Review: PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate (PS4/PSV)

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Title: PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4 814 MB) (PSV 386 MB)
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Double Eleven
Developer: Double Eleven
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E
PixelJunk Shooter is also available on PlayStation 3. It is a Cross-Buy and Cross-Save title only between the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was acquired via PlayStation Plus by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is a port/package of the PS3 games PixelJunk Shooter and PixelJunk Shooter 2 now remastered for the Vita and PS4. Ultimate is the same as the originals from a gameplay standpoint. Players are tasked with rescuing stranded scientists on a remote planet. Your ship controls a bit like a twin-stick shooter with one analog stick controlling movement and the other controlling orientation. However, killing enemies isn’t the main goal of the game, rescuing is, and your scientist buddies have more to fear than baddies. As one of them puts it, “it seems like the planet itself is alive.”

To that end, most of the game’s levels are more of a puzzle game than a shootout. Levels are filled with various fluids and players must manipulate them to rescue the scientists. Each of the fluids (and a few non-fluids) interact in different ways: mix water and lava to get solid rock or pour ice into water to freeze it. Figuring out how to get to a scientist floating in lava or trapped under molten metal becomes the puzzle.

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To help out, the ship can be equipped with a variety of suits. Some give a simple change, like replacing the ship’s lasers with a water gun but others have stranger effects like making it so the ship gets hurt by water and healed by lava. The suits add some great variety to the gameplay and there are quite a few to be found strewn throughout the levels.

… the PS4 version looks a lot smoother …

There are also plenty of hidden passages to find and each level holds a hidden scientist and hidden gems to add some replayability for trophy hunters. The difficulty of the game works out nicely. In the original games, Shooter 2 ramps up the difficulty and since Ultimate puts all of the levels into a single package, it makes for a solid increase in difficulty up to the end of the game. Collect everything in the game and you’ll even unlock a hidden level that’s a decent challenge to complete.

The port doesn’t really add anything in terms of content. There is a shiny new platinum trophy at the end but other than that Ultimate is largely the same as the previous two games from what I could tell. I still found the game to be as engaging as the first time I played it, I just had an easier time breezing through some of the levels as I remembered the solutions. Those coming in without having played the first two should find the whole package to be a great experience.

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Visuals:
Of course going from PS3 to PS4 means an upgrade in visuals. The game already looked wonderful on the PS3 and the PS4 version looks a lot smoother and has more realistic looking fluids. All of Q-Games’ beautiful and colorful levels just look fantastic on the system. On top of that, the game appears to run at a silky smooth sixty frames per second (FPS) which just makes the fluids look that much better.

The Vita version, on the other hand, isn’t quite as solid. The game still looks good, thanks again to the colorful level designs but it’s a lot closer to the PS3 version and maybe even a slight step down. The game also runs at thirty FPS, which was made more obvious when I was jumping from version to version. In addition, the Vita chugs on some of the physics. If too much starts happening at once the game will slow down a little bit (this is most noticeable on some of the final levels). The game isn’t unplayable, but I would suggest playing on PS3 or PS4 if at all possible.

… the game does offer Cross-Save between the PS4 and Vita versions …

Audio:
Audio design in the game is fantastic. The soundtrack is awesome at setting the mood for the levels, from the more upbeat first few areas to the somber ambiance of the dark levels. Not a level goes by that has bad music. Even more awesome are the sound effects. It’s not often that I notice the sound effects in a game but I really did in PixelJunk Shooter. Everything from fluids interacting to enemies spawning has a distinct sound and they all work wonderfully. You’ll end up loving the sound for finding a secret area, or tensing up when you hear an enemy spawning.

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Online/Multiplayer:
PixelJunk Shooter 2 added a multiplayer component and Ultimate brings it across to the new version. The multiplayer is a cat-and-mouse type game where one player is attempting to rescue scientists and the other must stop them. Both players have limited vision but make up for it with an array of unlockable bonuses such as different weapons. These bonuses can be purchased using in-game money collected in the multiplayer mode. Sadly, this does mean that more experienced players have more weapons at their disposal but the game does try to match you with someone at your level when it can. While I enjoyed what I played of the multiplayer it wasn’t a huge draw for me and I didn’t have much of an urge to keep playing it once I had the multiplayer trophy.

The game also has online leaderboards for competing with players around the world on how fast/well one can complete each level. Finally, the game does offer Cross-Save between the PS4 and Vita versions. It works pretty well and offers a nice dialogue upon starting the game that lets the player choose to use the local save or online save and includes information about which one is newer to make it easier to tell which save you want to use.

Conclusion:
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, like the PS3 versions of Shooter, is a blast to play. The physics/fluid based puzzles work well in the twin-stick-shooter-like control scheme. The game’s collectibles are fun to find without feeling like they’re overbearing or a chore. Even without any new content over the original versions I still found myself enjoying replaying Ultimate. The Vita version comes with a minor caveat that it’ll have some slight performance issues but the game is so well designed that it is easy to overlook the occasional sputter.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature and the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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