Reviewed: March 30, 2011
Released: March 1, 2011
Pixeljunk Shooter 2 takes players through the guts of a tremendous space beast, through abandoned mines and caverns, and beyond on a quest to rescue miners and find gems. While it might sound like a traditional action game, Q-Games’ first true sequel follows in the footsteps of its predecessor with genuinely compelling liquid and gaseous physics puzzles that form the core of the gameplay, even beyond the shooter elements.. While a difficulty and the gating of content through finding hidden treasures sometimes mar it, Pixeljunk Shooter 2’s beautiful stylized graphics and continually clever gameplay makes it well worth a play.|
Picking up where the first game left off, Pixeljunk Shooter 2 is a game broken into three acts, each of which has its own unique mechanics. The game is based almost entirely around the interplay of various fluids, and whether you’re directing water to cool a lava flow, superheating strange magnetic liquids to form an explosive gas, or using water to stem the spreading egg-like cells that threaten to absorb your ship and stranded miners, the interactions of the fluids and other materials are intuitive and deep enough for each fluid or substance that entire levels can be built around the way that the substances interact.
While water and lava are constants through the entire game, every set of levels adds its own wrinkles to the formula, with the first world’s lava and eggs, the second world’s magnetic fluid and ice, and the darkness and light mechanics used in the third. Pixeljunk Shooter 2 manages an impressive feat for a modern game, managing to stay fresh and innovative the full way through.
In addition to the fluids, the game also boats an impressive variety of power-ups, each of which changes some fundamental aspect of your ship. The suit that allows you to chew through the bonelike material in the space beast’s body also prevents you from shooting, making your primary means of conflict resolution shoving blocks to crush enemies below. The anti-magnet suit repels the magnetic fluid and shields you from its heating effects, giving you finer control of where it moves. A suit that reverses your sensitivity to heat and cold makes it so lava restores your ship as water threatens it. Each of the ship-suits adds a new layer to the fluid interactions and ensures that Pixeljunk Shooter 2’s mechanics stay fresh the whole way through.
Fresh and innovative seems to be the order of the day at Q-Games, though, and Pixeljunk Shooter 2’s visual style, a sort of flat-colored, cartoonish wonderland mixed with realistic liquid and gas physics, helps the game stand apart from the masses. While there are some difficulties noticing enemies, which unfold seamlessly from the terrain as you progress through the level and stand a good chance of overheating your ship and sending you back to the start of a stage if you’re not sharp-eyed enough to notice their appearance, the graphical style typically works rather well.
There are only two places where the game stumbles. For a game where the primary draw, at least for me, is seeing the new ways they present the core mechanics, Pixeljunk Shooter 2 is rather difficult, with checkpoints only at the beginning of each stage, and numerous enemies that threaten to destroy you almost instantly, along with the environmental hazards. While some enemies ride the line between environmental threat and traditional enemy, requiring specific tactics to defeat, many simply require the player to juke around shots and return fire while watching their heat gauge. While it’s simple in theory and engaging, it definitely wasn’t the most engaging thing on offer.
Similarly, while the stated goal of the game is to rescue the miners, who are in plain sight but often in danger, the actual goal that unlocks further worlds is acquiring hidden treasure. While no gem is too fiendishly hidden, the sheer number you need to progress means that except for truly meticulous players, there’ll be some backtracking, which can be an absolute drag for players who just want to see the game’s next trick. A cooperative multiplayer mode takes some of the edge off, but still doesn’t help when you’re playing alone.
That said, however, Pixeljunk Shooter 2 is an excellent game. With a fresh graphical style, tight controls, and innovative gameplay, it’s everything a downloadable game should be. While there are some minor stumbles for the more casual, puzzle-oriented player, that shouldn’t discourage anyone who’s curious from picking it up.