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Joystiq hands-on: PixelJunk 1-4


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Right about now you're probably thinking, "Cool, a compilation of the first four PixelJunk games!" followed by, "Wait a second ... there have only been three PixelJunk games." This is true. As you can no doubt tell from the above screenshot, PixelJunk 1-4 is an entirely new downloadable PS3 title from Kyoto-based Q-Games. It just doesn't have a final name yet.

We can think of some adjectives to describe this summer release based on our first hands-on. "Fun" comes to mind, as does "simple." Two staples of the PixelJunk franchise, when you think about it. Oh, and "really cool fluid dynamics." Wassat? Let us explain after the break.

Gallery: PixelJunk 1-4 | 5 Photos

So, here's the skinny. PixelJunk 1-4 is part shooter, part puzzle game. It's set in caverns filled with magma, water and a menagerie of flying and rock-clinging enemies. The goal: rescue enough guys to unlock the gate to the next level. Each level is a single, scrolling field. A grapple cable on the ship is used to grab stranded friendlies as well as pick up useful objects. Yes, it sounds simple. It may even look simple, at least in still images. But it's deceptively challenging from the get-go.

Since the player craft floats in zero gravity, it can be made to drift in one direction whilst firing in another. Maneuvering in some of the tighter spaces requires precision and patience, lest players hit the walls, which cause the ship to heat up. Getting near magma also increases the vehicle's temperature. If the gauge in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen fills completely, no more ship.

It sounds simple. It may even look simple. But it's deceptively challenging from the get-go.

In order to keep this from happening, players can dip the ship into water. There are also floating power-ups that cool it down considerably when water isn't handy. Of course, magma often flows between the ship and the characters who need saving, and this is where shooting away bits of the cavern itself comes into play. There's a definite puzzle aspect at play as you try to keep the magma at bay by dousing it with water, whether by creating a waterfall or using helper objects.

From what we saw, these come in the form of "water bombs," which can be grabbed with the grapple cable and dropped where needed, sending a torrent of water in every direction. There are also sponges that soak up water and grow larger the longer they're submerged. These can be carried over magma, dripping cooling liquid down and turning it to stone.

While all this is going on, players will have to contend with stationary and moving enemies. If their shots hit the ship, it heats up. If their shots hit a friendly, they die. This isn't a good thing, partly because they die so pathetically and mostly because levels can't be completed if too many of them go uncollected. Oh, and it's also possible for players to accidentally (or purposefully) kill these guys too, via drowning, burning or blasting.

It's very easy to get lost in the game -- by which we mean totally and completely sucked in, not "left without an idea of where to go next." The visual style is simple, with the exception of some eye-popping fluid behavior. From what we played, the difficulty level seemed to ramp up fairly gradually, but we just knew it'd be pretty intense in later levels.

While it's unnamed and without a set date or price, the tentatively titled PixelJunk 1-4 is confirmed to support online leaderboards, YouTube uploading of game footage (just like PixelJunk Eden) and remote play on PSP.

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