If you downloaded the original PixelJunk Shooter back around Christmas of â€˜09, you would have found a very enjoyable puzzler with some great level design, simple and effective graphics, an awesome retro musical score, and an interesting and original hook. The game took magma, water, ice, and gas and made the way they flowed, and the way they interacted, a big part of the gameplay. Everything about it was good, except that it ended way too soon. Now, with the release of PixelJunk Shooter 2, developer Q-Games has given us more length, more puzzles, more interacting liquids and an online battle mode.
Following on directly from the original, you fly the same little ship around various levels - shooting with one trigger and extending a grappling line with the other. With the grappling line you activate levers, pick up jewels and rescue little scientist that have been stranded. If you donâ€™t get to the scientists fast enough and they get caught with alien stomach acid (or if you hit them with friendly fire), then you lose a life. Lose enough scientists and itâ€™s game over.
To stop you getting to the scientists, there are a whole range of enemies and environmental hazards: from flying fish and alien spaceships, to swarms of alien parasites and magma spewing volcanoes. If you fly into the magma you burn up and have to restart the level. But, even if you fly too close, your shields begin to overheat. If youâ€™re damaged, you can either get away from the heat and in time your shields will auto-repair, or you can take a quick dive into a pool of water. However, PixelJunk Shooter 2 adds a level of difficulty into the mix. Now you have a lot less time to work your way through the twisting passages. Often, pulling switches and clearing levels means caverns flooding with acid or deadly multiplying jellyfish. The game feels significantly amped up, with more emphasis being placed on the â€˜shooterâ€™ part of the title.
However, the puzzle part of the game is still there too. If there is a scientist in a cavern below an ocean of magma, you may be able to shoot through a breakable wall thatâ€™s holding back a reservoir of water. Dumping water onto lava turns it to rock which you can shoot through to rescue the scientist. So, just like the original itâ€™s all a matter of working out how to get all the scientist before you trigger the door to the next level.
Another step up in difficulty comes with the new locations. In the first game you had time to get to grips with the controls - left stick to steer, right to aim - because hitting the walls did no damage. In the first stage of PixelJunk Shooter 2 all the walls are alive. So now having to race though passages with that are contracting and expanding is tricky and frustrating, because, when the walls do get you they tend to grab your ship or spray it with acid. Often you have to make the choice between rushing though passages, taking damage and hoping to get to a friendly pool of water before your shields fail, or taking it slowly and perhaps getting caught caverns that are quickly clogged with green bacterial slime or multiplying amoebas that disrupt your shipâ€™s steering.
Also added to the gameplay, and helping to fight your way out of heavily clogged caverns, are a number of suits. The suits change the nature of your ship, dramatically changing the game dynamic. For example, with the water suit you no longer shoot rockets and guns - you fire a water cannon. With this you can flood caverns - clearing them of slime, volcanoes, and acid. Alternatively, the hungry suit turns levels into rather static games of digging tunnels, pushing blocks around, and avoiding enemies like Pac-Man avoiding ghosts.
While there are a number of additions to the game, ultimately Pixeljunk Shooter 2 feels just like the original. However, what is new is the two-player online combat mode. You compete directly against your friend, or in leagues where you battle to collect the most survivor capsules. If youâ€™re on offence you take survivors back to your base while your opponent tries to stop you. Once the time runs out, or if you are killed, you swap roles. Four rounds later, plus a tie-breaker round if needed, you get awarded points to move you up online tables. As you move up you can buy all sorts of power-ups, weapon upgrades and hazard bombs that you can use to dominate the league.
At the end of the original PixelJunk Shooter, you got a screen that read â€˜To be continued...â€™ And that is exactly what you get here. PixelJunk Shooter 2 is the faster, more difficult second half of the original game. But in no way is that a bad thing. There are more frustrations than the first, with a lot of levels demanding multiple replays to avoid some surprise deaths. But if it wasnâ€™t for higher difficulty, weâ€™d all be complaining about another three stage game thatâ€™s over in three or four hours. However, all the good PixelJunk Shooter stuff is still there, and then some. And thatâ€™s all we wanted after the first, isnâ€™t it?