Sunday, 15 April 2012

Review: PixelJunk Eden

Okay, so here's my first review: PixelJunk Eden. Apparently this has been out on the PSN for a while now, so for some of you this will be a bit dated. But I don't own a ps3 and I just recently picked it up on steam and had a play through. So let's take a look at it:

In PixelJunk Eden you play as something called a "grimp" (?) who floats through various forests looking for the elusive "spectra" (??) which are good for... some reason. The grimp also has to contend against the (supposedly) evil "pollen prowlers", which he must attack and burst to get the pollen within to open new paths through the world. The game really doesn't explain any of this to any detail, and I suppose it doesn't really have to once the gameplay picks up speed, but it does leave the player wondering exactly what they're supposed to be doing here. Most of the pollen prowlers aren't even doing anything, they're just floating through the air and explode at the slightest touch. In later levels they develop a few different variations that do appear to be actively trying to hurt you, but they still explode after a few chest-bumps which certainly destroys the notion that they're meant to be formidable in any way.

Anyway, since the game is a platformer gameplay consists of jumping from one thing to another thing, while exploding as many prowlers as possible to grow new paths through the level towards the spectra that you are searching for. There are several spectra in each level, collecting one of which ejects you back to the hub world which connects the levels. Collecting so many spectra opens new levels, and that's about it. After a jump the grimp (still sounds weird) can float through the air to a certain point. This can make it very difficult to judge whether or not you're going to make a jump, and missing a jump means you have to very slowly fall through the air and hope to land on something that's at least slightly closer to where you were than the floor is, and then jump/float your way back up. This really isn't good for the flow of gameplay, and can be especially frustrating when the time limit becomes constricted later on.

As a game going for the "artsy" sector of the indie market the visual design and soundtrack are really quite good. The plants you jump between stand out well against the backdrops and the levels are quite colourful without becoming visually cluttered and confusing. The soundtrack features a mix of mellow-yet-upbeat techno tunes which blend nicely with the visuals and the pace of the game overall. This makes the levels quite fun to explore and does make me want to keep playing just so I can see each one. However, with each spectra you collect in a level your time limit (represented by an "oscillator" bar at the bottom of the screen) depletes faster, forcing you to maintain a quickness of pace. I understand that a game requires some degree of challenge, but when the game so proudly touts its "original techno soundtrack and unique graphic style" then punishing the player for wanting to indulge in the level design and visuals seems like a step in the wrong direction. If they wanted to make the game challenging they could've started with including some enemies a bit more formidable than a china statue balanced on a pool cue in an earthquake.

Ultimately, PixelJunk Eden feels like a game I'd expect to see in the ipad app store, rather than on steam. At the time of writing I haven't played enough to unlock every level, and while I don't see myself hundred-percenting it I do want to continue playing. If you can get absorbed in it then it can be quite entertaining, but it only takes a few frustrating falls to slap the player back to reality. The question of whether or not I would recommend buying it is a bit difficult to answer. If you're a bit of a casual/non-gamer looking for a simple pick-up-and-play game that you can enjoy in 15-20 minute intervals between meetings or whatever than you can certainly do a lot worse for your $10 than PixelJunk Eden.  However, if you're looking for something with a bit more narrative or gameplay substance than this probably isn't for you.

Until next time

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