I’ve heard the PixelJunk name for years as they’ve released games on older consoles, and the games have always had a good reputation…I just never knew why. Each has a different concept; where Monsters is a tower-defense game, PixelJunk Shooter is a twin-stick puzzle/shooter. Though I wasn’t really sure how the two genres would blend, after putting some time in with Shooter I now understand where the series gets its reputation from: great visuals, tight gameplay, and replayability make this updated release of PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate on PC a great one.
Shooter Ultimate takes the first and second PixelJunk Shooter games and blends them together into one package, creating a seamless story as you explore caverns and save scientists. As you push further on you’ll learn more about the experiment talking place in the caves and obtain new weapons to interact with the world around you. Enemies will spawn around you in the caves, and you’ll need to use your equipped missiles to shoot them down and gain bonus points, but be careful: one awry shot can kill a scientist waiting for rescue. This is what adds the puzzle element to the game: the scientists manage to find themselves trapped underground, underwater, and near pools of molten lava. Use the wrong tactic or get just a little bit too crazy with your demolition, and you could cost scientists their lives.
Thankfully, you’ve also got a spin attack which damages enemies and deflects oncoming projectiles for when the situation gets hairy. As you progress through the game, you’ll also utilize various suits that change your abilities, ranging from shooting lava or water out of your main weapon to becoming anti-magnetic and lighting up the darkness. The suit variety keeps things interesting and innovative.
One of my favorite parts about Shooter is that it offers exciting, combat-based gameplay without being overly violent or dramatic, making it an appropriate title for all ages. That said, it doesn’t skimp on complexity or challenge just because of that; boss fights are challenging and exciting, there are bonus gems and hidden caverns in levels to explore, and some of the puzzles can make you scratch your head for a second, though they’re not intense enough to stop progress. It’s light-hearted, yet involved, and though it’s great for single-player exploration, I can’t help but imagine it’d be even more fun with a friend.
For the folks looking to explore the depths with a friend, there are gameplay modes to accommodate. For local multiplayer, up to two ships can travel the caverns together, taking out bosses and saving scientists. For those who want to do multiplayer from a distance, Shooter Ultimate offers a two-player competitive gameplay mode where one player is on offense, shuttling scientist capsules to the exit, while the defensive player tries to hunt and kill the one on offense. The competitive multiplayer mode looks particularly interesting since you can unlock various weapons and equipment before each match, but I was unable to successfully matchmake during my time with Shooter Ultimate.
The top player on the leaderboards has played 26 matches, the person below him was close, and then everyone in third place and below had played a maximum of 6. If you’re really committed to playing the multiplayer, best to have a friend purchase it, too.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate packs a lot of play into a small package, and it looks like they’ve made some great decisions by combining PixelJunk Shooter 1 and 2 into the same package. This is the first time Shooter 2’s content is available outside of a PlayStation console, so for PC players who’ve been waiting to join the PixelJunk fun, go ahead and dive into the depths.