PixelJunk Shooter 2: Mostly Good
PixelJunk Shooter was one of my favorite downloadable titles from 2009, I finished it in a matter of days and couldn't wait for some kind of content pack of some sort. So, a bit more than a year later, when PixelJunk Shooter comes around, I was super excited to mess around the fluid dynamics that made the series so great.
PixelJunk Shooter 2 actually has a subtitle, "The Belly of the Beast". The first world is very much about being inside a living creature. There is purple acid (main ingredients: acid and purple), strange jelly-fish enemies, and a variety of levels that seem to relate to different systems of a creature.
The first PixelJunk Shooter offered very little challenge. The enemies were tame and few, and the fluid puzzles were pretty simple. For the most part, all you needed to do was spam R1 to shoot at everything and the puzzle would solve itself.
The first thing I noticed about Shooter 2 was the fairly dramatic step-up in difficulty. There is more timing and "twitch" involved than in its predecessor. You will often find yourself in the middle of small cavern with bullets flying at you from all directions. This is a pretty welcome change of pace from slower style of Shooter 1, but there are some areas that can be frustrating.
Q Games took some risks designing some of the levels, and while succeeding with some, fumbled with others. The "hungry suit" turns your ship into a pair of teeth that are able to eat certain materials. The movement feels distinctly unlike the rest of the game, as instead of fluid motions you slide around awkwardly confined to some strange grid composed of 1x1 sections. It isn't terrible, but it isn't very much fun, either.
There is also very little of the "standard" fluid dynamics you might have gotten used to from Shooter 1. The games tries to diversify the kinds of puzzles, but all I ever really wanted to do was play around with lava, water and ice.
You soon exit "the beast", returning to the mining caverns that you flew through in Shooter 1. These are much more classic levels.
The third section introduces the idea of light and dark, and one of my least favorite elements of Shooter 2. At time it can be fun, running away from "phantoms" in darkness, but mostly it makes the levels feel claustrophobic, and shifts focus away from playing with fluid dynamics, instead opting to have you shoot at enemies.
The singleplayer has the same number of levels as in the first game, but the addition of competitive multiplayer extends the life of PixelJunk Shooter 2. In the multiplayer, it is more of a game of wits than anything else. Sure, having expert control over your ship is great, but being able to fly around and then double-back as you steal a survivor from an opponent's base is great fun. It feels like an elaborate game of capture the flag in some cases, just with multiple flags and, well, lava.
You level rank up and earn points which can be used to unlock power-ups and weapons. There is quite a bit of customization you can do that will affect how you face opponents, from your choice of weapon to game-changing power-ups. It's quite good fun, although I did encounter some latency at times.
PixelJunk Shooter 2 is a fun dual-stick shooter with challenging action and neat puzzles. Some of the elements, however, feel like more of a shot in the dark than thought-out compelling gameplay mechanics.