My undying, unconditional (and sadly unreciprocated) love for PixelJunk is well documented here at TSA Towers. Peter and the gang mock my stained, unwashed PixelJunk t-shirt and I’ve got a PS3 set up just for the three PixelJunk games along with my two special secret PixelJunk PSN sign-ins, one for me and one for my dog, PJ. I don’t really know what it is I like the most – perhaps it’s the tiny little cars in Racers, the hand-drawn graphics style of Monsters or the funky music of Eden, but it doesn’t really matter, until I get my hands on Shooter I’ve got a new favourite, and it’s running on my PSP.
It’s worth bearing in mind that at this point, with the game still a few days away from release, I don’t actually know how much PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe will actually cost, but given the massive amount of content (the game contains PixelJunk Monsters, PixelJunk Monsters Encore and a whole new island) we’re going to score the game based on a price of about £8. If it’s much more or much less, we’ll re-score if necessary, but if we were in charge of pricing over at Sony Europe that’s the sort of level we’d pitch it at which would represent great value for money.
So, with that out of the way, what’s it all about? Well, if you’ve not yet played Monsters on the PS3, do so – it’s a superb version of the classic “tower defense” genre with a twist being that you don’t place the towers quite as freely – you’re tied to only using the existing trees and this means that the monsters that encroach on your cute collection of babies have predetermined paths. The other difference is that your character, a defender of the forest, must be at the tree or tower to build or upgrade it, rather than just a mouse pointer as with other takes on the genre.
Get near a tree and a tap of X will bring up a little pop-up window where you can select the type of tower, from arrows and cannons through to ice guns and the hugely useful tesla tower. Once built, you can then upgrade each tower a few times to provide better range, power or rate of fire and although the towers will upgrade by themselves with heavy use, you can speed this process up by standing your character near that tower for a little while, or if you’re really short on time you can spend ‘gems’ which you pick up as monsters are felled.
Each tower and upgrade costs ‘coins’, again found on the map, but you can sell unneeded towers to regain some capital. The aforementioned gems have a second use, though – collect enough and your base will let you know there’s a new tower type available if you want to cash in some of the jewelry. It’s therefore a careful balance of balls-out weaponry and careful saving for the better weapons, and bear in mind certain monsters won’t be affected by certain weapons so some quick tower swapping will be required on later levels.
Naturally, all this will be familiar to anyone that’s already enjoyed the PS3 version of PixelJunk Monsters – so far, so much the same, right? Well, Deluxe comes with another new map (with at least 10 new levels), new music, at least one new enemy and two new towers. This in itself would be ample enough for me to heartily recommend the PSP version even to those that have already spent their hard earned cash on the PS3 game, but there’s still more goodness to come: how about local and online multiplayer (including a cool graphical communication tool)?
This isn’t just a thrown-in bolted on multiplayer mode, either – the local two player co-operative mode runs happily over adhoc and is as smooth as you’d imagine, but the online infrastructure mode includes chat, friends list and works just as smoothly, although at the time of writing (as you’d expect) there wasn’t anyone else around. These modes are fully integrated into the game and are exceptionally well done, something of a rarity for Store-based PSP games and sure to massively improve the game’s already rather generous lifespan.
Visually the PSP version is just as strong as its big brother – naturally it’s no longer at 1080p but still looks superb on the PSP’s fixed screen with some sharp graphics ported directly without any loss of quality and given that everything runs off the memory stick load times are brief and the presentation is fine throughout. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s also a Medal Challenge which nicely mirrors the PS3 version’s Trophy challenges giving the player even more to get their teeth into and a special hut that gradually fills up with treats.
One of the most enjoyable, complete games on the system.
Graphics: Just as good looking as it was on the PS3, albeit at a lower resolution, of course. Packed with character and nice and sharp: 8/10
Sound: The music’s a little repetitive (sorry Otograph) but all the clinks and clanks are present and correct: 5/10
Gameplay: Sublime tower defense mechanics balanced to perfection. If you’re a genre fan this is heaven: 9/10
Overall: More maps, local and online multiplayer and stacks of secrets to unlock make this undoubtably the definitive version. We’re impressed.