PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is the definitive version of an already compelling title.
When PixelJunk Monsters came out for the PlayStation 3 in early 2008, the game was really well received for retaining the very distinctive visual style so proper of the PixelJunk series, featuring a deep gameplay and having a wide variety of missions. Thankfully for fans of the franchise, that very same experience has made its way into the PlayStation Portable along with some really welcome additions. For the uninitiated, PixelJunk Monsters is a tower defense game in which the player needs to defend a small village from twenty incoming waves of enemies. In order to defend the villagers, you are required to strategically convert trees into defensive towers.
In the game, you play as Tikiman, and unlike most titles in the tower defense genre, he isn’t an almighty deity invulnerable to enemies. For instance, if Tikiman accidentally runs into enemy, he immediately drops most of the coins he is holding and is forced to retreat. There is a wide variety of defensive towers to choose from, each one of them with its own statistics (such as power and speed) and advantages and disadvantages. Since certain types of towers are better against some classes of monsters, the game quickly becomes deeply strategic. As you defeat enemies, they leave coins and gems that may be used to your advantage.
While coins are used to buy more towers, gems are important to research new tower types and upgrade existing ones. Your defensive turrets may be upgraded by either standing near them for a while or by paying a fixed amount of gems. If you choose the former though, you must take into account that the more powerful upgrades take a long while to charge. This risk/reward system works extremely well, forcing the player to think carefully. Additionally, some of the most powerful and expensive towers must be unlocked before you’re able to even use them.
In general, level design is quite inviting. Each stage allows you to use dissimilar strategies to defeat the incoming waves of enemies. Some levels have bridges, rocks, caves, lagoons, forests or cliffs and they affect you in a variety ways. Picture this: if a flying monster is killed in the middle of ocean, all the coins or gems that he drops are lost forever. Therefore, the game constantly encourages the player to plan various strategies and adapt them accordingly.
Regrettably for those of you who aren’t avid fans of the tower defense genre, PixelJunk Monsters’ difficulty can be way too overwhelming. Overall, there are three difficulties, but even when the casual difficulty tends to be a little more forgiving, playing PixelJunk Monsters may be mildly frustrating at times. The patterns of enemies, for example, tends to be quite unpredictable and cases in which you set up multiple towers on one side of the screen, only to see that the enemies decide to change their route and come out from an unprotected flank are very common. Furthermore, the game’s rainbow system is poorly designed. Basically, to continue with the adventure you have to open certain paths. But in order to do so, you need a specific number of rainbows which can only be obtained by completing a given level flawlessly.
There are a couple of reasons why the PSP version of the game has Deluxe right in its name. In addition to the game itself, PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe features Encore (the game’s expansion,) more towers, enemies, unlockable challenges, a new island and an online multiplayer mode. This mode has everything you’d expect (it has quick play, bookmarks, room search and a friends list) with one exception: there’s no voice chat. Although the absence of voice chat is a conspicuous one, the in-game chat system works quite well, allowing the players to input emoticons to effectively communicate with each other.
At the moment though, there aren’t that many players in the multiplayer rooms, which might become an issue in the future. Nevertheless, the chat room and the notice board (which gives you information about ongoing matches while you wait) are solidly put together. Sadly, it’s worth noting that the levels you clear while playing with others aren’t unlocked in the single player, which is definitely a shame.
PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is the definitive version of an already compelling title. Fresh additions, such as the expansion, new towers, enemies, unlockable challenges, an island and the multiplayer mode are more than welcome. Even when some minor annoyances may feel out of place (like the steep learning curve, lack of voice chat in the multiplayer and a poorly designed rainbow system,) PixelJunk Monsters is a game worth playing and an experience worth having.