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Friday, April 04, 2014

Review: Pixeljunk Monsters Ultimate HD

I'm a big fan of the tower defense genre of games, and have sunk countless hours into the original flash-based game, as well as much nicer looking Defense Grid. Strangely enough, there aren't very many mobile versions of the desktop tower defense that are worth playing, with Space Station Frontier being the only one that's really any good. (I found a common recommendation, Fieldrunners HD to be extremely lacking in imagination compared to even the original flash-based game --- other games were filled with in-app purchasing which sucks all the fun out of gaming, as far as I'm concerned)

That is, until I picked up Pixeljunk Monsters Ultimate HD for my Vita. The game's also available on PC, but I feel it is best played with a joystick and control buttons rather than mouse and keyboard, so I would encourage you to get a controller for the PC, if that's your platform of choice. Obviously, the PC version would be much less portable than the Vita version.

This game is extremely challenging. On Easy difficulty, I found myself having to play most levels more than once. In particular, sections of the game are locked away unless you score perfect scores on a certain number of pages, so I found myself replaying levels over in search of the score. On the easy difficulty at least, the game offers multiple paths to victory, with a great selection of different towers to use on various challenges.

The game features several unique mechanics. The first is that you control an actual character on the game board, which constraints you several ways. Your character creates and sells towers, as well as picking up gems and coins (to purchase new towers). Your character can also upgrade towers by dancing on a tower, or you can upgrade towers with gems. Your character also needs to run back to the base in order to purchase new tower types. With all these constraints in place, the game ensures you always have a plethora of choices to make, which forces you to pay attention to every detail.

Another unique mechanic is the concept of earned interest between waves. By not spending your coin, the game grants an interest bonus between waves that generates more coins. This mechanic basically adds tension between setting up additional towers right away or waiting for the last moment in order to garner the most bonus interest possible.

Your character can also get run over by the invading monsters, which would cause you to lose a number of coins as well as rendering him incapacitated for a period of time. If you don't pick up coins or gems within a certain amount of time, they'll disappear off the game board, which again generates a certain level of tension between running after the coins or staying put and upgrading towers by dancing.

The monsters are typical of the genre, with slow, fast, numbers, shielded, and flying monsters ensuring that you have to build a variety of towers in order to win.

Now, the most important part of a tower defense game is the maps or gameboards. The game features approximately 21 game boards, and the variety between them is pretty cool. They range from the difficult to the nearly impossible to get through without taking losses, and are ranked in difficulty with certain special missions granting you additional tower types or upgrading your character.

The game's extremely replayable, will be free this month on Playstation Plus if you have a Vita. In any case, I definitely got my money's worth for the game and can recommend it.
UPDATE: PixelJunk Monsters is available for $5 on the PC/Mac directly from the developer. This sale will last for 5 days.

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