Late last month Double-Eleven, in collaboration with Q-Games, announced the PC release of PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate. Having already enjoyed the PlayStation version late last year I was eager to see what had been changed for the PC release. As it turned out not much had changed at all! Still, with a game as fun and addictive as PixelJunk Shooter, I couldn’t resist the urge to dive back in and experience the game once more.
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is an amalgamation of PixelJunk Shooter 1 and 2. First released in 2014 it’s now been brought to PC with new features, including the ability to choose between a semi-3D, visually enhanced art style or the classic aesthetic of the original games. For this review I’m going to concentrate on the new features so, if you’re after a review of the gameplay itself, you should read our PlayStation review here. With that said I should point out that I’ve revised my score since then – and the PC version does considerably better.
As far as I can tell there are only three major changes to the PC version of PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate. The first, and most obvious of these, are the graphical improvements. Initially dubious, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself really enjoying the 3D models and new special effects. PixelJunk Shooter has heavily stylised visuals but the enhancements are subtle and complimentary, adding to the experience rather than trying to replace it. The 3D models and layered backgrounds allow for subtle special effects such as reflective surfaces and dynamic lighting, which really make the game “pop”. Add to this a darker colour palette, lighting effects for explosions and lava, enhanced visuals for liquids, and a host of other improvements and the game really does look amazing – but not at the cost of its original aesthetic. The only negative I will mention about the enhancement is that they left the games bosses unaltered which made for a stark, and obvious, contrast when playing those levels.
The next change I noticed was the music – which may or may not be a case of me “mis-remembering” what the music was like in the original. I’m pretty certain there weren’t vocals and, while many songs sounded familiar, there were some which sounded completely new. Either way the music fit the game perfectly so, if there were new songs, they’ve been seamlessly integrated. Adding to the game’s atmosphere is the way your environment affects PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate’s musical score. When underwater the music becomes muffled and, if there were vocals, they cease while there. This is something they did in the original too, however I still think it’s a fantastic feature and worth mentioning again.
The final change I noticed was the improved controls. This time I played using keyboard and mouse unlike my previous experience, where I used a PlayStation Vita and, to be honest, I’ve never been a giant fan of the twin stick control method. The keyboard controls are as you’d expect; use WASD to move, your mouse to aim, shoot or grapple, and space bar for your Super Spin. These controls felt much more comfortable and precise which added to my enjoyment of the game considerably. Furthermore, the added precision meant I had considerably less trouble aligning myself to a weak spot on a boss and did not make the mistake of accidently killing scientists I meant to save – two major gripes from my previous play throughs.
The added controls still felt like a “bolt on” however. When traversing the level, scientists would occasionally offer advice on how to proceed. Despite my chosen control method these tutorials were still given using button prompts suited to a controller. Provisions are made to alter this in the options menu; however you’re still restricted to either Xbox or DualShock controller prompts. For the most part this wasn’t a problem however some instructions may be confusing for new players and it felt like a strange oversight. For example; “push both sticks in the same direction to boost past the lava” translates to pointing your ship in the same direction as you’re flying. Another strange quirk was that I was unable to play the game in full screen mode when running dual monitors.
Having played the game from start to finish once again I have to say this is an absolute gem of a game. The new controls eliminate almost all my frustrations with the later levels (although I’m still not a big fan of the “Hungry Suit”) and the single screen cooperative, as well as local or online competitive, modes give the game extra life. Unlike the PlayStation version the online community still seems fairly active for this release however it’s only been out a month, so that’s likely to change.
That said, I don’t think the online competitive modes should be considered the draw card for this game. On PC, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate looks and plays like a unique and modern game – perfectly detailed from start to finish. The level of polish really shows off how great the game is and I’m upping my score from a 7 to a 9.5. The only thing letting it down are a few small bugs and a couple of unbalanced levels. A fantastic game that everyone should play… even if you’ve already played it somewhere else!