Shooter's co-op mode is local-only; like Monsters, the game is a little easier with two players, but it's also less frustrating. Having an extra player is the equivalent of having an extra life, meaning you're not forced to start again at the beginning of the level as often. Some things, though, are made harder with two players - sometimes you only have a few seconds to get both of you through a gap after unleashing a lava flow, and the magnetic power-up that repels the black gunk also repels the other player's ship, making it quite a challenge to get both of you through safely.
It's more action-packed than either Eden or Monsters, and more accessible as well - presented with a ship that can shoot stuff, various liquids to play with and a lot of destructible rock, it's easy for anyone to figure out what to do. Is the new game shooting for a broader audience than the rest of PixelJunk's first series? "We've tuned it so that people who enjoyed Monsters will be able to enjoy Shooter," says Dylan, "but at the same time we're also aiming to grab people who like a good shooting game as well. It's not quite as hardcore as Stardust HD, it's more like a solid old-school vertical shooter - like R-Type."
In our experience of the game, though, comparing it directly to vertical shooters is misleading. It's more puzzler than shooter; you die a lot, yes, but it's usually because you've messed up a lava flow or fallen victim to poisonous gas or some other environmental hazard, not because you failed to dodge a beautiful but deadly pattern of enemy bullets.
Each PixelJunk game so far has been conceptually completely different - it's hard to believe that they were all created by the same nine individuals at Q-Games, over in Kyoto. What unifies them, as Dylan points out, is their commitment to graphical perfection. "The main goal behind Series 1 of PixelJunk is full HD, 1080p, 60fps, high fidelity 2D," he says. "We wanted to bring back 2D, because up until the PS3, 2D had always been on a standard TV connected with a shitty cable You didn't get the real colours, it was a smudgy mess on the screen. But now we've got the PS3, we've got full HDMI and brilliant, rich colours, and we wanted to go back to 2D a bit and see what we could do with it."
If there's another unifying tenet of the PixelJunk games so far, though, it's probably pad-smashing frustration. Aesthetically, Eden was ostentatiously modern, all dreamy techno and complicated plant structures unfurling beautifully against richly-coloured backdrops, but underneath it was a hard-as-nails, cold-hearted old videogame that hated to let you win. Both Monsters and Eden relied heavily on trial-and-error gameplay, and the latter particularly is notoriously one of the hardest games on PS3, not always for good reasons - though Q-Games did soften it up a little in a post-release patch.
Shooter is definitely challenging - it's easy to get caught up in the elements and die, or catch a few too many bullets from alien enemies - but the levels are short enough to prevent repetition from grating, and the very nature of the game means that though trial and error does play a part, it's mostly about figuring out how to get through a level rather than learning its layout. Besides, the PixelJunk games' difficulty is part of their appeal. They're pretty, sure, but they'll still kick your arse.
PixelJunk Shooter is an ideal downloadable game in many ways; inventive, accessible, visually and technically interesting, and it will probably be priced around the magic £5 mark. Playing with the game's gloopy liquids is always intuitive and fun, as is the bare-bones shooting. It's out within the next few months and looks absolutely ready for that imminent release. If it can sustain its appeal across three worlds worth of levels, PixelJunk Shooter could well mark the apex of the series.