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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that PixelJunk Raiders is an action/adventure game exclusively for Google Stadia. This is the latest chapter in the PixelJunk series of games, but since it's unrelated to other games in the franchise, you don't need to have played the other games to understand the premise of this one. Players take on the role of a nameless mercenary contracted to save the aliens of an invaded planet and defeat their captors. The ulterior motive of the mercs is to loot the planet for all it contains, so the rescuing of the aliens does come across as secondary to the bottom line of making money. Players will use swords, knives, energy weapons, and turrets against a variety of aliens in frequent combat. No blood or gore is shown as a result of attacks, and enemies disappear when defeated, although cries of pain are heard. There are some areas where players will see the corpses of fellow mercenaries. "Damn," "ass," and "sons of bitches" can also be heard once in dialogue. While the controls are easy to learn and understand, players are frequently attacked from all sides at once, which can require fast reflexes. There are options to duplicate the actions of players that have previously explored a level, thanks to the Stadia State Share function, but these require resources without any information of what was done. This could easily frustrate players if they feel like the action was ultimately a waste and didn't fit or help their mission.
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What’s It About?
PIXELJUNK RAIDERS is a science fiction action game set on the distant planet of Tantal, whose peaceful inhabitants go about their days trading and living in harmony with each other. Unfortunately for them, their planet is invaded by mysterious creatures known only as the Anomaly, causing chaos and forcing the survivors to run for their lives. Without any hope of countering these marauders, the Tantallians send out a distress signal, which is picked up by the United Planets, a confederation of worlds in a nearby solar system. The United Planets, in turn, send an alert to any and all mercenaries in their territory to help in the rescue of the aliens, while also turning a blind eye to the looting of any relics found in the process. Players take on the role of one of the mercenaries interested in a contract on the world, inputting coordinates to land in areas where aliens need help. They'll have to search the surrounding area for survivors and gather resources to build turrets or other tools they might need. They can choose to follow in the footsteps of mercenaries that have landed in that location before, retracing their steps by using resources to perform the same actions made by other explorers, such as summoning minions or placing mines. This feature takes advantage of the Stadia State Share feature, which lets players pass content between themselves via screenshots and links to potentially clear difficult areas. Players will also be able to collect items from fallen enemies or chests they come across. When all of the survivors in a location are rescued, the Anomaly's hold on that area is broken, and a ship commanding those troops falls from the sky. Rescue enough aliens, and you'll be able to return to your ship to receive a number of rewards, such as DNA that can be spliced into your character for skill and stat boosts, as well as patches that can strengthen your avatar. Will you be able to help the Tantallians free their world, or will you run for the hills after collecting as much money as you can?
Is It Any Good?
Although it is visually striking, this sci-fi action game stumbles from significant resource issues and difficulty spikes that limit its replayability and appeal. At first glance, PixelJunk Raiders seems like a quirky action adventure, as you beam down to the planet's surface, hunt for relics and survivors, and fend off hostile forces. It's fun to sprint into a camp, clear out the invaders, and rescue the survivors that wave gratefully and sometimes give gifts in return for your help. These allow you to upgrade some of your character's innate skills and abilities. What's also very cool is that while the game will generate some missions for you, you can also create your own through keywords, which will spawn new levels based on the terms used. These stages can be shared with friends, allowing them to explore your footsteps, especially if you like the items and the challenge found in that mission. Similarly, with the State Share feature, you can place imprints of mines, minions, or other items to help you and your friends get past tricky battles.
Unfortunately, the cleverness of randomly generated missions is overshadowed by larger issues. For example, while State Share initially seems helpful, you have no idea what's been placed by other gamers, so you're gambling time and resources for something that may not help you at all in the middle of a fight. See, players have to balance attack and defensive moves, because acting too quickly leaves you vulnerable to being hit, and since you're frequently swarmed from all directions, this means getting overwhelmed. But here's the trick: Unless you have an ability to scavenge loot from your fallen corpse, you lose everything you've ever gathered. Since you don't have storage on your ship, you're a walking chest that's one outmatched fight away from a tragedy. This can leave you woefully underpowered against stronger enemies, especially if you fall on a difficult stage or boss battle, making replaying or grinding through stages for gear very unappealing.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Players can talk about violence in video games. Is the violence in PixelJunk Raiders affected by the lack of blood and gore shown during combat? Would the impact be intensified if blood and gore was actually shown? Does the story seem more believable when you come across the bodies of other mercenaries as you explore the world?
Do you feel like the mercenaries in PixelJunk Raiders are doing their job for positive reasons, or are they in it for a paycheck? Why is it problematic to only help people if you're going to get something for it?
- Platform: Google Stadia
- Pricing structure: Paid (Free for Stadia Pro subscribers)
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Q-Games
- Release date: March 1, 2021
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
- Last updated: March 10, 2021
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