Back when the original PixelJunk Eden released on the PS3 in 2008, I was far too young to appreciate what it was trying to do. That’s not to say that it was particularly profound or complicated, more that I had the attention span of a gnat and simply couldn’t stay attached to its chill vibes. It’s now 12 long years later, and alongside a much more focused George Foster, we’ve suddenly got an official sequel on the Nintendo Switch in PixelJunk Eden 2.
The concept of PixelJunk Eden 2 is essentially just a follow on from the original game, with no real story to be found. Instead, everything is really just focused on the experience itself and what you do, rather than why you do it. PixelJunk Eden 2 has you playing as a Grimp, who must go around gardens by swinging on silk to collect pollen and create Spectra. I’m sure I sound crazy saying all of that, but that’s what you actually do, although it really just amounts to jumping between platforms, collecting objects to unlock the map and eventually aiming for the final piece to complete the level. Doing so on enough levels will unlock a new set of randomly selected levels with new spice variations and a new Grimp to play as.
As you’re doing all of this, PixelJunk Eden 2 will be providing trippy background visuals and electro-beat music that shifts and changes as you progress forward. This is one of the main draws of PixelJunk Eden 2, and it’s pretty awesome here. It’s definitely a very unique style that I really appreciated, and the ways that the music slowly adds in more beats and instruments as you open the level up is really cool. Using the word “trippy” to describe Pixeljunk may sound cliche, but it really does apply here more-so than it does in other games given that label.
PixelJunk Eden 2 sells itself on these visuals and beats being a mellow and calming experience, and that genuinely does hold up. I’ve not really played a game like it, but the combination of the changing colours and beats whilst I swung around definitely felt like a calm experience. It’s going to be up to you whether that’s something you’re looking for in a game, but I think the musical side of it is well-worth experiencing anyway and reminded me very much of Rez.
The only element of the game that detracts from this calming purpose is the ever-present timer. As you play through the gardens, you’ll have a timer slowly ticking away in the upper-right corner, which doesn’t feel very relaxing or in-line with the game’s encouragement of exploring each garden to find other Grimps and more seeds. It was never bad enough that I lost the timer completely, but there were a few close calls that had me rushing through a level I would have otherwise explored a bit more. This would have been a much bigger complaint of mine, but close to the halfway point of the game, you’ll unlock the ability to freely play any of the gardens you’ve unlocked without a timer, which does alleviate that issue a bit.
PixelJunk Eden 2’s general gameplay loop is fun enough on its own, but does become a little bit repetitive the more you play, and especially so if you play in longer bursts. Luckily, there are a few elements that help spice things up a bit. Although there aren’t too many gardens, each one has five different variants that you can encounter, with some differences between them. There are also a bunch of different Grimps to play as, all of which have their own unique ability that changes how they play ever so slightly, as well as having different designs. For instance, my favourite Grimp was the Painter as his ability meant that his silk would expand as you collected more pollen which made him a lot of fun once you started getting loads of pollen at once.
Once you’ve upgraded your Spectra by finishing the level, you say goodbye to that Grimp by getting a new one, and you get a new selection of levels that will sometimes include a brand new garden. This helps keep things fresh as you’re always working towards something new that will change things up a bit. The gardens also have unique mechanics that differentiate them, such as flowers that shoot you around or teleportation pads, but the general gameplay is going to be the same throughout.
The most significant way PixelJunk Eden 2 adds some variety is with the Spice Rack. Spices are consumables you earn by completing levels that will change up how you play, such as adding another jump, or making Spectra easier to find within the level. Spice is optional, but some of the things that it adds go some way to changing the experience enough to stop the repetition.
It’s difficult to critique something as compact as PixelJunk Eden 2. It feels very intentional in everything it does, and I have no doubt that a certain audience is really going to love it as much as they did the original, especially with all the things that it adds. Personally, I enjoyed it for quite a few hours but definitely had my time with it and didn’t really crave any more. The one thing I’d say about PixelJunk Eden 2 is that its focus on creating variants rather than having more levels can make it a bit repetitive towards the end, even with the Spices and Grimps.
As someone who wasn’t particularly attached to the first game, I thought PixelJunk Eden 2 was fun and unique, but didn’t think of it too far beyond that. For those who were waiting for a sequel to PixelJunk Eden or simply want a different type of game that will relax them, I have no doubt that you’re going to love this, complete all of the gardens and their variations, collect all the Grimps and really make the most out of it.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Q-Games