Among the growing mass of unique content to be found on the Playstation Network, some creators stand out. Q-Games is widely recognized for their lovable PixelJunk series, with each installment bringing something interesting to the table. And now they're doing it once more with their fourth installment, PixelJunk Shooter.
Like all other games in the PJ series, Shooter is fairly simplistic in premise and execution. You fly a small ship through various subterranean caverns in search of stranded miners and hidden treasure while overcoming various obstacles, which are presented both by the hostile alien creatures you'll encounter and the environment itself. As in all other dual stick shooters, you move with one stick and turn with the other, pressing R1 or R2 to fire standard rockets and holding down to fire more powerful heat seeking missiles.
As you rescue miners and researchers, explore, and excavate jewels, you'll encounter various substances such as ice, water, magma, and tar, most of which affect your heat gauge (which doubles as your health meter). When the heat gauge maxes out, you overheat and crash. Simply being near magma steadily fills your heat gauge. Other substances usually require direct contact. Touching water instantly cools you down.
Furthermore, all of these substances have various natural properties. When water hits magma, it creates cooled lava that you can dig through. Ice submerged in water gradually expands, consuming everything in its path until the entire body of water is frozen. Gas, which is highly flammable, ignites when touched by magma, destroying anything caught in the blast. This is just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended), though. You'll also encounter temporary modifiers for your ship, such as the magma suit, which lets you fire pure magma instead of the usual rockets, or the Inverter suit, which makes water dangerous and magma safe.
The game uses these elements to integrate twists and puzzles into the gameplay. For example, You might encounter a small volcano that's constantly spewing magma, blocking your path. To temporarily seal it, you could throw water at the eruption, cooling the magma into crust, which then sits on top of the mouth of the volcano (until another eruption possibly melts it and breaks through), allowing you to pass by safely.
We've come to expect pretty great visual and audio presentation from Q-Games, and they didn't fail to deliver. The graphics are crisp and extremely well animated, and the physics engine for the various materials is seriously impressive. The audio features some eery BGMs befitting a game where you explore the barren, subterranean caverns of a foreign planet. Load times are absent, and the game never hiccups despite this. This is just an excellently polished game; basically what people have come to expect from PS3 exclusives.
For $15, this isn't an especially beefy game. The game features three chapters, each of which in turn has several stages, which can take anywhere from five to thirty minutes to complete, depending on how thorough you are. However, there's some really enjoyable two player co-op, as well as miners and treasures to go back and look around for (which net you trophies, and rewards in Playstation Home).
It's easy to see that Q-Game's latest addition to the PixelJunk series was a labor of love. Nearly everything about this game is polished to a perfect sheen, from the simple but effective visual and audio to the top notch game engine. Though only average in replay value, this is still a game worth your time and money. 8.5/10.