PixelJunk Lifelike

Drawn from life.

Music games are as nebulous and diverse as music itself, as we've very recently explored. Still, it's no surprise that when Q-Games turned its hand to the genre the results would be stranger yet - for if there's one thing that's defined the studio's PixelJunk series, it's a willingness to be different.

"I personally always feel uncomfortable if the game feels too familiar," says Dylan Cuthbert, Q-Games' founder and president whose long and illustrious career has taken him from Edgware to his current base in Kyoto, "but at the same time I like to have a small amount of familiarity in there." 

And so the PixelJunk games have always used the most simple of concepts as a springboard, be that the tower defence template at the core of Monsters or the 2D shmup mechanics that the forthcoming Sidescroller is built around. From there, though, ideas are spun out and explored, accompanied by often breathtaking visuals provided by an impressive roster of collaborators.

Ask what PixelJunk actually means, however, and the answer is as freeform as the series itself. "Innovativeness and enjoyment and preferably with a peppering of technology," says Cuthbert of PixelJunk's overarching philosophy. "We don't want to make anything that just anyone could make so we always strive to make our games feel different - to each other and to other games."

Lifelike, the latest offering from Q-Games, fulfils that particular remit more keenly than any PixelJunk game before it. Perhaps more fittingly described as a piece of music software than a game, it left many perplexed after its most recent showing at E3.

The demonstration certainly didn't offer any easy answers. With little pre-amble, the assembled games journalists sat through an extended performance from Baiyon, the Kyoto-based multimedia artist who previously collaborated with Q on PixelJunk Eden.

With controlled gesticulations of the Move controller, tendrils of colour danced across the screen to a progressive trance soundtrack that pulsated and evolved over 15 strange minutes. The sound of heads being scratched was more prominent in the room than the usual screech of biro on notepad.

"Obviously one or two people just didn't get it or the music," says Cuthbert of the divisive E3 outing. "That's fine, because we certainly can't cater to people who only listen to heavy metal or country music for example.  Music is a personal taste and those people who are into the club scene and like the kind of music they hear there will love Lifelike."

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