PixelJunk Raiders Impressions

PixelJunk Raiders is an exclusive for Stadia, and it’s currently free for Stadia Pro subscribers.

It’s a strange, colorful little game with some rogue-like elements and some Dark Souls-esque melee combat that involves lots of dodging and inevitable death and retrying.

The game uses Stadia’s state-share feature so that other people can experience exactly what you are. And perhaps more interesting, it allows for Death Stranding-style community assistance with objects left in the world by other players.

The art-style is maybe the thing that’ll intrigue most people right away. It’s a very saturated art style that looks to be inspired by vintage science fiction novel covers. The art style and the moody, synthwave music are easily the strongest aspects of the game. In fact, I would buy the soundtrack in a heartbeat and that’s despite that fact that (spoilers) I’m not going to be very kind to this game from here on out.

The story is pretty simple, a species of squid-like aliens have invaded planets across the galaxy, and it’s up to you to go rescue the citizens.

That involves beaming down from your spaceship to punch the aliens in the face and hold a button next to the citizens to free them. Then after you’ve freed enough of them, you’ve liberated the planet, and you can head back to your ship to get some upgrades, pick a few pieces of equipment and then head to another planet to do it all over again.

Combat is pretty simplistic. Throwing punches at increasingly spongy enemies gets very tedious until you find and equip a melee weapon. Then the number of hits required to kill the enemies drops dramatically, but much like Breath of the Wild, weapons don’t last forever.

If you get overwhelmed by the number of enemies on screen at once (which happened to me fairly often and from fairly early on), you’ll die. You then have a couple more respawns before you fail and have to start the liberation of that planet completely over. Worse yet, upon respawning you discover that all of your weapons, equipment and enhancements (found scattered around the map) are gone, and you’re back to punching the aliens in the face 20 times.

This is the rogue-like elements at work. So I expected there’d be some sort of loss once you died, but the game goes from palatable combat (with weapons and enhancements in place) to tedious in no time flat. The more that happened, the less likely I was to continue. And I can’t help feeling as though that has little to do with my admittedly limited patience for rogue-like games.

In fact, I realized that none of what the game was doing was particularly entertaining. The story didn’t compel me to continue. The combat wasn’t fun and addicting. The abilities and enhancements (though making combat a bit more palatable) didn’t feel like they were enhancing the experience in a meaningful way (though a spin attack to hit multiple enemies at once does help a bit).

And then there was the jumping and platforming. Jumping lacked precision and there is no ledge-grab or climbing mechanics, which means even if you jump high enough that every part of you but your ankles down to your feet clear a rooftop, you’re not going to have successfully jumped onto the roof.

That was annoying, but it was made infinitely more annoying by the fact that the vast majority of the structures (including awnings and other little structures you’d think you could jump on to platform your way up to a rooftop) are just high enough that you can’t even double jump your way on top of them.

So I wasn’t drawn in by the story, the combat was tedious and the platforming was downright infuriating.

Once I realized all of this, I wondered why I was bothering to play at all.

And that’s when I decided to call it on this one.

I hate to dismiss a game so quickly, but life is too short to spend time with things you’re not enjoying, especially when there’s so much else out there to play and Stadia’s eating up data by the minute.

But let me know if you’re tried PixelJunk Raiders. Did I give up on it too quickly? Let me know what I missed in the comments!

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