It’s a clever little marketing trick, prefixing all your games with something that might as well be the name of the developer. Pixel Junk is now synonymous with high quality PSN releases that fill their own little niches, but beyond that, nothing really ties the individual releases together. Shooter doesn’t really buck the trend on any of those notes, but in spite of the seeming straightforwardness of the name, it’s probably the cleverest and most ambitious project to date.
The start of Shooter seems uncharacteristically expositional, with some scrolling text explaining how the human race has expanded out and is now violating other planets for their resources. You control a small craft charged with rescuing as many miner/scientist guys trapped in the assorted caves/tunnels/mines, and if you happen to pick up any gems along the way, well that’s grand. More than simply grand actually, since the prerequisite to progressing further through the levels is set by how many of these gems you’ve collected.
What Shooter is really all about, though, is the fluid dynamics. Initially, water and lava are the two flowing forces you have to consider. The old childhood notion of LAVA = BAD applies, as does the well-documented cooling properties of water. Later on you’ll find a hot flammable gas, ice, and a weird magnetic goo which will combine with the water to make the aforementioned gas. There’s a thermal gauge as a part of a the UI, proximity to lava and firing your missiles (by holding down the fire button) are the leading causes of overheating, which sends you into a dead spin towards the ground, upon which you’ll explode unless you splashdown in a pool of water. This fluid dynamics heart of Shooter is well thought out and pretty solidly executed on. Water and lava makes rock, water and ice makes more ice (look, don’t quote Newton’s law of cooling at me, just roll with it) and there are plenty of objects and power up suits in the game which twist things in interesting ways.
The downside to Shooter is that it felt awfully short. It lasted only a couple of (arguably non-intensive nights) in which the incredibly smart designs of this game were almost glossed over, as if tutorialising each element, and never fully bringing them together into anything crazy and epic. A total of three boss battles and around twenty rather short levels stand between the start and the “To Be Continued” screen, which seems to make it clear that DLC is planned for the future. It’s unfortunate that something this cool should feel like it’s short-changing the consumers, but it’s hard to argue otherwise. At this point, it feels like the quality and price of the expansion will determine whether the overall product is worth owning.
Pixel Junk fans will probably like what’s in here already though, all the fluids have a gooey viscosity to them, and react to everything, even the shots you fire at them. The variety of game-altering objects in the game, like the lava and aqua suits, the repulsor magnet suit, the ice melting lasers (with obligatory mirrors), switchable magnets, sponges, and more, make the potential of future content to be considerably promising. However, as it stands, Shooter won’t satisfy everyone.