PixelJunk Raiders definitely isn’t junk

Is Raiders the PixelJunk of PixelJunks? How's the latest game from Q-Games stacking up? Is it insufferable because it’s a Stadia exclusive? This review will try to answer some of that. 

Reading time: 5 minutes (200 wpm)

What is PixelJunk? An introduction

Let me start by saying that I'm fond of PixelJunk: Eden, Monsters, Shooter, and more.

The aesthetic and gameplay in these games are always very defined and tuned, and dare I say almost require an acquired taste from the player to truly enjoy. They're, perhaps, not for everyone by being quite indie and kind of experimental. I’m setting my expectations quite high for PixelJunk Raiders, given the track record from previous games, will they be met? 

PixelJunk made its first entry with Racers back in 2007 for PlayStation 3. The rest, as some say, is history!

In this review, I'm doing a dive into the depths of PixelJunk's newest installment, PixelJunk Raiders. This one is steering away from top-down, away from sidescroller, away from platforming, and going the route of third-person action-adventure within the roguelike subgenre. Dylan Cuthbert, the founder of Q-Games, has also stated that combat is very inspired by the soulslike (Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne) genre. 

Exclusive to Google Stadia, free with Stadia Pro ($19,99 for non-subscribers) from March 1st.

Let’s Get Technical

PixelJunk Raiders on Stadia is doing an impressive 3K native resolution with 60 frames per second, no HDR (thanks @OriginalPenguin). When playing it runs a stable framerate, overall a solid performance with striking visuals. 

Sound effects and music are on point, fitting within the game world and aesthetics, and a good volume mix from effects to ambiance and suspense.

Hey Good Lookin’

It's like I'm inside a 70-80s French sci-fi Mæbius comic book. I'm really liking the high saturated, rainbow colorized, and cel shader technique in this game (good thing Stadia has unlimited image captures). It’s a great fit for a PixelJunk game.

It's producing a gorgeous style that makes me want to just stare into the screen aimlessly for short amounts of time before my playable hero is killed by a huge alien crab. Because I forgot I’m playing a video game. You're quite the looker, PixelJunk Raiders, in the best way possible.

Dodge, Dash, Smash, and… Strut?

Your hero's story starts on a ship in the atmosphere of planet Tantal. You've been sent in to set everything right, to get rid of several thousand fiendish aliens who conveniently planted their huge glowing spaceship orb into the place. Your mission? To save the indigenous population from almost certain doom. But first, let's get through the tutorial!

You can jump! You can even jump really high with a special wind-up jump, superhero style. Game-loop is now properly explained, I have no further questions.

Thankfully, there's a little more to it. The enemies don't really stop coming and they're very adamant about wiping you off the face of the planet. Some of them both packs and takes a mean punch. Some even take several beatings and they punch back even harder (those are bosses), so you're forced to either learn how to keep some distance or you dodge and weave.

Weapons and pickups are found within each stage. You can't buy weapons between stages, and this is a golden opportunity, and incentive, to explore the whole stage. Making it almost a requirement before ending a stage.

You can upgrade your playstyle and character in various ways; cosmetics, software patches, and contract bonuses. This is done between stages, through the avatar system SYRIX 1200. It's a glitchy mess (on purpose), not even updated to have the latest and greatest in projectile weapons. Sheesh. You'll have to buckle up, and get close and personal. Melee is always the best option for action games anyway, take that, you scrummy alien!

Cosmetics - kind of self-explanatory, but you can swap out various gear slots on your player character. Such as hats.

Software patches (Abilities) - you can upgrade your abilities, and even buy new and better ones. Like an awesome jump-up-and-smash-down move ala Super Mario. Awesome! 

Contract bonuses - typical to the roguelike genre, when starting a stage you’ll be handed several contracts to complete. Some are critical for mission completion, some are optional. Completing a contract awards you points that can be spent on contract bonuses which for example gives you more damage with one-handed weapons, or steals life on hit. 

Stay Awhile and Listen

Planet Tantal, and its inhabitants Tantallians, are under attack by really cool-looking fiendish aliens. These aliens are bent on harvesting the life force from the population. Just like straight out of a classic 80-90s action movie (Last Action Hero, Rambo, Die Hard, Platoon), and a slew of action video games, you're a singular superpower called in to save Tantal from this nightmare and be the hero the Tantallians need. 

Shake off that hypersleep and slash, smash, raid and rescue your way through hundreds of procedurally-generated stages, all while unraveling the mystery of the enigmatic Keepers.

This Is Too Difficult

Is progress being mean to you? Take advantage of imprints through Stadia’s State Share - turrets, gadgets, and other weaponry that help take down the alien forces holding the indigenous Tantallians hostage. 

In order to use imprints, you will need to collect Axontium, a golden resource found all over planet Tantal.

Once you capture a screenshot or gameplay clip from your stage, State Share ensures that your game state is saved as well, allowing other players to play the same procedurally-generated stage. 

By clicking the link to your capture, fellow Stadia players can start from the beginning of your unique stage, and use your imprints - as well as any they create - to complete the level and save the Tantallians! In this way, states passed between several players will evolve slightly with each play, depending on how each person plays the game. 

Go play, be creative, and share those State Share enabled captures!

Verdict

If you dislike slow, forgiving, sepia-filtered, or unpassionate games - this game is not for you.

If you like fast-paced, unforgiving, colorful, and passionate games - this game is most definitely for you.

It's a great game, even as an exclusive to Stadia.

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