Review: PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe (PSP)October 2nd, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
While it’s hard to imagine that the PSP has yet to get a tower defense game until the launch of the PSP Go, Q-Games has stepped up to the plate to bring their highly-acclaimed tower defense game, PixelJunk Monsters, to the PSP so you can bring the action with you. PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe really deserves being called the Deluxe version of this game with a good amount of new content, a new mode, and an added layer of polish to make sure that the entire game feels like a balanced, cohesive experience.
If you haven’t played the PS3 version of PixelJunk Monsters, you’ll be in for a treat with what Deluxe has to offer. This is your standard tower defense game in that you are building towers on any of the trees in a level to keep enemies from reaching and killing any of the villagers that are at your base hut. Your selection of towers starts off with the basics, but you gain new towers and abilities as you open up and beat special stages on each of the islands. Your ultimate goal is to beat each level without losing one villager to earn a rainbow that will unlock parts of the first island along with the other two islands once you have enough rainbows.
Deluxe’s main mode offers three islands, the Tiki, Toki, and Gati Gati Islands. Tiki Island is the island that the original Monsters came with while Toki is the extra island that came with the Encore add-on, which means that Gati Gati Island is the new, exclusive island for Deluxe that provides 11 new levels, two new towers, and a few new enemy types. The progression from Tiki Island to the other two islands feels a lot smoother than it was for Toki Island on the PS3, so you should be skilled enough to take on the first few levels without much of an issue. It’s almost open enough that you can pick and choose how far you get into any of the three islands to unlock abilities that can be used in previous levels to get rainbows or new levels you’ve probably opened up.
Beyond the new island, Deluxe features a few new towers and enemies that come into play for that new island. The new towers include a Gem Tower that helps upgrade nearby tower for as long as its fuel lasts and a Trap Tower that is basically made up of two parts that create a laser fence that takes out the first few enemies, ground or airborne, and can be really powerful in numbers. The new enemies mainly comes in the form of a new crab-like race and a new flying beetle boss that drops to the ground after taking a lot of damage for a tough one-two punch to cap off a level. As a new touch, ground-based enemies can fly in with balloons that you need arrow towers to pop them so your ground-based towers can finish them off. The new enemies aren’t really used in levels outside of Gati Gati Island, but if you can unlock the new towers in Gati Gati’s special levels, you’ll have some useful tools to use on the other islands.
Another big feature in PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is the co-op, specifically the new online co-op mode that lets you hook up with friends and strangers on the internet to work together and beat some levels. The whole mode is a bit antiquated, as you need to join a room with any kind of parameters and find someone to play with, though you can also bookmark rooms and build a friends list so that process gets simpler. The servers are actually really good since they would not drop our games even when the connection meter dropped to zero bars, though that does mean lag can and probably will be a factor at times. Limiting things like computer/laptop usage and downloading will help out a lot since the servers are very sensitive to spikes in activity. Communication is probably the biggest issue since you have just a set of icons you can use to send a message, so using your PS3, Xbox 360, or PC for voice chat might be a better solution if you’re playing with friends.
The Medal Challenge mode returns to Deluxe from the original game, though it’s been expanded from just a means of trophies without erasing saves. A few of the challenges have been brought over, but most of the 24 levels here are new and will unlock as you beat the levels associated with them in the main mode. Completing certain amounts of challenges will unlock special bonuses, like a new theme and wallpapers that you can install to your system’s memory that add some nice extras to encourage you to get better to unlock and beat more of these challenges. The difficulty here is definitely a step up over the levels you play in the main mode since there are no difficulty options and the challenges themselves can be very challenging when they ask you to play certain levels in completely different ways.
Q-Games did a good job of retrofitting these levels for the PSP screen in Deluxe. The camera is zoomed in enough so that everything looks to be at the correct size, though it will focus on important waves that are entering the level or when enemies are about to reach the hut. That point where it focuses on enemies as they are about to kill some villagers is a bit annoying since you’ll likely have figured that out already and want to keep going, but you have no option to tell the camera to ignore that and stay focused on what you’re doing. The trees and such in the levels have some jaggies, so the visuals aren’t as smooth as you’d like, but everything else looks really good and it runs smoothly.
The music of Deluxe is mostly the same as what you may have heard before, which is really good music. It still can get a bit old at times, mostly for menu music, so an option for custom music would have been nice since PSP games are starting to make use of that feature a bit more regularly now. Gati Gati Island features new music that definitely fits the beach feel of at least most of the earlier levels in that island, so Monsters veterans will have some new music to enjoy from Otograph.
PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is easily the definitive version of this tower defense game with enough new content that makes this game easily worth the $19.99 price tag. The price tag seemed a bit steep at first, but it’s worth the extra cost when compared to the complete version of Monsters on the PS3 ($15.98) that lacks all of the new stuff mentioned in this review. PSP owners with any interest in the tower defense genre have the best game in this genre on any console or handheld just waiting for them to download it.