I'm in love. PixelJunk Shooter landed on PSN and completely gobbled up my evening before I even knew what happened. After gorging on big releases for the last few months, I really didn't think there was room in my stomach for this last, wafer thin mint of a game. I'm glad I dropped the ten bucks, because I am exploding with delight over here. This is fun.
You play as a single ship, newly arrived to a planet where a mining team has gone missing, leaving an SOS signal pulsing out into space. Diving deep into the earth, you navigate the caves and rescue scientists with your ships grappling hook, yanking them into the safety of your hull. You maneuver your vessel in the time honored tradition of twin stick shooters, controlling facing with the right stick and thrust with the left. You fire unlimited missiles out the front of your ship and if you hold the trigger down, the missiles become heat seekers.
Each level is fairly small, your primary goal is to rescue every surviving scientist, which unlocks the gate to the next area. Sometimes they're easy to reach, you just need to swoop down and snap them up. Other times you have to figure out a way to reach them without dumping a metric ton of lava on their heads in the process. A common solution to some of these earlier scenarios would be to shoot some soft earth out from under a body of water, causing it to flow out and harden the lava, rendering it dormant and easy to blast through. Otherwise, that lava is liquid and it will flow through whatever holes you blast into the rock, frying the hapless scientists in the process.
Where PixelJunk Shooter really shines is the alchemy and physics involved in solving these environmental puzzles. Water hardens lava and lava can ignite gasses. How you release these elements or create tunnels to re-direct them is where it becomes more than just a shooter. Enemies themselves can blast magma at you or fire their own missiles, overloading your ships heat sensors and killing you. Rather than need to worry about health, it's all about heat management. Staying close to lava will heat you up, getting shot heats you up almost to bursting and firing homing missiles also generates heat. You can collect shields to negate this or fly your ship into the water to cool down. Everything from the controls to the way the environment reacts to your maneuvers just makes sense and flows beautifully.
Unlike PixelJunk Eden, Shooter feels more like a complete game with multiple objectives and ways to fight back against the enemies harassing you. With any luck I'll be able to try some local coop (up to two players) before I finish my run, so there's lots left to do!
There's also more depth, powers and tricks to discover than I'm willing to spoil here. It's worth seeing for yourself and for such a low price of admission, it's impossible not to recommend.