Pixel Junk Monsters Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

System:
PlayStation 3
Release date:
January 24, 2008
Publisher:
Q Games
Developer:
Q Games
Players:
1 - 2
Genre:
Puzzle
ESRB:
E

Pixel Junk Monsters

The critters came marching one by one, hurrah!

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
March 7th 2008

Evil is relentless. It endlessly marches forward in an attempt to destroy or consume everything in its path. The only thing to do about it, at least according to Pixeljunk Monsters, is to line evil's path with so much firepower that it doesn't have a hope in hell of reaching the cute and fuzzy (and presumably tasty) creatures waiting at the goal.

Pixeljunk Monsters takes the popular Warcraft mod/flash game Tower Defense, and turns it into a fully-featured title that's as addictive as its inspiration. A stream of monsters walk in waves towards a goal, and the object is to line the path with towers that automatically fire on them. The end of the path in Pixeljunk Monsters is a hut with a large group of furry creatures in front, and you play as a turtle-guy turning the trees along the way into towers. Destroyed monsters drop gold and the infrequent blue gem, both of which are necessary to reinforce the path as the stream of monsters gets bigger and tougher. Gold is good for tower construction, but knowing how to use the blue gems is where a large part of the strategy comes in.


...Pixeljunk Monsters is perfectly capable of grabbing hold of your brain tight enough to make the repetition feel like play instead of work.

Building a tower is easy enough, since money isn't all that hard to come by. Walk over a tree, call up the menu, and choose which kind of tower you want to build. There are three kinds of towers initially available, complete with their own strengths and weaknesses. Arrow towers are the backbone of your defense, not only useful against both land and air creatures, but having a decent rate of fire to go with their wide range of attack. They're relatively weak, of course, but they're also cheap and easy to upgrade. Cannon towers, on the other hand, are a bit pricier, have a limited range to go with their slower rate of fire, and are only good on ground targets, but they pack a solid punch that can effect multiple monsters. Finally, there's the Anti-Air towers, with a high rate of fire and excellent range, but, as the name suggests, they're only good against flying creatures.

Once a tower is built it starts gaining experience as it kills things, but leveling it up can be sped along in one of two ways. The time-consuming method involves turtle-guy dancing in front of it to gain experience. This is only really practical for going to level 2, at which point you might want to spend a blue gem to instantly hit the next level. Alternately, it might be better to horde the gems to pay for researching new elemental towers, because the initial three types aren't going to be enough to survive.

Elemental towers are where things start getting expensive, but the right one in the right spot is worth its weight in gold. Whether it's the multiple-enemy strike of the Tesla tower, the streams of flame from the Fire tower, or just a good old fashioned high-powered explosion from the Mortar, these things are designed to deal damage fast. It would almost be overkill if there weren't so many creatures to soak up everything they can dish out.

While the waves of monsters (10-20 per level) look like the enemy, the real heart of the problem is time management. There are towers to build, other towers to dance up in level, gold and gems dropped by slain creatures to collect, and researching new defenses can only be done at the hut at the path's end. Turtle-guy needs to do a million things at once, he's working with limited resources, and the monsters are going to reach their goal in a very short period of time. It's going to take good judgment and even better time management to see level's end.

That's where the fun comes in, and it involves dead monsters by the dozens. It's endlessly addicting, not to mention highly satisfying, to see your chain of towers pound golems, bugs, and bosses into a thin paste. It may take a few goes to sort out the proper technique, working out the balance between spamming the path with cheaper towers and saving up for the heavy-hitters, but each level has a strategy that can guarantee victory without a single monster reaching home base. Admitted, this will require a large amount of trial and error to discover, but Pixeljunk Monsters is perfectly capable of grabbing hold of your brain tight enough to make the repetition feel like play instead of work. This is the good kind of gaming addiction, and the only drawback is how quickly it makes the hours fly by. Pixeljunk Monsters is the sworn enemy of a good night's rest, but who's got time to sleep when one more round is calling?

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