What I Dislike:
- Not knowing what level my weapon was at
- Sometimes it seems like I lost where my ship was, especially in co-op
- Not being a bad enough dude to beat "Brutal" (for now)