Game Review: Pixeljunk Monsters

May 19, 2009 at 10:04 PM (Game Reviews, Gaming)

Monsters by Pixeljunk is definitely one of the cutest (I just said ‘cutest’, ugh) and most addicting games I have come across in some time.  It is downloadable from the Playstation Network.

This is a game of the tower defense genre.  Essentially, bad guys enter the playfield from various parts of the screen and take a predetermined route to get to your base, where your defenseless flock of somethings huddles in fear.  Your job is to transform the trees arranged on the level into weapon towers.  You start with basics like arrow and cannon towers but more become available over time.  You want to arrange your towers in such a way that the groups of baddies won’t be able to get to your flock.  You can lose a few of your flock over the course of the level and still successfully complete it, but you won’t get the special rainbow for that level if any of your flock don’t survive the waves of baddies that come non-stop.  The baddies drop coins (used for purchasing towers) and gems (whose uses I will detail below) when they die.

Your towers will level up as they kill things, gaining additions to damage, range, or other bonuses.  However, to level them quickly you will have to stand in front of the towers and dance.  Alternatively, you can spend gems dropped by the baddies to buy levels for your towers, but this brings into play another neat aspect of the game.  In order to build towers other than the most basic ones that you are given to start each level, you must research them at your base.  Each type of tower costs a certain number of gems.  It can be a tough decision between using your gems to level your existing towers and choosing to save them in order to purchase access to a new kind of tower.

Levels tend to start a bit slowly, but once the 3rd or 4th wave of baddies comes out, it gets pretty hectic.  You’re running around placing towers, collecting the coins and gems dropped by the baddies, dancing in front of towers, paying to upgrade towers, and running back to your base in order to research new towers.  On top of all that, it pays to explore the level, since there are always a couple of trees randomly throughout each level that will drop additional coins and gems when touched.  I suppose it is just good luck that your player character is a marathon runner in his/her spare time.

The game has a co-op mode that Stephanie can’t get enough of.  In fact, she’s constantly harassing me to play it with her because she thinks the levels are too tough to complete solo.  Even on the easiest of the three difficulty levels, the game is a challenge, but doable.  You mostly need to memorize where the baddies are going to enter with each successive wave, what type of bad guy each wave consists of (armored baddies, flying baddies, etc.), and the path that each wave takes around the playing field.  As mentioned previously, though, you’ll be running around like a maniac trying to keep up with all of the things that will need to be done so please don’t think that rote memorization will save you.  There are 8 or 9 different towers and each has a strategic use spending on what you are trying to accomplish on each level.  There is an online ranking system as well.  Pixeljunk released a downloadable add-on that gives you another 15 or so levels of tower building goodness to play with.  It is definitely worth picking up.  Also, the add-on makes trophies available and the trophy challenges are certainly no joke from a difficulty perspective.  Additionally, so that you can prove your awesomeness, support to record your own YouTube videos of gameplay was also added.

Graphically, Monsters isn’t overwhelming.  There aren’t a ton of special effects or amazing visuals.  What Monsters does have is simple and crisp graphics that do nothing to hinder the excellent gameplay.  Cute is definitely the word I would use to describe this game.  The different baddies all have a distinct look and animated style, although again, there is nothing special here.

The music that plays during levels can be a little annoying and repetitive if you’re really listening to it.  However, I find myself so engrossed in the game when I’m playing that this rarely is an issue that bothers me.  There game seems to deal with sounds in an odd way on occasion.  As the baddies walk by a line of cannons, for example, you’ll hear a steady set of explosions as the bad guys pass.  Once in a while there seems to be an explosion that is extra loud for no apparent reason.  This is fairly minor in the scope of things, but I’ve noticed that when this occurs it will bring me out of my “zone” when I’m playing.  Also, the shuffling, walking sound associated with some baddies seems to be audible only intermittently.  These minor sound issues aren’t too noticeable unless you’re really looking for them.

Overall, the gameplay is excellent.  It starts out slowly enough to get you comfortable and then ramps up to a frenetic pace towards the end of each level.  The clean graphics keep things uncomplicated and the sound, while not perfect, doesn’t hurt the playability of the game at all.  Hours can disappear as you retry each level, tweaking your strategy ever so slightly with each failure until you are finally triumphant.  This game is definitely worth owning.

Rating: 8.5/10

– Ben

Die baddies, die!

Die baddies, die!

More baddie deaths!  This time with a bridge!

More baddie deaths! This time with a bridge!


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