Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: PixelJunk 4am

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Electronic Theatre ImageQ Games has achieved notable success with the PixelJunk series, so much so that each new title receives a significant amount of interest upon release, and in the run up to launch is always posed the question as to why the series remains exclusive to the PlayStation 3. With the latest addition however, PixelJunk 4am, the reason behind the rhyme is more evident than with most.

The closest comparison to PixelJunk 4am would be that of the Nintendo DS’ unique and inspiring Electroplankton. A palette upon which to engineer your own musical products from a series of layered samples, PixelJunk 4am uses the PlayStation Move motion-controller to deliver an inviting aural experience. Though everything that it delivers has been seen – or rather, offered to players – before, it’s still a rarity in the modernElectronic Theatre Image videogames industry and an experience that ranks amongst the best out there. Part eJay, part videogame and part artistic interpretation, PixelJunk 4am is a fantastic addition to the increasingly absent minded PlayStation Move line-up.

PixelJunk 4am begins by offering the player a brief tutorial before allowing you to experiment with the same tools you will have at your disposal in the full tracks. Players can ‘pull’ samples into play from each corner of the screen, and these samples will loop infinitely until told otherwise, or no further interaction is being measured (at which point all samples will fade in turn of their introduction until all have ended, and the ‘track’ is deemed to have reached it’s conclusion). There are four possible samples available in each corner – loosely based on different instruments – selected by the four traditional PlayStation face buttons. These face buttons also represent an instrument for the direct input: by ‘banging’ each side of the screen the player will add another layer or effect over the underlying samples.

The result of all this is some pretty varied creations. Players can slowly introduce new samples, building from one to another (or into another, as a fade option for each individual sample is also available) as either an experiment or with prior knowledge of the available formations: PixelJunk 4am offers a number of differentElectronic Theatre Image sample collections for players to enjoy, and to play with to see just how diverse the sounds they create with simple gestures can really be.

In addition to the aural presentation PixelJunk 4am features a visualisation of the sound created not too unlike that which you would expect from any modern media player. It’s not exactly as immediate as Child of Eden or Lumines’ reactionary visuals, but it does compliment the player input well. More impressive however, is the fact that your music is broadcast live to PlayStation Network players around the world as you play: a separate download, the Live Viewer, comes as part of the PixelJunk 4am package, allowing you to view anyone else currently playing. You can invite other players to come and watch/listen through Facebook or Twitter directly from the videogame, and set Electronic Theatre Imageyour own message for those simply browsing through the live sessions available. When in-game, PixelJunk 4am actually tells you just how many players are watching, and it’s not uncommon to build a considerable audience once you get going on a good beat.

The composition of light and sound offered by PixelJunk 4am is a rare treat on videogame systems, so much so that anyone with an invested appreciation of music would be well advised to check it out for themselves, if only to see what it can offer. For the mainstream audience Electronic Theatre can only assume that PixelJunk 4am is so called as it’s intended to be played in the early hours of the morning, after a heavy night out or other nocturnal activity. Indeed, much like Child of Eden, being sober may allow you to achieve more within a shorter timeframe, but it can also lessen the effect of some of the intended ambience. Whatever your state of mind however, and whomever your audience may be, PixelJunk 4am is certain to provide an interesting discussion point, and when it comes to creative construction of light and sound, isn’t that what really counts?

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