PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Q-Games’ PixelJunk series, essentially an umbrella name for their indie game output, is now in its second chapter. With little to no correlating factors, each game is largely a standalone work, with PixelJunk Racers, for example, being a Micro Machines-style overhead racing title, while PixelJunk Shooter is a subterranean search and rescue experience.

PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe is an expanded version of PixelJunk Scrappers from 2020; a clean-looking 2D arcade-strategy title geared around junk collecting. In a future post-apocalypse, trash has become a currency and is fought for by rival gangs lining their pockets with other people’s refuse. This isn’t particularly logical, of course, because if junk was equal to gold nobody would ever throw anything out, but, in the world of PixelJunk: Scrappers Deluxe, the streets are lined with discarded objects in the upper and lower extremities of side-scrolling city stages.

PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The aim of the game is to earn as much money as possible by trashing as much garbage as you can in a set stage, with thrown-out bottles, otherworldly machinery, and various odds and ends littering the looting landscape. The pace is set by your garbage truck companion, which you follow until it stops for a brief period, during which time you collect and throw as much trash into its rear compactor as possible before it starts rolling again, forcing you to the next screen. Should you get scrolled off-screen, you’ll face a health penalty, meaning you can’t be too slack with your movements.

It’s a simple enough premise and one that works fairly well. The meat of the game is in its scoring, which not only doubles as cash but also buys you back into the game if you die. Run out of cash and it’s effectively game over. To score big, you need to stack trash items into a precarious tower. This is done automatically by standing near a junk pile and tapping the button. When the tower is high enough to reach off the top of the screen, it’s a good time to get it into the compactor. This can be done simply by walking it within range, or by holding down the left or right face buttons to go for a lob at a distance. Throws can also be angled, which is a pique skill when you're in the thick of it.

PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The issue is, the higher the stack, the more unsteady the tower is, wobbling dangerously back and forth with horizontal movement, but remaining fairly unperturbed on the vertical axis. Keeping the stack from toppling (or at the very least, losing objects from the top) requires you to move slowly until you either reach the compactor or are in range for a toss. Should you deploy a good stack successfully into the truck’s rear, the score multiplier ramps up for each item, netting you a tidy sum of cash for your purse. Cleverly, the stacks also abide by some physics properties, with sizes and weights of certain items helping to keep the stack steady, but also slowing you to a crawl. Three vending machines aren't in much danger of toppling, but you can barely move while holding them; similarly, if you stack a bottle between two microwaves it makes for a dangerously unsteady tower.

While the earning system is straightforward, the rub comes when rival gangs enter the screen to smack you up and hinder you from converting your plunder. This happens all the time, with increasingly large enemies — some tough enough to essentially be bosses — roaming in to make life difficult. When they enter the screen you don’t want to be creeping around with a teetering garbage stack because they’ll quickly topple it for you with a few face punches, and with your arms full there’s no option to retaliate. This is where PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe becomes even more economical than its recycling premise; a balancing act of getting garbage objects into the compactor in as large a mass as possible, while being pressured by the time limit and encroaching attackers. To fight back, you simply press the B button, throwing out an initially simplistic three-hit combo on repeat. When the enemies go down, there’s a brief period where they too can be lifted and thrown into the compactor for a decent bonus.

PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

In single-player mode, you’re gifted a helper bot, who will mill around the screen collecting junk objects, and then toss them to you to increase the stack you’re already holding either automatically or on command. While this helps you increase your bounty, the bot isn’t exactly smart, sometimes making a throw when you don’t have time or positioning to catch it, or in the middle of a fistfight, meaning there’s some strategy involved in making the best use of it. Additionally, there’s a power-up robot that regularly appears, that, when smacked several times, will increase your speed and power for a temporary period, helping you to clean up enemies and get back to trashing with more efficiency.

PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe features twenty-five stages spread across five worlds. Each world has a distinctive look, and its substages can be accessed freely via a map screen that allows for back-tracking. At the end of a stage, you can head to the upgrade shop, where you can purchase weaponry, new characters, and upgrades with the bounty you’ve earned. Since your base-level start is slow and altogether average, it makes sense to do a little grinding through the early stages to beef up a bit, acquire new characters, and make life easier as you move through each zone. One aspect we didn't enjoy much is that certain gateway stages require you to have accomplished a set number of challenges to progress to the next area. We feel that challenges should really be optional rather than having to backtrack to try and stack a certain number of enemies or build towers of specific objects, and so on. As it stands, it's something of an annoyance that adds artificial and unnecessary padding to the campaign.

PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe Review - Screenshot 5 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

PixelJunk Scrappers premise and execution are mostly fine. The visuals are clean and clear, and the requirements are easy to get a handle on. There are clever quirks to exploit, like using firearms to shoot enemies into the back of the compactor, and it’s quite enjoyable to upgrade your characters and increase the power of your weaponry. The only issue is that the game is slightly mundane as a single-player experience. There’s a perfunctory feel about the combat where blows feel lightweight and unsatisfying, and the controls have a smoothness that makes it all feel a little flat and floaty. The single-player is arguably too repetitive, at least until the third world, to hold the attention of most players for very long. It’s an idea that has all of the underpinnings of a good action arcade game, but lacks a propelling energy to really feel thrilling or urgent.

In multiplayer, however, it’s an upgraded experience. With up to four players locally or online, either cooperatively or in versus mini-games, you get to employ strategies in a much broader way, with some characters, upgraded for certain skills, fending off enemies, while others geared for speed able to do the trashing, throwing stacks to one another in a daisy chain. It’s a lot more fraught and intense, a lot more strategic and interesting, and is generally the best way to play. But it does require either three friends side-by-side or an online subscription to go.


PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe is a good, fairly unique idea with several interesting challenges to juggle, and, if you enjoyed the original, the expanded worlds and new additions will fulfill your craving for more recycling action. Clever though it is in premise and arrangement, however, it isn’t a very thrilling single-player game until around halfway through. If you do decide to give it a spin, you want to be online-ready, because multiplayer is where its engineering comes to the fore.