PixelJunk Monsters should have always been on the PSP. When the original came out on the PlayStation 3 -- followed by the island-adding expansion pack -- I dug it, but I could never see myself sitting down in front of my TV hour after hour to play the simple and entertaining but at times frustrating tower defense game in an attempt to perfect every level.
With the PSP and its ability to be with me on the train, in the bathroom, or on a bus, I totally can see myself not resting until I've nailed every stage and earned every rainbow.
If you somehow missed PixelJunk Monsters and PixelJunk Monsters Encore, you should read Ryan Clements' informative first
review. Done? Good because the easiest way to explain PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is that it's all the stuff from those first two games bundled with a bunch of brand new awesomeness.
Put the Tikiman in your pocket.
In the PixelJunk universe, you're a little Tikiman looking to protect his tribe (a bunch of potato-looking babies wrapped in blankets who are huddled in front of a hut) from wave after wave of invading beasts. There are giant spiders, rock creatures, and weird flying things. Saving the day boils down to walking up to the trees in the area and spending gold on defense towers that take the place of the foliage. These devices have radii you can see so that when an enemy enters the circle, the tower can shoot cannonballs, ice, arrows, or whatever its function is in an attempt to blast the baddies off the map. If you fail at killing the attackers, they'll make it to the hut and kill one of your dudes for every one of the bad guys that makes it there. Lose all your dudes, and you fail the mission.
All of these evil waves are building up to a final boss monster that's going to stomp in and try to kill any of your remaining tribe members. To stop the big guy, it's usually a good idea to have your towers leveled up by then. There are a few ways of doing this. To begin with, the towers gain XP for fighting, so they can top out their own onscreen XP meters and move to the next rank of effectiveness. Aside from that, you can take your Tikiman to the tower base and let him dance to speed up the leveling process. Finally, you'll be collecting these turquoise gems as you beat bad guys which can be spent on your existing towers to make them all the better.
Still, you might not want to spend those gems too quickly. There are a dozen towers in PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe, but not all of them will be available to you when you start a level. See, the gems you're collecting can also be taken to the hut you're protecting and traded in for brand new towers. Sure, an upgraded cannon tower is good for smashing crawling creatures, but a Tesla Tower and its electrical attack deals more damage -- you just have to have the 10 gems and 250 gold to unlock and build it. Of course, even better in terms of damage is the Mortar Tower, but it's slower and costs more in terms of gems and gold. All the towers you know and love are here, but Deluxe also adds an XP-generating tower as well as a trap tower to trip up enemies.
If you're a PixelJunk vet, everything I just listed is old hat to you, and that's because Q Games really didn't mess with anything that made PixelJunk Monsters great, and gameplay is and always has been great in Monsters. Although the concept is so simple, the game quickly becomes a challenging piece of work as you try to "rainbow" levels by not losing any babies. It's pretty crazy to sit there and freak out because a lone spider was able to get around your four arrow towers and three cannon towers and pick off one of the potato people.
It's that drive to get that tiny rainbow over the level in question on the world map that makes Deluxe so appealing. I know a lot of people have complained about the game's spikes in difficulty -- and it does get really, really hard at times -- but an easy tower defense game isn't that interesting.
Aside from the new towers, there are also new enemies that float in on balloons that you need to shoot down with your anti-air weapons before pwning the now ground-bound creatures. In addition to those guys, Deluxe tosses in an entire new island of 11 levels called Gati Gati that bring more of the same tree-to-tower awesomeness you'd expect as well as a Tikihut to track your Medal Challenge Mode results, view concept art, and listen to the game's chill tunes.
However, the biggest addition to Deluxe is online play. Over on the PS3, PixelJunk Monsters Encore added ad-hoc play (which is also in Deluxe), but didn't give players the ability to play with folks across the Internet. With the PSP, you can do just that and the experience is pretty damn impressive.
Here, a two Tikimen are unleashed on the same single-player levels. Each guy gets his own coin purse to fill with gold and use to create towers, but the duo will share gems. Thus, it's a co-op game with a bit of a competitive twist to try and get the gold before your teammate can and to spend the gems how you see fit. I can tell you, there's no better feeling in Deluxe then entering a level you had been struggling with in single-player and dominating it with an online pal.
Sadly, the results of your online conquests are only good for that session; it's not like you can beat a level in co-op and then go back to your single-player game and progress onward as if you had beaten the co-op part by yourself. It's actually a needed restraint because you have to unlock the other two islands in your solo game but all of the three island's missions are unlocked from the start in co-op.
On another down note, there's no voicechat in the game so if you're playing with someone who doesn't know what the hell he or she is doing, getting them to quit wasting gems or building meaningless towers is tough. There are a wide number of symbols you can use to grab people's attention, but there's always going to be some room for interpretation as to what a heart, exclamation point, tower, and tiki-head mean in a visual sentence. Thankfully you can text chat before the game to scope out players who aren't stupid and then add them to your in-game friend list after the match so you can find them again. You can even bookmark worthwhile rooms to return to at a later date.
With PixelJunk Monsters already being pretty established, the players I've teamed up with have had a good head on their shoulders, but I've only been able to eke out a couple of games since the title went live last night. More good news is the fact that the games I've played have been lag-less and a lot of fun, so yay!
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