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 Shooter is a puzzle/shooter hybrid available only through Sony’s online store for the PlayStation 3. Players will spend some of their time shooting hostile alien creatures (which simply disappear when hit) but most of their attention will be focused on how to deal with the puzzle-like environments and finding ways to reach trapped human miners. The people players try to save can be accidentally shot and killed (they emit a small moan in text form and fall over), but it’s not in the player’s best interest, as killing more than a handful will end the game. Note, too, that one of the game’s songs contains the words “hell” and “damn.”
What's it about?
The latest entry in the PixelJunk series of games available for download through Sony’s PlayStation Store, PIXELJUNK SHOOTER sees players taking on the role of a pilot whose mission is to dive deep into a planet being mined by humans and save stranded excavators. Players zoom around caves avoiding seas of lava and diving into pools of water to cool down as they fend off hostile aliens with rockets and use a retractable grappling hook to pick up any people they run across. The game supports local two player co-operative play as well as online leader boards.
Is it any good?
PixelJunk Shooter is a deceptively simple and extremely habit-forming game -- one of the best downloadable titles of the 2009. The controls, which make use of both thumbsticks and just two buttons, are immediately accessible, and the play is surprisingly forgiving -- you’re only penalized for getting struck by hazards such as lava, explosive gas, or enemies; not, thankfully, for smashing into cave walls, which happens a lot.
What’s more, the puzzle elements are simply terrific. Figuring out how to, say, move water from one area to another to solidify molten rock and then shoot through it to get to stranded explorers is both fun and challenging. Plus, finding and exploring hidden areas filled with treasure prompts a surge of endorphins not dissimilar to, say, finding a hidden vine or 1up mushroom in a Mario game. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but sometimes the simplest games are the best.
Online interaction: There is support for online leaderboards, but not online play.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the notion of humans colonizing other worlds. Do you think our civilization could keep from making the same mistakes made by earlier human cultures when they discovered new, habitable lands here on Earth?
Families can also discuss whether the player actually takes on the role of a hero. Our little ship attempts to rescue other humans, but we also end up shooting indigenous life and harvesting resources from a planet that isn’t ours. Perhaps the aliens, if they were sentient, would see us as invaders of their world.
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