The Average Gamer

PixelJunk SideScroller Review (PSN)

One of the biggest types of games during the early 90’s was the shoot’em up. I’m sure most of you have played or heard of R-Type, and Q-Games’ latest PixelJunk SideScroller is in that very same play style… HARD!

The first thing that strikes you is the beautiful and stylish old school graphics. The screen, curved like an old cathode ray tube, reminded me of Fallout which I’ve been playing a lot. The colours are bright day glow neons and there are plenty of fast moving sprites to confuse you. Throw in a funky soundtrack by High Frequency Bandwidth and SideScroller really does scream arcade classic.

There’s not too much to think about in a game like this; it’s really down to reactions rather than major strategy. You’ve three choices of weapons, standard guns, lasers and then bombs with the usual sort of upgrades to improve the weapons, extra life and a temporary shield. Flicking between the weapons is as quick as pushing a button but you have to cycle through them which can be awkward if you are using lasers but need guns. Occasionally you need the other weapons, but I found it far easier to concentrate on using the machine guns and making sure you get all the power ups.

Level design is pretty nice but not going to win any awards. Carrying over from other PixelJunk games there are liquids in various parts of the game. These take the form of water, fire, acids, and some others. All bar one do damage to you in different ways. Since they are liquids, they tend to flow up or down following gravity and the level layout as you’d expect. Fire erupts, water drains down and so forth. The most important is water since this can help heal the ship from damage you’ve taken. Thing is, it actually took me a while to realize what these various things did. Since the game is so fast paced I spent a few levels rushing through the water as I thought I might take damage from it.

I tried the initial three different difficulty levels and even the easiest was very hard. The fourth difficulty level is called Brutal and if you really want to go that way you’ll need to finish the game on hard level first. While playing there are a large amount of check points and even if you run out of lives you can continue indefinitely. Down side of that is, if you run out of lives and restart at a check point you’ve lost any weapon upgrades you had. Now a trick I used was to just push as fast as possible through to those check points, I skipped killing a lot of things just to get there.

By the time I managed to clear the first stage I had practically destroyed my teeth in stress. The game is challenging, but for me a lot of that was more due to zoning out while staring at the screen. There’s so much going on and with the neon colour palette it can make it pretty hard to keep track of all the bullets flying around. Combine in the little collectibles and sometimes you fly straight into a bullet just because you think it’s supposed to be collected.

PixelJunk SideScroller is pretty great fun for the price. Just don’t expect to fly through in one go. Here watch a highlight video of my attempt at a level and laugh!

Pixel Junk SideScroller is available now from the PSN Store.

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