In an period when Hades can win IGN’s Game of The Year award for reinventing the roguelike wheel, and extra easy video games like Dead Cells stay enjoyable after numerous runs, PixelJunk Raiders is a serious disappointment. Despite a definite visible model harking back to trippy synthwave albums or Moebius work, PixelJunk Raiders (maybe the final Google Stadia exclusive) fails to differentiate itself from the competitors in any significant manner. It does put forth some ingenious concepts, however on the similar time stumbles over the fundamentals an excessive amount of for them to matter.
As a contemporary-confronted bounty hunter, it’s your job to rescue a bunch of desert-dwelling aliens from squid-confronted baddies. But beaming down there within the flesh can be silly, so that you’ve acquired a restricted variety of digital avatars to finish your mission. It’s a skinny setup, however definitely a well-known one. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually go anyplace, and also you’ll typically hear the identical traces out of your swarthy mentor congratulating you on nabbing some treasure.
PixelJunk Raiders Gameplay Screenshots
At first look, PixelJunk Raiders (which bears no significant connection to the lengthy-working PixelJunk franchise aside from that it’s from the identical improvement staff) makes an amazing first impression. The randomly generated alien worlds you beam all the way down to are awash in a mixture of brightly coloured, clearly outlined landscapes that virtually pop off the display screen when bathed in moon or daylight. Massive deserts give technique to lush forests and unusual alien structure, and I used to be intrigued once I first found an underground bunker buried among the many sand. A strong synth soundtrack helps hold issues feeling “alien.” Giant stone pillars draw your consideration skyward, the place the faint outlines of different planets and moons remind you of simply how small you’re. Though every map is fairly large, large house cubes and plumes of smoke above every main location assist to maintain you from getting too misplaced.
Once you get a bit nearer to the motion, issues crumble. Each city you come throughout appears to be like virtually equivalent, save for the format of the buildings. Raiders needs to provide the impression these variety aliens had a considerably bustling neighborhood, however the drab exteriors and cookie-cutter market stalls, pottery, and interiors do something however. It doesn’t assist that the rooftops of most cities – the place plenty of powerups and different vital objects find yourself – are simply barely out of attain of your triple-bounce, requiring you to both discover a small ladder on the aspect of a wall or use the wildly inaccurate tremendous bounce whereas ducking and weaving round enemies.
Finding sufficient survivors to rescue is usually a chore unto itself. Though Raiders makes it clear what number of survivors are in every location and highlights survivors you’ve already seen whereas being busy combating aliens, I typically discovered myself having to circle settlements a number of occasions and dig by way of varied equivalent buildings to search out the final one I used to be lacking. And for those who have been anticipating the act of rescuing these kindly of us to be fascinating, witnessing the identical animation of grateful aid every time makes it really feel such as you’re rescuing a bunch of Chuck E Cheese animatronic characters. That’s for those who may even rescue them within the first place, since having even one enemy close by will block you from finishing the interplay, and also you’ll be compelled to go looking for that little jerk in the identical laborious manner.
The similar sense of repetition applies to all of PixelJunk Raiders’ different places, together with forests and alien cities that climb 100 yards into the sky. From afar, they’re initially tantalizing, however when you get deeper in and notice how repetitious the surroundings is (and the way enemies would possibly get caught between bushes or inside a power discipline, making them tougher to search out and kill), it rapidly loses its luster. The similar goes for underground bunkers that comply with a painfully related format and supply comparatively meager rewards.
The solely shiny spot of exploration was when a plume of smoke sometimes led to not one other flat, boring city however what seemed to be the lethal aftermath of a battle between a number of different bounty hunters like myself and three large humanoid enemies. While the prospect of a mysterious encounter fueled my creativeness, and stumbling upon it felt like a really one-of-a-variety likelihood, it in the end by no means led to something significant.
Combat misses the mark as properly: your battles with enemy aliens huge and small really feel a mile vast and an inch deep, and it’s the place most of PixelJunk Raiders’ points rear their ugly heads.
Given its roguelike nature, I used to be prepared to forgive Raiders for being remarkably punishing proper out of the gate. At the beginning of a mission your bounty hunter is provided with little greater than their fists, three lives, and a well being bar that will get worn out in about as many hits. In concept, this encourages you to discover the desert wastes and open up historic vases or loot enemy our bodies for swords, daggers, hammers, or shields. In follow, you are extra typically simply amassing gems that don’t instantly serve any objective. Actual weapons are notably tougher to search out, and except you choose a particular perk, you find yourself dropping all the things upon your painfully sudden loss of life.
