But, like the other games in the franchise, Shooter has a twist. In fact while initial impressions may lead you to believe you're going to get a dual-stick shooter, Q-Games' latest has more in common with adventure and puzzle-solving.
Shooter is all about physics. And not the physics of space-ships or missiles, Shooter is about fluid. Each level (which consists of five different scenes) has large bodies of fluid dotted around it. You'll encounter numerous forms of fluid throughout the game: lava, ice, water, oil, gas; each with their own unique properties. For example - mix water with lava and you'll get magma (or rock), mix gas with lava and it'll burn, mix water with ice and it'll freeze, and so forth. Learning the unique properties of each element is key to progressing the levels of PixelJunk Shooter, as you'll be required to use the unique physics properties to rescue each level's contingent of safety-clad civilians. But remember, you're susceptible to overheating, which - aside from the odd enemy - is your main threat in the game. If you don't keep your engines cool, you'll crash-land, leaving the hapless civilians stranded.
There are numerous civillians to save on each scene of every level, and as you'd expect, their safety depicts your progression. You can only harm five humans per level, exceed that limit and you'll fail. Ships are unlimited, but the lives of others are not. And of course, those humans are affected by the properties of fluid, just as you are.
The sense of adventure, risk and reward in PixelJunk Shooter carries over just 3 worlds. And while the credits hint at an "encore" (yes please Q-Games) release, it's a little disappointing there isn't a little more included in the main package.
PixelJunk Shooter is not a particularly difficult game. In design, it may bare passing resemblance with classic shooters such as Thrust, but Q-Games clearly don't want to frustrate. The controls, are super tight, allowing precise control through each of the game's environments. In fact, so tight is PixelJunk Shooter's control, you'll rarely find yourself retrying due to error. No, much of PixelJunk Shooter's difficulty comes in its puzzles and learning the unique properties of each fluid element. If you have water stored above, and lava below, perhaps you need to release that flow of water, turning the lava to rock, and thus allowing you to shoot through it and reach the civilian hidden below. This is the most simple of examples that you'll encounter early on in the game's first levels, but by world three, the puzzles are substantially mind boggling. Various ship upgrades are introduced allowing you to, for example, shoot streams of lava or water. What's nice about Shooter's design is that no puzzle is unsolvable. There's plenty of thinking involved, but usually, you'll find a puzzle that's had you scratching your head for twenty-minutes was totally obvious. Q-Games constantly dangle the goal, ensuring you keep experimenting until you find the answer.
Aside from rescuing civilians, PixelJunk Shooter challenges you to find as much treasure as you can. Finding the treasure is super-fun, as it tasks you to be even more creative with the game's physics than simply beating the levels. Some treasures are extremely well hidden, leaving you with no option but to experiment with every scene in the game. Believe it or not, this is an enjoyable process, that leaves you to just have fun with the game's mechanics.
Most games include leader boards of some kind these days, but we often don't find ourselves caring. For some reason though, PixelJunk Shooter makes you care. Perhaps it's the way it brazenly tells you - "yo, you just placed third in the world with that score," at the end of every level, or perhaps it's just because scoring points is all about skill (rather than endurance) in PixelJunk Shooter. Either way, we've played level one several times over now, and we're still not in the top ten. Blood will be spilled.
If you're into trip-hop then PixelJunk Shooter is going to be right up your alley. The tunes provided by High Frequency Bandwidth in Shooter are nothing short of phenomenal, bordering between ambient and ridiculous. There are crazy speech samples and laid-back beats galore in PixelJunk Shooter, that suit the mood perfectly. And yes, we have requested a soundtrack.
It's worth noting at this point, that with the big focus on fluid physics in PixelJunk Shooter, the programming handles them fantastically. Everything reacts with a floaty, space-like quality, that not only looks great, but actually enhances the gameplay. You feel like you're really affecting and manipulating this stuff. It's great credit to the team at Q-Games who must have worked furiously on this stuff.
We're sorry Q-Games but, we kinda don't like the way PixelJunk Shooter looks. On the back of the fantastic trip-out PixelJunk Eden; Shooter just looks a little too plain. The soft colours, and flat looking textures don't really do anything for us - and while it's clearly a matter of subjective taste, we have to say that visually PixelJunk Shooter isn't quite the treat we were expecting.
With just 15 or so levels on offer, over three worlds, it's not hard to feel a little short-changed by PixelJunk Shooter. You'll be having a blast and then suddenly: credits. D'oh. Whut? We want more. But yes, the hint at DLC suggests we're going to have to pay for more - and that's boo when the game's already quite expensive. The leaderboards and multiplayer modes might prompt the odd level replay but, honestly, you'll be done with PixelJunk Shooter all too early. And that's gutting.
Despite an agonisingly premature campaign finale, PixelJunk Shooter maintains the simplicity and raw invitation that has made Q-Games' pseudo-retro-genre-hopping franchise a clear winner.