In the gaming world, there is a lot of talk from gamers about game studios being “overrated.” Fans and haters of different critically acclaimed studios battle it out on forums all across the internet in a never-ending flame war over which studio is overrated or why another studio isn't.
What about the other guys, though--the game developers that bring us great titles but don't necessarily get the appreciation or attention they deserve? There are some that bring up how underrated a developer may be, but for every one of those, there are thousands of gamers saying a developer is overrated. Well, in these “Underrated" articles, we are going to take the time to name developers that could be considered underrated and tell you why they deserve your time.
Q-Games (PixelJunk Racers, PixelJunk Monsters, PixelJunk Shooter)
Q-Games, known by most for its PixelJunk franchise, is an incredibly diverse studio that was started in 2001. In the last 12 years Q-Games branched out into many different genres of gaming, potentially more than any other developer out there during that time frame. The genres this small studio has managed to reach range from racing all the way to [the highly experimental] musical composition. Most of these games are all part of the fantastic PixelJunk franchise.
Admittedly, Q-Games had a rough start with PixelJunk Racers—its first entry into the PixelJunk franchise. PixelJunk Racers is a slot-car-racing-sim which can support up to seven players simultaneously in offline mode. Racers remains today as one of the very few titles to date that supports the offline 7-Player functionality of the PlayStation 3. This game has some thrills, but [when compared to the many other PixelJunk games that came after] it lacks a lot of content. This was only the beginning for Q-Games as future titles continued to rise in quality.
The second PixelJunk title Q-Games developed was PixelJunk Monsters, which showed immediate improvement over its predecessor PixelJunk Racers. With Monsters Q-Games took the familiar tower-defense formula and gave it a fresh new style. Monsters didn't necessarily revolutionize the tower-defense genre, but it did deliver a tower-defense experience like no other.
Monsters had a fantastic non-threatening art style coupled with a muted color palette and a soothing soundtrack which made the slower pace of the game feel just right. Even at the most disappointing final wave defeat it is hard to get upset because the gameplay is so surreal. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but making a tower-defense game not frustrating [even when you suffer loss after loss] is quite an accomplishment.
PixelJunk Shooter, Q-Games most critically successful title, was a brilliant approach to the age-old shoot-em-up game formula. In Shooter you pilot an all-purpose spacecraft armed with machine guns and missile launchers in the pursuit of rescuing trapped subterranean scientists. In your quest to save these scientists you fight a fairly large variety of subterranean alien beasts ranging from ones that spit out lava in your general direction to the menacing self exploding suicide rushers. The enemies you encounter are great, but the unique experience that PixelJunk Shooter provides is from much more then the enemies you lay waste to.
With Shooter, Q-Games was able to incorporate near-perfect flowing liquid physics which [anyone who played Shooter will tell you] is a huge part of the gameplay. Throughout your playthrough you found yourself solving many puzzles that involved cooling lava with water or melting ice with lava and that is just a couple of the many different situations you encounter. The PixelJunk Shooter experience was thankfully given a sequel which continued and improved on the things that made the first so great.
With the PixelJunk franchise, Q-Games was able to establish itself as a studio that could develop a good game in virtually any genre of gaming and make it distinctly recognizable as a product of Q-Games. Putting the PixelJunk name aside, if you were to pick up a controller and play any one of the PixelJunk games, you could tell immediately that what you are playing is a Q-Games game.
Next week, we will talk about another developer that we believe is considered underrated. If you missed out on last week's installment of Underrated, check it out right here. Do you think this studio could be considered underrated? What studios do you think are underrated? Let us know in the comments section below and be sure to come back for next week's installment!