Review: PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe

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This will come as no surprise to anyone who has read the seemingly endless stream of tower defense genre reviews at VGBlogger over the last year or so, but when Matt asked if I was interested in taking a look at the newly released PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe for the PSP, I jumped at the chance! The game was already highly regarded from the PSN release for the PS3 in early 2008, so it seemed likely that the game would be a great fit on the PSP.

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe earns the ‘Deluxe’ label by adding a ton of content to the original release: it includes the original, PixelJunk Monsters Encore, a new island with ten new maps, full ad-hoc and infrastructure support, new towers and more. I recently complained in our Obscure: The Aftermath discussion about late ports that add little value – this is exactly the opposite!

Of course, a ton of content doesn’t matter if the core game isn’t worth playing, but that isn’t an issue with PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe. There is a reason it is considered one of the absolute best downloadable console games ever released, and that is because it combines tactical strategy and fast-paced action perfectly and smoothly.

The core game is a fairly typical tower defense experience, but rather than a typical grid-based system where you drop in towers into blank spaces (like the recently released PSP Mini / iPhone port Fieldrunners), you are operating in a variety of island settings with established routes already in place, and you transform these elements into a variety of tower types. As is typical, your enemies will be strong against some towers and weak against others, so you need to plan out your routes carefully – but in real time with waves of enemies attacking! You can also upgrade your towers as you progress, which is critical to taking down enemies more quickly… which is critical as more and more enemies attack at once.

I had heard about the difficulty of the game from the original PSN release and particularly from the expansion. The PSP version is still pretty tough, but the added content falls in between the islands from the original and the expansion. This gives you the opportunity to improve your skills before being decimated on the Encore island! Personally, I found the game challenging but not too brutal — I typically find most tower defense games too easy at later levels. However, at certain points the game requires you do more than succeed. You need to succeed without any villagers dying in order to collect a Rainbow, and those are needed to unlock new areas and islands.

In terms of the technical aspects, the game looks and sounds great and the controls work perfectly. The visuals have a charming cartoon style that is distinctive but not busy. Environments and towers and enemies are all distinct so that you never get lost in the details. There is plenty of variety in the areas you defend throughout the game, too, so it will never get boring. The music is simple and repetitive, but is also infectious in terms of getting into your head! Controls are simple as with most tower games – you are panning the camera, zooming, selecting sites, building and upgrading towers, and not much else.

My final thought is on multiplayer: it rocks, AND it features online co-op! There is a lobby where up to eight people can gather, but you can only attack areas with two folks so you need to pair off before proceeding. Multiplayer takes you through the same maps as the core game, but with two Tiki men working on defending the villagers there is also a struggle between players to grab gold and gems and build towers first! There is text chat in the lobby, simple text chat in-game via an icon menu, and even a lobby ticker where you can monitor progress of ongoing games. It is a great system that works perfectly, especially for those without local PSP-owning friends.

I was surprised by PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe. I expected a good game. But what I didn’t expect was one of the best PSP games of the year. Each time I approach a new tower defense game I expect to be disappointed, but instead I have been thrilled this year with he constant stream of excellent genre games. And PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is definitely one of the best games in the tower defense genre, and one that every PSP owner should grab!

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Pros:
+ Loads of fun
+ Tons of content
+ Great core tower defense game

Cons:
– Camera occasionally takes over
– High difficulty plus required ‘Rainbows’ may put some players off

Game Info:
Platform: PSP via PSN download
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Q-Games
Release Date: 10/1/09
Genre: Tower Defense Strategy
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!