Review: PixelJunk Shooter 2 (PS3)

Title: PixelJunk Shooter 2: Into The Belly of the Beast
Format: PlayStation Network Download
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Q-Games
Original MSRP: $9.99

In the original PixelJunk Shooter, you receive a distress call from a remote mining colony on Apoxus Prime. Your mission is to go down to the planet and look for survivors, a mission that isn’t quite over at the end of the game. Picking up right at the conclusion of the first game <spoilers ahead> the first stage, set entirely in ‘the belly of the beast’ is a nice change of pace from PJS1. You’re now faced with corrosive stomach acid and bile along with water and lava from the original. How these elements all interact really ups the ante in the puzzles and the overall difficulty level of the sequel. To make matters worse, the ‘walls’ are undulating as you move through the area in search of survivors and some of those walls will shoot out acid if touched.

Most of the enemies will be familiar to PJS veterans but a few new types have been thrown in this time around and they make things much more challenging. Sections of the game turn into a straight up bullet hell shmup where patience and pattern recognition become critical. Make no mistake, this game is designed to be harder than the original in every way but it can also be very rewarding when you finally get past a level or a boss.

The suits make their return (magma, water, inverter and anti-magnet) along with a few new ones. The Light Suit is critical in Chapter 6 as you’ll quickly learn that darkness can kill, but my favorite is definitely the Hungry Suit. In Chapter 5, you’ll come across a thicker type of dirt that you can’t shoot through. The Hungry Suit is used in these areas giving the game a Mr. Do or DigDug type of feel. When you’re using this suit however, you can’t fire or spin, only eat, grab items and push rocks adding another layer of strategy to the levels and changing up gameplay significantly.  This was especially needed in Chapter 5 as much of it tends to work through areas very similar to the first game from icy caverns to mines.  The puzzles and new enemies help to mix it up enough to make things interesting.

Chapter 6 changes things up again by adding a light and dark element. Most parts of each of the levels are shrouded partly or entirely in the dark. Some of the puzzles involve getting lava to the base of phosphorescent plants that feed off it. Other times, you’ll need to find another way to light areas since you can’t grab anything in the dark and that’s where many of the people are stranded. It’s a really well thought out way to expand on the original concepts of the game while keeping the same feel.

Exploration is critical as finding hidden diamonds will unlock new levels. Remember the edges of the screen might not really be the edges of the screen. You’ll also want to find as many of the ‘special’ survivors as you can. These are different colored characters that have been named after the development team and they’ll give you hints about what’s going on or what’s to come in each of the levels.

As far as options go, video recording is available throughout the single player part of the game as in the original and you can save the videos to your XMB or upload directly to YouTube. Global leaderboards keep things interesting as you can sort by friends and overall rankings as you go for bragging rights.

Following the same style as the original, the visuals are a delight. The physics on display really give the game its signature style. Water, lava, acid, bubbles, smoke, magnetic sludge, even the graceful movement of enemies and the weight of your ship all add to the charm and cohesiveness of the world you find yourself in.

The lighting effects in Chapter 6 really stand out. When passing through dark areas, you’ll get a sort of x-ray green of the walls and any survivors or enemies you pass but you’ll need to light up the area to grapple anyone. The shadowy orange eyeballs that come out of the dark and attack you give the levels another great element of danger.

High Frequency Bandwidth is back again providing an even better soundtrack than the first game. The music is more varied and even more atmospheric this time around. Sound effects are expertly executed. Almost all the enemies have their own unique sounds and you’ll be able to tell where threats are coming from before you even see them. This becomes especially useful in later levels where light is at a premium and you have to rely on sound even more.

Not content to just send you through the campaign again in a co-op manner, Q-Games has taken the elements of PixelJunk Shooter 2 and added a really fun twist. In Friend Battle, you’ll face off against another player as you try to rescue the Survivor Capsules and bring them back to your safe zone while the other player tries to hunt you down. You can outfit you ship with up to three different items, Weapons, Power Ups and Disrupters. It becomes a fun game of cat and mouse as one player tries to avoid detection and save as as many survivors as they can.

The different power ups include things like mines and homing missiles, the ability to reverse the controls in your opponent’s ship, the ability to change water to lava and vice versa. The only catch here is that to obtain these power ups, you’ll need to spend “Q” dollars which can only be earned through League Battles where you’ll be competing against random players. It’s an interesting way to push players into trying the League system and its rankings but I wish there was another way around this. It’s usually more fun playing these types of games against someone you know.

PixelJunk Shooter 1 and 2 go hand in hand as one big story so if you’ve played the first one, you’ll definitely want the second one. At its core, PixelJunk Shooter 2 is a puzzle game with a lust for action and bullet hell frenzy. It’s a satisfying sequel in every way. New gameplay elements have been added and the difficulty level has been ramped up. While it’s definitely hard, it’s certainly no impossible, I mean, even I was able to get through to the final boss and I tend to drop games and move on to something else when I get too frustrated.

If you enjoyed the first game and you’re looking for a new challenge, PixelJunk Shooter 2 will give you a serious work out.


Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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