Review: Pixeljunk Sidescroller

Pixeljunk Sidescroller • PS3 • £6.29 • Out Now on PSN

Pretty lights! Whoosh! Bang!

While my fiancee holds Uncharted 3 to ransom so she can watch me play through, I’ve had to take avoiding action. As such, I’ve decided to look at two games that have taken classic game genres and tried to give them a neat modern twist – Gemini Rue, which I’ll look at in my next review, but first, Pixeljunk Sidescroller.

There was a time when the 2D-shooter reigned and screens moving independently of any player actions was the norm. Most of these games were also harder to complete than a 100,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of a 20cm patch of mousse hair, except the jigsaw pieces are made of fire and the picture will kill you if you don’t complete it. However, with the advent of 3D graphics, these games pretty much vanished, barring one or two shining examples.

This is where Pixeljunk Sidescroller – the latest in a long line of Pixeljunk games from Q-games, a team now synonymous with the PSN – comes in. Based on a bonus level from the second game of the excellent Shooter sub-series, the game is a throwback to the arcade shooters (the game’s facade is that of a coin-op arcade machine) but with some distinctly modern twists.

Co-op mode is just plain frustrating

The first and most simple of these is selectable difficulty. While this may sound as mundane an innovation as sandcastles on a beach, the way its implemented is quite clever. The increased difficulty doesn’t just make enemies require more hits or put a few more in the level, it actually changes which opponents you face and where existing ones actually appear. This is not the only interesting idea that Sidescroller produces, with enemies and bosses attack patterns changing based on your play style. Use the machine gun too much? Then more enemies will appear that require you to use one of your other weapons to destroy them.

And oh bloody hell does it look good. Like an techno-rave on some amazing concoction of illicit drugs, the visuals are stunning and really draw you into the game, with the variety of levels being quite wide, even given the Tron-esque nature of the worlds. And as this is a Pixeljunk game, you know the sound is good.

Does it play well though? The answer is an emphatic yes. 2D shooter diehards may be a bit perplexed as to why the game is set in stages and the use of checkpoints as if they’re going out of fashion, but that doesn’t remove from the fact that this is a great shooter. The controls are as simple as they need to be, while even the scenery and falling liquids keep you on your toes constantly, not leaving you a chance to breathe and hoping, just hoping that there’s a checkpoint coming up soon.

Q-Games know how to make good games, and they’ve made another stellar on in Sidescroller. There are some problems, such as a lackluster 2-player co-op and it’s slightly short length, but nothing that really affects your enjoyment. Plus you’ll completely forget about these minor quibbles once you play the final stage on normal, which is one of the best gaming levels of the generation. It’s a stunner.

+ Fantastic visuals and audio
+ Addictive
+ Clever enemy tactics

– Another poor co-op mode on a PSN game
– A bit short

Verdict – 9/10
On par with the Shooter games and certainly worth your cash. An excellent blast from the past.


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