PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe
It’s been possible to play PixelJunk Monsters on your PSP for a while, as the cheap and cheerful PSN title supports the console’s rarely used Remote Play feature. But this, they say, is the definitive version of PixelJunk Monsters – that’s what the Deluxe stands for – and includes the content of the PSN original, its expansion and a whole new island to boot.
The basic premise to PixelJunk Monsters is that you’re carving up trees to create a series of offensive towers with enough potency to repel an unexplainably multiracial invading force. They’ve got all sorts – bees, bats, little guys with haunted masks, spiders, golems – and they all hate your little tiki man and his cohorts. As they snake their way around a prescribed path, constantly inching closer to gobble up your flock, you modify the aforementioned trees so they shoot things like arrows, cannons and lasers at the opposing force. Cause the invaders to explode into a glorious shower of golden coins and you win; have all your flock ingested and you lose.
The game, as ever, relies mostly on forcing you to replay areas until you’ve sussed everything out. The hand-drawn graphics and sedate ambient music initially lull you into a false state of security, and before long the action ramps up. Frustration starts to eke in as the difficulty increases. Without an innate sense of clairvoyance, you’re left stumbling as enemy patterns come in all kinds of unpredictable shapes and sizes. Most enemies can only be felled by certain towers, and the only way to get an advantage is to get the drop on your opposition by knowing who’ll be attacking and where from. Even levels from the middle-sections of the easy difficulty need at least a couple of goes before you can taste success.
Controls are ported straight over from the PS3 version, so you’ll park your little fella next to a tree and press X to bring up a radial menu. Here you select from your offensive goodies, with options spiralling outwards the further you get into the game. New towers include fiddly but rewarding trap towers and even towers that level up other towers, which means you don’t have to keep the Tiki Man dancing all the time – previously the only way of going about this.
The trick is obviously to upgrade the correct towers at the right time. The twist to PixelJunk Monsters is that the only way to interact with the environment is through the Tiki Man himself, which often has you scrambling around picking up gold whilst trying to move to the other side of the screen to plop down a new tower. Keeping your currency reserves high is essential, as is maintaining a tight, effective defensive line: doing both without a trusty, reliable mouse cursor can be extremely problematic.
Gati Gati Island, Deluxe’s new locale, adds plenty of content to an already beefy game. There are now over 45 levels in total, with a fair amount clocking in at the fifteen minute mark. With suitably nippy gameplay and accessible presentation, PixelJunk Monsters naturally translates well into a portable experience. It’s still frequently frustrating, though. But also quite adorable.
Uncannily for a PSP title, developer Q-Games have made a fair go of incorporating an online mode. Infrastructure support is included, a rare sight in itself, and the attention to online co-op gameplay carries over into the game itself. Many of the Gati Gati Island stages seem to be built with co-op in mind, with the developers clearly picking up the original game’s competent co-op roots and running with them. PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe even competently handles the lack of microphone support: the developers have added in a radial menu for expressions – a quick and dirty way of effectively getting around any problems with communication.
Despite the game’s imminent launch, there’s still no definite word on its price, which makes it hard to declare whether PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is ultimately worth buying. If the price is set between five and ten pounds it’s a no-brainer, especially when considering the PS3 original and its expansion clock in for about six quid.
Q-Games’ quirky tower defence title is as competent as it is colourful, and the heap of additional content supplied in the PSP version makes it worthy of the deluxe title. Issues with frustration and repetition aside, the quick and accessible nature of the gameplay makes it a vital addition to the PSP’s catalogue. Provided the price is right, keep it on a memory stick and play it at an unhurried pace and you won’t be disappointed.
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