Tower defense games aren’t new or revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination. Countless iterations of “build a tower to thwart attacking forces” have appeared on the PC for years, if not decades. There have been so many, in fact, that they might even be considered a genre unto themselves.
The latest “tower defense” title, PixelJunk Monsters, is a bit different, though. Not different in how it’s been designed or how it plays, as developer Q-Games isn’t breaking any new ground with their approach. But different in how it’s being made available to prospective buyers. You see, the only place to get PixelJunk Monsters is via download from the PlayStation Network on PS3. Console gamers who may never have played a “tower defense” game before might stumble onto PixelJunk Monsters as their introduction to simplistic defense strategy. This demographic is certain to have as much fun in the early going as frustration later on once the difficulty picks up and solutions to success shrink.
The goal in PixelJunk Monsters is simple: on a single non-scrolling screen, control a villager to purchase/build, and upgrade the range of, weapons towers where trees stand to attack 10 waves of encroaching air and ground monsters who, if they get by the towers, will each steal a villager from your village. If the village is emptied, the level must be restarted from the beginning. If all 10 waves are thwarted and at least one villager remains, a new level with increased difficulty opens up. As monsters grow stronger, new tower types with cooler weapons, such as a laser and mortar, become available with the collection of gems off the battlefield, increasing the difficulty and strategy complexity deeper into the game.
Patience intolerant players will discover nothing but vexation trying to advance. Each new level presents new tree locations and increasingly more powerful enemies. With precious seconds to think, players must decide when to build a tower, whether the type of tower selected should be geared towards attacking air or ground enemies, and where to place the tower to maximize its effectiveness. Spread across 10 waves, the mathematics dictate hours upon hours of trial and error figuring out the where, when and what for each tower. Moving deeper into the game reduces the tower combinations that will work, even reportedly a level where exact tower placement, timing and type is required to advance.
Players with patience will find a great challenge in PixelJunk Monsters, requiring many hours to pick through the easy and medium levels — much less the hard ones. Forging ahead will yield rewards such as the discovery of new tower types and even unlockables, such as the ability to run faster across the screen. There’s certainly a high degree of simplistic addictiveness built in, but how long that lasts depends entirely upon the player’s demeanor.
If you have a friend, two player co-op helps level the playing the field and speeds up the “trial and error” process. With or without a friend, the limited time price of only $7.99 via the PS3 Playstation Network makes PixelJunk Monsters worth a try, if only to spend a couple hours battling the first three levels before repetition and frustration drives you away.
- Score: 7.8
- A high degree of patience is required to battle the PixelJunk Monsters, a bit more so than the developers should have allowed. Otherwise, PixelJunk Monsters is a solid, albeit safe entry in the timeless “tower defense” genre.