It’s hard to believe that PixelJunk Monsters originally released on the PlayStation 3 almost six years ago. I remember playing it back then, and now coming back to it this time around on the PC, I am reminded that even though games can be simplistic in nature, they can also offer up a huge challenge.
PixelJunk Monsters is a tower defense game like many others in the genre. What makes it stand out is the fine balance between preparation and action. Players take on the role of TikiMan, a village chief that has to set up defensive towers in order to protect his villagers from getting eaten by invading monsters.
The player can move TikiMan around the map and can set up defense towers in any tree. The game always starts off with the basic towers that offer up decent defense for the first wave, but must be upgraded in order to stay effective. Upgrading a tower can be done one of three ways: having the tower make kills, dancing in front of them, or using rare gems. Yes, I did say dancing. Making kills will naturally level up a tower but to speed up that process, TikiMan can be positioned in front of a tower and he will begin to dance. The dance will raise the level of the tower significantly faster. Lastly, players can choose to use gems that are dropped by defeated enemies or hidden in trees.
These make the upgrade instant and can help out in a pinch, but gems are also used to unlock different types of towers in the main hut, so knowing when to save them or when to use them is crucial. To place new towers, TikiMan requires gold coins. Certain towers cost more than others and knowing which ones to use is all part of the trick to winning.
This is the Ultimate Edition of the game that comes with tons of content that was added to the PS3 version over the course of time. Each island has numerous levels on them and with three islands and a special randomly generated area, it offers up hours of content.
Q-Games made a fine game that has players not only staying on their toes but also trying to perfect their formula. It may seem like a chill-out kind of experience to begin with, but after the first wave going a route I didn’t expect, I had to actually pay attention. Moving TikiMan around trying to gather coins and gems before they disappear all the while trying not to get hit by the line of monsters that are creeping up on my hut became a nerve-racking task. I never knew what was going to happen next with the exception of what kind of enemy was coming in the next wave. Knowing what kind of tower to place and where to place them became a dangerous game of trial and error. One small mistake could mean my villagers end up as monster food.
To add even more to the package, the PC version is in full HD and offers up both local and online co-op with a friend. Both work well and having a second TikiMan upgrading and placing towers with me was very helpful. I’m not kidding around when I say this game is difficult. It can become frustrating if players are not careful.
The game utilizes full controller support and throughout most of my play through, I used the Xbox 360 controller. It also has online leader boards for those wanting to see how they stack up with the rest of the world, and since there’s always room for improvement, it can last a good long while.
The difficulty can become a hindrance especially in the later levels where precision is of the utmost importance. It’s devastating to fail a level when making it so far on the stage only to mess one thing up and suffer for it, and sometimes trial and error becomes a bother when all I wanted to do was finish the level only to see the monsters are starting to take a different lane I wasn’t paying attention to.
Still, even with the difficulties and frustrations I had with the game, it’s still a well-made tower defense experience. Q-Games have almost perfected the balance. It is very challenging, offers up a ton of content and is wrapped up in a cute package with a little TikiMan dancing to level up towers. Now, I will be the first to say, the game is $20 on Steam. For a tower defense game, that is pricey, but even with the somewhat steep price, the amount of content is justifiable. Fans of tower defense will eat this up as long as they have the patience to put up with trial and error.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.