Review: PixelJunk SideScroller is a Sublime “Shooter” From Another Time

I honestly have no idea how I got through the first few video games I played during my childhood. I’m not just talking about the NES stuff from the mid-’80s, but games like the Smurfs for the Atari 2600. Assuming my memory is correct, there’s a random fence that, if you didn’t jump over in precisely the right way, meant instant game over. And somehow, I had put up with that damn instant death fence — again and again. I’m not sure whether I did so because I was a very perseverant child, or if I simply had nothing better to do than try-and-try-and-try again. Back then, video games for kids were simple, crude, and a bit on the cruel and unrelenting side.

Nowadays, kids games have dialed down the cruelty to the point where failure is not only not an option, but it’s not really even acknowledged. But even though they’ve become easier, they have not progressed much in terms of being less janky. It sort of makes sense for some Flash game on a NickJR or Disney XD website to look like it was made in some high schooler’s programming class, but when you see uninspired characters, repeated assets, and horrible glitches in a retail game meant for a home console, it’s downright disheartening. So it’s nice to see that while Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster still adopts the lack-of-failure motif, it’s within a game that looks like people cared about its craft.

Amit Teli