Go Back to Search 

General Description

PixelJunk SideScroller is a horizontal shooter developed by Q-Games and released on the PlayStation Network in November 2011. It borrows some elements from the previous PixelJunk game, Shooter, which had players controlling a ship in 2D space and exploring caverns, interacting with various subterranean fluids while battling various enemies. Some of these mechanics are revisited here, but the setting is much more fast-paced; where Shooter could be approached methodically, SideScroller is an action game through and through.


Players - ideally a pair of them - control ships that move through the game’s automatically-scrolling stages. Players have three weapons available at all times, which can be upgraded individually over the course of any given level. The game is split into three chapters, each of which contains a handful of stages and then an elaborate boss fight.


The game’s biggest strength is problem solving. It’s actiony and fast-paced, and successful players will be able to navigate each level’s traps quickly while switching between weapons to tackle whatever enemies are approaching.


Grade by Game Type Overall Grade
D+ D+
Ratings at a Glance
Creativity: 4 Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.
Business: 0 Developer: Q-Games
People: 2 Year: 2011
Problem: 5 Genre: Shooter/Action
Simulation: 0 Strengths: popularity, problem
Popularity: 7 Platforms: Playstation Network
Extra: 0  
Rating Details

Classroom Facts


SideScroller does not focus on classroom facts.


Creativity & Imagination


By the Player:


The game doesn’t encourage much exploration on the player’s part - in fact, each of its ordered stages scrolls from left to right automatically. This doesn’t stop the game from hiding three trinkets in each stage, which require curious players to poke around each level’s nooks to uncover.


The real opportunity for player creativity is found in combat, and comes largely from the fact that the player’s three weapons, which are quite different, can be toggled between freely at any time. Combined with the option to increase the power of each incrementally by collecting power-ups, players have several options with which to tackle any of the game’s situations, including enemies that pop out of walls, those that fly straight at the player, walls that need to be muscled through, and the game’s four bosses which offer their own unique challenges.


By the Developer:


The most striking elements of SideScroller are its audio and visual components. Visually the game is made up of neon environments set into a screen made to look like an old arcade cabinet, complete with a slight warping effect. The psychedelic color scheme is complimented by the game’s BAFTA-nominated ambient techno soundtrack (by musical duo High Frequency Bandwidth) to give the game a really distinct and deliberately videogamey style.


The game’s mechanics are simple and familiar, but they’re meant to be. The riffs on the shooter genre are subtle, and mostly there to make the game a little more accessible. The scoring system is straightforward, levels offer generous checkpoints and the whole thing goes down smoothly, leading to the conclusion that the game is meant largely as a showcase for its visual and aural style, which are successes.


Business Skills


Business skills are not a factor of SideScroller.


People Skills


SideScroller is best played with a partner, though there isn’t really any way for two players to interact with each other meaningfully. Instead the game ends up being more about splitting up work; enemies often come in pairs of waves, which pairs of players are certainly well-equipped to handle. Since each of the game’s weapons has its own specialties, having two players that level up specific weapons can be very effective in many situations.


SideScroller can get pretty hectic in some sequences with just a single player, but having two players shooting up the screen simultaneously gives every inch of it some added chaos.


Problem Solving


This largely comes down to tackling each new enemy as quickly as possible while dealing with the native dangers of each stage. Generally players are flying through tunnels as enemies come at them at waves or pop out, turret-like, from the walls. The tunnels themselves frequently offer up their own hazards, which range from rushes of lava and poisonous gases to mechanical contraptions like complex mirrored lasers and crushing gear-walls.


From the game’s first seconds players have access to three distinct weapons. One is a basic machine gun that fires straight ahead; the second is a powerful laser that fires in a straight line and penetrates through multiple foes but fires very slowly; the third is a strange bomb-scattering gun that drops a handful of projectiles on the floor and, when upgraded, the ceiling. Each of these is useful in different situations, and while players can complete the game only using one of them, much of the fun and challenge of SideScroller can be experimenting with each in different scenarios.


Each stage offers segments where each weapon in useful, and the challenging bosses in particular will test the player’s knowledge of the weapons as well as their general reflexes and skill.




SideScroller is not a simulation game.




SideScroller received largely positive reviews, with praise particularly aimed at its graphics and soundtrack, as well as its difficulty level, praised for being high without ever becoming inaccessible.


Controls & Options


SideScroller offers three difficulty levels to start, with a fourth unlocked upon completing the game. Difficulty levels are particularly notable in SideScroller because each one offers a total reimagining of the game’s visuals - terrain, enemies and the players’ ships are all given new coats of paint. While the change is strictly cosmetic, each palette really does give the game a whole new feel.




PixelJunk SideScroller was rated E by the ESRB with a descriptor for Mild Fantasy Vio