PSN Review – PixelJunk SideScroller

November 1, 2011Written by Anthony Severino

PixelJunk games are synonymous with the PlayStation 3, and are among the best titles the PlayStation Network has to offer. Does Q-Games’ newest addition to the PixelJunk series, PixelJunk SideScroller, live up to the same regard as some of the others?

SideScroller pays homage to the side-scrolling shooters of old, especially through its difficulty. It plays like and is as unforgiving as any Gradius or R-Type ever released, but the neon visual style and music by High Frequency Bandwidth help to make it unique and attractive by today’s standards.

There’s really not too much to the game – pilot a ship through some neon caverns and shoot enemies as they appear using three different weapons: machine gun, bomb, and laser. The simplicity helps keep your focus, which you’ll need to beat some areas. I found myself holding down the shoot button and not paying any mind to what I was shooting at – simply because there is so much going on at any given time, you can’t take your eye off your ship or stop dodging incoming projectiles. Despite being simple, there’s a lot of strategy involved; strategy that you learn from trial and error, and dying… a lot.

The game consists of three main sectors, broken up into 4 different levels, each one ending in a boss fight. Like the rest of the game, the bosses are ridiculously difficult. I can’t stress the entire game’s difficulty enough. Even on casual, the game is tough, but there’s a normal and hard more as well (there’s a brutal mode, too, for anyone who can actually unlock it).

Visually, the game is nice to look at. It has a similar visual style to PixelJunk Shooter, but with a bright neon filter applied to it. It’s both a great thing and a bad thing, though. It feels like very little effort went into designing this game. Most, if not everything, is recycled assets from the two PJ Shooter games, but with a neon visual touch. The ships are the same, the enemies are the same (sans the bosses) – they’re just neon, instead. There’s even some fluid effects from Shooter, but it’s a missed opportunity as it has little effect on the gameplay.

The difficulty alone is enough to keep you busy for a long time, even despite there being three sectors. But if you’re a glutton for punishment, you could give a go at topping the leaderboards. Aside from that and few cheats that let you change the visual filter, there’s really not a lot of replay value here. But if you’re a fan of sidescrolling ‘shmups or any of the PixelJunk games, $9.99 is a fair asking price for what’s in tow.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Neon visual presentation and soundtrack are great.

+/- Extreme difficulty, even on “easier” settings.

– Really not much game for the $10.

6 out of 10