This might look like a simple off-shoot side-project based on the guts PixelJunk Shooter, but whilst you’d be right in thinking most of SideScroller comes from the two latest PixelJunk games, Q Games have been here before – their DS game Trajectile forms a lot of SideScroller’s DNA even if the version of this PS3-exclusive shooter we played recently had clear enough homages to lots of other genre classics peppered around.
The developers haven’t been shy in taking the best elements from many similar games and shoving them all together in a glorious vector-filled package – and that’s not a criticism.
Witness the corner of the screen, curved and distorted to look like an old CRT. Part of SideScroller's charm is replicating that classic 8-bit TV look.
The weaponry has changed, though – your ship now has three upgradeable fire modes, ranging from a standard rapid fire blaster through to slow but powerful homing missiles and a rebounding, multiway laser.
Each has their own use, as you’d expect – the homing missiles great for taking out huge chunks of destructable scenery, for example, whilst the standard bullets make mincemeat out of the oncoming enemies.
Toggling through them is a bit of a hassle – the trigger moving between each weapon isn’t nearly quick enough – but then this was clearly very early code, something evident in the fact that a lot of the graphics were placeholder (square blocks for lava, for example, didn’t sit quite right) and there’s obviously plenty of time before the game releases later this year.
What was already in place though were a couple of smart, enjoyable levels and a huge boss encounter, selectable from the main menu of the debug code. The first section felt very Shooter, with water and lava playing a big part as you battled with the environment as much as the enemies, but the second seemed more industrial, with mechanical hazards and a less organic feel. The giant boss was a particular delight too, especially when playing co-op with a buddy – in my case it was someone most PlayStation fans will undoubtably know…
The enemies are nice and familiar – blobby, spikey and capable of throwing out enough bullets to keep you busy. Hardly smart but perfect for the game type, pulled straight from the last PixelJunk game but now looking even more like Just Add Water’s Gravity Crash given their vector line stylings, a similarity not lost on anyone looking over my shoulder.
The game looks great, regardless – an old school style TV approach features distorted edges and heavy scanlines, with the visuals giving off a lovely retro-looking blur as they whizzed around the screen – and the game didn’t seem to slow down despite filling up with masses of enemy projectiles and elemental effects from time to time. Not that we’d expect it to, the PixelJunk games are generally high on production values like this, and SideScroller seems to – at this stage at least – check all the obvious boxes.
Solid playability, a few nods to the likes of R-type and Gradius, two player co-op and some cool ideas of its own should help make this one stand out. It’s classic Pixeljunk in style, but something brand new in substance – just the way we like our videogames.
We’ll hopefully get to play the game more soon.
It’s worth mentioning that the version we played didn’t seem to be as advanced as the one the above screenshots were taken from. The lower part of the UI was completely different, for example.