When the original PixelJunk Shooter ended, it’s fair to say that things weren’t looking too good. After initiating a rescue mission to save miners on the planet Apoxus Prime, it became clear that there was more going on than first thought as a giant monster swallowed the crew of the ship and disappeared back underground. Now we find this was always going to form the basis of the next in the series, aptly subtitled, The Belly of the Beast.
PixelJunk Shooter 2 (PJS2) starts exactly where the first one ended, with the player in control of the aforementioned rescue vehicle and charged with evacuating trapped miners, excavating gems, and fighting both enemies and the environment. With the overall package executed with all the usual panache that you would expect from Q-Games.
Each Area is split into four levels that houses a set amount of miners to rescue, as well as treasure to uncover (usually secreted under rocks or in hard to reach places). There is always a puzzle element to each level, such as altering the surroundings in a certain way to facilitate progress. Collection of treasure is also vital in order to access remaining areas since they will only unlock once a set amount is gathered, requiring levels to be replayed in order to collect more. This is far from being a problem as there’s nothing quite like nailing a better time through a level, squeezing precious seconds off your previous efforts and climbing the expansive online leaderboards.
The manipulation of fluids and their relationship to the surroundings was core to the experience in the first game, and PJS2 is no different. Concentrating the action within the titles` behemoth` has given Q-Games scope to let loose with some new concepts, while retaining the approachable style of the original. The player will be required to navigate the ship through the monster’s arteries, dodging purple stomach acid which will eventually burn the ship apart. The ships grappling hook can be used to pull polyps which will cause the monster to roar and dislodge water that has pooled above an area, solidifying the molten lava below. Or strategically placed bombs can be used to open up otherwise inaccessible tracts. All of these add to the pervasive sense of being trapped within a body, but without Donald Pleasance or Raquel Welch for company.
Also making a return are the different suits which allow the player to transform their ship to help traverse certain areas. The Hungry Suit is a thing of beauty, able to chew through solid matter but with the downside that it leaves you vulnerable to any enemy contact. Thankfully there are indestructible blocks that can be used in a reverse Dig Dug style by dropping them on enemies and even lava, thus ensuring safe passage. The Light Suit does exactly what you expect, allowing the player to traverse darkened areas and to successfully navigate past danger.
The unique art style , which was already of a high quality in the first title, looks a tad sharper now with that lovely, crisp 1960’s European style continuing to strike a bold pose. Add in the sumptuous animation (trapped miners waving in such a jaunty manner never gets old) and PJS2 is a one good looking title. The ability to record footage and then either save it to the XMB or upload it directly to YouTube provides a direct route for the more dexterous player to display their skills/taunt friends with their prowess. Or lack of it, if they fall into the latter category. Such a simple inclusion, it provides a great addition that more games really should take advantage of.
The addition of Multiplayer this time round comes in the form of a one on one online battle, either with random people or friends, and split into either Offence or Defence. Offense sees the player take the survivor capsules to a designated safe zone on the map while trying to avoid detection by your adversary, and each capsule placed in the scoring zone racks up the points. While Defence doesn’t allow the player to grab any of the survivor capsules, there is a radar provided to help track them and prevent their opponent from acquiring too many. At the time of writing this review, it could be tricky to actually get into a game with other people, but this might be down to time of day and/or people concentrating on the single player portion of the game just now.
All of the above helps to perpetuate the feeling that there is something joyously playable within just about every title that Q-Games release, all of them imbued with that elusive “one more go” factor that many developers aim for, but ultimately fail to grasp properly. Truly a benchmark for not only the company, but what can be achieved when it comes to feature-rich download titles, PixelJunk Shooter 2 is a title that no self-respecting PlayStation 3 owner should be without.