The weapons themselves are hardly distinguishable from each other. All swords, regardless of how fancy, lead to the identical flurry of strikes, and two-handed hammers appear to stun enemies a bit higher however aren’t way more helpful. When you add in the truth that they’re so fragile that they lose 1% sturdiness for each strike, it’s even worse. If you weren’t into weapons breaking in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you’re going to completely hate it right here.
PixelJunk Raiders’ fight isn’t precisely a tower protection, and never fairly aggressive Dark Souls swordplay, however a poor mishmash of the 2 that mixes pretty normal melee combating with setting traps for enemies. You can lock onto a goal, though I discovered doing so to be stifling attributable to the way it restricts your motion, and also you’ll commerce swings with them earlier than their apparent wind up finishes they usually slash you. One on one, it’s comparatively mundane stuff, dashing to deplete their well being bar earlier than they’ll take a sizeable chunk of yours. When contending with teams it’s far tougher, particularly as soon as lengthy-vary and greater enemies get added to the combo. It’s an honest selection (my favourite being the Wild Wild West saw blades that pop up out of the sand and attempt to mow you down) however as soon as you determine their one or two tips, fight hardly ever manages to shock. A floaty sense of motion (which is just aggravated in case your web connection stutters) saved it from ever feeling like I used to be rising as a fighter.
I discovered setting traps to be a barely simpler, but equally irritating strategy. Mines are efficient at wiping out teams of smaller enemies, or placing a critical dent in bigger ones, however kiting enemies into them is a boring and irritating expertise, made even worse by the truth that it’s arduous to gauge how distant you want to be to keep away from getting caught in your individual blast. Also, as soon as they’re gone, they’re gone, together with a mistakenly positioned mine you dropped within the warmth of battle.
Imprints – digital clones of varied enemy sorts that combat for you – are equally ineffective. They’re okay at distracting a number of enemy grunts with bodily or elemental harm, but it surely’s hardly ever sufficient to skinny out the bigger horde that’s consistently, relentlessly chasing you down.
Other objects allow you to bounce excessive into the air or launch a large space-of-impact assault after defeating sufficient enemies. It provides fight a bit little bit of an additional aptitude, letting you floor-pound downwards into an enemy’s cranium or totally banish a large again to its dimension, however solely when it really works as meant… which isn’t typically sufficient.
Ready Player None
Weighing down the already mediocre fight is an aggravatingly barebones improve system. In between missions, you possibly can improve your bounty hunter with alien DNA that gives passive bonuses like poison harm or a berserker standing that rewards aggressive play with further harm for 10 seconds. Software patches are interchangeable upgrades that enable for issues like wielding hammers, completely different assault sorts, and elevated well being or stamina. The drawback is that every one of those patches really feel essential to the fight loop Raiders throws at you, so lacking a number of seems like I’m enjoying with one arm or leg tied behind my again.
Some seemingly important skills are locked behind these patches, like the power to loot your corpse and retrieve all of your remaining gear and foreign money, or the power to wield one thing like a defend in your left hand. And but, the speed at which they’re doled out is sort of stingy, forcing me to make robust selections – which might be good besides they’re between issues that really feel like they need to have simply been put in from the get-go. Do I increase my well being so I don’t die in a single hit, however lose all my gear? Or do I make myself a glass cannon and belief the digital camera gained’t lure me right into a nook for a swift finish? These aren’t enjoyable inquiries to ask, not less than on this roguelike.
While out on a mission you will discover upgrades to your agility or uncooked assault energy, however by no means sufficient to really feel like they’ve made a lot of a distinction in the way you combat.
Perhaps probably the most poorly balanced a part of PixelJunk Raiders’ improve system is the truth that you’re completely, positively buried in gems and treasure that may ostensibly be used to create extra highly effective weaponry – good luck discovering the console you want for it, although. In the greater than 20 hours I performed, I very hardly ever ran throughout a weapons station, however discovered numerous vases within the desert that gave me gems as a substitute of prepared-made weapons. Honestly, it was like Raiders’ financial system didn’t know what its shops have been doing.
One mark of a great roguelite development system is encouraging that “one more run” feeling, if you’ve burned a pair hours leveling up however suppose that this one – this one – would be the one the place you actually pop off. Part of that magic is when the street from begin to loss of life is lengthy sufficient to really feel like a significant impediment to be overcome, however brief sufficient to really feel manageable. PixelJunk Raiders scoffs at this notion, with missions typically dragging out for perhaps half-hour, perhaps even an hour for those who die and should restart. Staring down a mission goal to rescue greater than 20 survivors, I felt queasy realizing I’d simply be at it for a day if I died all of the sudden at any level in fight. In the top, no quantity of expertise factors, alien treasure, or upgrades felt well worth the time I’d should put right into a mission. Let the evil squids have the planet if they need it so dangerous.