Hands On: PixelJunk SideScroller

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.

[drop2]First up – yes, this is the same ship from Shooter and yes, to a degree it controls the same (although it’s much tighter now) – there’s still a spin attack to grab whatever’s nearby, although for obvious reasons (in case you hadn’t guessed from the title) you’ll always be facing to the right.


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.



  1. “something evident in the fact that a lot of the graphics were placeholder (square blocks for lava, for example, didn’t sit quite right)” … I hate to tell you this, but they aren’t placeholder graphics. In the E3 video that’s on the US blog, Dylan Cuthbert mentions that it’s like that on purpose, to give it a more retro feel … the water is also made up of lots of little circles.

    • Yep, was told this today but didn’t manage to update that bit!

      • Fair enough.
        Aside from that, I am really looking forward to playing it. I thought the bonus stage at the end of PJ Shooter 2 was excellent, and this looks like an upgraded version of that.

  2. Thanks, Al. I can’t say I’m as excited about this but am equally interested to see how it differs as I have the full PixelJunk library so far.

    I’m curious as to what prompted them to go down this route (what with Shooter being the most recent title until now) and I’m wondering if it’s financial. They may well get a very decent return on this title for less investment seeing as physics, assets, etc, can be swiped and used for inspiration.

    Regardless…when it appears, I hope we see a demo on the store. :)

  3. ‘Thanks, Al’ – As in Nofi, not ME, in case anyone’s wandering.

  4. Hope to see some gameplay video soon as those visuals must look pretty slick in motion. Speaking of visuals i wonder if the PJ music visualiser that was mentioned in the past will appear any time soon, not that i’ll ever get bored looking at the earth visualiser, still wows me each and every time, but a more tempo-sensitive visualiser would still be welcome! :)

  5. I love schmups so I will be buying this, not to sure about the gimmicky ‘old tv’ style warping in the corners of the screen.

  6. Looks great!

  7. Looks awesome. Another Q Games must-have :)

  8. “Witness the corner of the screen, curved and distorted to look like an old CRT”

    What happens if you actually play it an old CRT? :)

    I’m guessing console will implode as the game struggles to emulate a CRT display onto your CRT display.

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