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PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD

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By Toast13-09-2013
Bobfish (editor)
MrJenssen (editor)
PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD

The Defence

Developer:
Double Eleven / Q-Games
Publisher:
Double Eleven
Genre:
Strategy
Release Date:
26-08-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 Ghz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
RAM:
2 GB
HDD:
600 MB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

PixelJunk Monsters is a former PlayStation 3 exclusive which has been ported over to the PC. However, this version is the most definitive version released so far, which includes all the original content from the other releases, including the encore expansion pack. It is a tower defence game that places you in control of Tikiman with objective to defend your children from the monsters approaching your settlement. You’ll be faced with different types of levels and challenges on a handful of islands which will require the perfect strategy in order to proceed. This Tower Defence game is a little different to most you would normally play. But what do I mean? Read on and all will be explained!

The Trial

Tikiman and his offspring live peacefully on different islands, when suddenly unknown monsters start invading the island with the intent of killing the children and claiming the island for themselves. The only thing to stop them is Tikiman and his wits to build towers to fend off the horde of monsters until his offspring are safe.

Everybody dance now!

Everybody dance now!

Right of the bat you’ll be introduced to the tutorial which will require you to learn the ropes of the game and how to counter different approaching monsters. Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately right after that the learning curve just shoots up with punishing difficulty for the average player. I’ll elaborate on what I mean; first off, I’m not new to the genre. I am in fact a big fan of it, but some things certainly tick off people like me - when the core mechanics aren’t executed properly or are misleading. To start off, I would have liked to plan where to place my towers, but you can’t. The first wave instantly rushes onto the map. This is a huge problem as playing on casual or regular should allow the option of giving some form of delay or pause to prepare for the next wave. But you aren’t allowed to do that here. The only viable way you could do that, would be to memorise the level and plan where and what to build in certain locations during those few moments before the first wave arrives.

To build towers for your offspring protection, you need coins. You’ll be given a set amount of coins at the start and you can pick up more by walking near trees to shake some coins loose, or picking them up from dead enemies...along with eggs. Eggs are used to upgrade towers or buy new types to bolster your defences. However, although you can use the eggs to upgrade towers, you also have the option to stand on one, which will automatically make Tikiman do an incredibly sexy dance. Dancing for a set period of time will upgrade the tower for free. Although you probably won’t have time to do this and will want to use the eggs instead, which is a lot faster. You will get rushed and need to upgrade the towers for incoming threats and challenges as fast as you can. You’ll want to be building the right towers from the very start as well; otherwise you’ll be having a hard time with certain enemies, which may lead to your offspring’s doom.

Who needs to call the exterminators when you can use good ol' medieval machinery?

Who needs to call the exterminators when you can use good ol' medieval machinery?

Now, you have a range of enemies that will be heading towards your little home and children. These will be a mixture of normal ground units, fast moving units, slow but tough units etc. A good setup needs a plan well in advance and it may take a few tries to perfect. There are some annoying things with different maps, sometimes you can’t predict where the enemy will go for example. They may take one path or another and there aren’t any clear indications, which feels like the game could have used some method to show pathways.

To add to this, sometimes in some larger spaced lanes in certain levels, some enemies may take the left or right lane, or they may even switch randomly, which is very confusing and very annoying. Especially since there are no line indications of their path either, which may be seen as a challenge to some, but is rather annoying when you’ve played the level and discovered critical errors that suddenly screw you over when the boss arrives. It feels like a guessing game and it becomes incredibly annoying when you realise that, since you had no way to know, you’re going to fail at the end. Not fun.

Should we kill it or sell it for more coins?

Should we kill it or sell it for more coins?

I have to admit though, that the game has a very nice music for the different levels and menus, which fit well into the game’s style. The sounds are pretty good as well: from picking up coins to building towers. The graphics style of the game is a very cute choice for the game. The colours are very vibrant and definitely stand out to give the game a fresh looking feel, although it may put people off with first impressions on it being something for children, but you certainly shouldn’t think that.

The Verdict

Some may find this game fun and challenging, and to some degree it can be, but it doesn't change the fact that it is very misleading. With an art style that looks so cute, you’d assume it was a casual game. It’s not even though the game isn’t marketed to be a hard! Now, to get my point across, the game does quite a few things right, but it certainly does a lot of things that cause a lot of frustration as well. It could do with a lot of little tweaks that could have made it easier to understand, predict and get more enjoyment.

Case Review

  • It works: The mechanics work pretty well and is rather bug-free.
  • Soundtrack and Sounds: A nice and befitting soundtrack, something that’s rare nowadays.
  • Graphic Style: It certainly is a cute-looking game, but it’s misleading in contrast to the game’s difficulty.
  • Clunky: It can be hard to select certain trees or towers that are placed closely together.
  • Rushing: Very unappealing when you instantly get rushed without being able to plan properly.
  • Lane Switching: It’s very unclear when enemies switch lanes and towers are unable to attack.
3
Score: 3/5
PixelJunk Monsters has some annoying core mechanics that will likely put off some TD fans.

Appeal

I am not normally a big fan of tower defence style games; I find them to be somewhat of a repetitive affair after the first few levels. The fun part of the game is at the beginning of a wave attack, when you must plan and place your towers where they will be most effective to kill the invading hordes of enemies. It is then a simple case of sit-and-wait to see if you positioned the towers correctly, to defeat the enemies before they reach their goal. This is your typical tower defence game.

PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD is of the same style, but the edge this game has over other games of the genre, is the cute visual style. While not everyone will agree that cute graphics in a game of shooting things is a good idea, I think this will grab the attention of the casual gamer that just wants a quick blast to kill some time. The whole game has a cartoonish look and feel about it, with strong and vibrant colours. This results in making everything come across as well-designed and polished.

There is a pleasant soundtrack which actually helps when playing, as it does not make you feel stressed by having some upbeat tune playing when you fail or are about to be overrun by an advancing horde of enemies. There is a choice of controls; either keyboard and mouse or a controller, but having tried both options I found that the controller works best (sorry all you keyboard and mouse lovers) as this is a console port after all. Overall a nice game, a tower defence game that plays as it should.

4
Score: 4/5

Appeal

The thing about tower defence games is that they are barely games. Placing a few towers strategically seems to be the gist of the gameplay, and the rest of the time is spent watching waves of enemies get mowed down. Where they excel is with the areas of theme and art design, with the emphasis on the backgrounds, the monsters and the towers themselves - all working together to form a coherent whole.

In PixelJunk Monsters HD, cartoonish sprites bounce around on the map, and my strange tree-being runs about dancing beneath tree-cannons and tesla towers. It is an extremely endearing game, one that I would say borders on...cute. Cute is a dangerous word within the industry, with some managing to pull it off without a cloying, contrived feel, while others clearly pander to the six and seven year olds. Where then, does PixelJunk Monsters belong? Well, the answer is simple: it has managed to bypass the realm of cute, and falls instead into the realm of the surreal.

The art design is brilliant, the whole feel and atmosphere of the game is soothing and calming, with lilting tunes and greenery belaying a slow-paced strategic tower defence game. Unfortunately, there are still a few flaws, such as the obvious fact that the game was meant for touchscreens and thus possesses incredibly floaty controls - but otherwise it is exactly as an indie tower defence game should be. Nothing more, nothing less.

4
Score: 4/5
Comments (2)
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Posts: 1473

This looks very cheep. At least from the screenshots.

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Posts: 2552

Methinks, long and short, is the game has potential, but also has some niggles