PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe Review

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe (Only available on PSP)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: RTS
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Q-Games
Release Date: April 27th, 2010
PlayStation Network: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB.  It features mild fantasy violence, thus it’s accessible by gamers of all ages.  For the really little ones, you may want to select a more child-oriented game with easier-to-understand gameplay mechanics. PMD isn’t necessarily complex; it’s merely a real-time strategy/tower defence that requires logic and tactics.  The difficulty also ramps up significantly.  Even I’m overwhelmed in the later levels, yet that could be because I’m about as logical as a peanut…

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe has been available on the PlayStation Store since October 2009, but Sony has finally responded to the fan base with a UMD version.  Despite the over half year transition, the time is perfect if you were holding out on this bad boy.  It retails for a mere $9.99, and we can’t recommend the game enough.  Great multiplayer…simple, yet fun gameplay, and hours of entertainment make PMD a winner.

The Great:

On the go!  PixelJunk Monsters started off as a PS3 download, and it’s an extremely unique take on the tower defence genre.   I’ll describe the core mechanics in a bit.  What makes this version so addictive is the portability.  Add to that great unlockable challenges, and PMD is one of the best PSP games.  It feels like it was designed from the ground up for Sony’s handheld,, despite coming to life as a console release.  Also, there’s enough “new” here to justify a purchase even if you played the PS3 version to death.  At ten bucks, you honestly can’t go wrong.

The Good:

+ The unique gameplay.  This is tower defence at heart, just wrapped around an RTS.  You move an avatar, Tikiman, around the screen transforming trees and other portions of the area into defensive weapons, or towers.  After a short period passes, a slew of monsters come rummaging through your village.  If you haven’t protected it properly, well, let’s just say your 20 villagers will have seen better days.  The system is special though because you constantly control Tikiman.  You must walk over to defeated enemies to cash in on their loot.  Wow, that sounds more graphic than anything the game pumps out.  Anyway, while collecting, it’s possible for enemies to attack.  Be caught, and Tikiman suddenly becomes like Sonic with his rings.  If that happens, funds for new towers won’t be there.  See how battle can quickly become hairy?  There’s a constant mental juggle of deciding to pursue the gold or simply allowing your towers to do their job.

+ Upgrades.  The upgrade system works similar to building, except gems are used instead of coins.  They too are taken from fallen enemies and speed the duration of erecting towers, increase their offensive range, and more.  You could always choose the passive route by keeping the gems and stand in front of a tower to make Tikiman dance.  He prays to the powers that be for tower enhancement, but this requires a lot of time.  It’s always easier, and wiser, to make your own improvements.  The flipside is that you want to save gems for critical moments.  Again, it’s all about the juggling.

+Bonus!  PMD includes an array of attractive extras.  There are special challenges, like completing a mission with limited gold, etc.  The bonus content can keep you glued to your PSP for hours.

+Multiplayer.  One of the best aspects of Monsters Deluxe is the online and ad-hoc co-op multiplayer.  Whether or not you’re online, you and a friend can tag-team levels.  Choose the difficulty, level, and away you go.  Each player manipulates a Tikiman and manages a coin reserve.  As such, competition comes into play when enemies fall.  Pairs have the same goal of defending the village, but the race for loot makes things more interesting.  PMD is one of the best multiplayer experiences available on the PSP.

The Bad:

– I have to do what to advance?  The only problem is the progression system.  I understand perfecting a level to unlock content, but that shouldn’t be required to reach the next mission.  Well, that’s a must.  To collect Rainbows, you have to protect every villager without error.  To open the later portions of the game, X number of Rainbows need to be acquired.  That’s asking a lot for people just to play the game.

– No voice chat for online play.  Why many developers insist on omitting online voice chat support is beyond me.  Thankfully you don’t need it here, but it would’ve been all the better for it to be.

The Ugly:

The music.  Essentially one song plays over and over and over again.  OK, it’s not one to be fair, but it sounds like it.  It’s a shame a custom soundtrack couldn’t be imported, because as-is, you’re likely to mute the game before long.  Yuck!

The Lowdown:

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is an instant PSP buy.  At only $10 for the UMD or digital download, this is a Cherish It title all the way.  It’s why the PSP was created, and with any luck we’ll see more games like it hit the platform.  Sony’s initial attitude about the PSP being a portable PS2 was a mistake.  With games like Monsters, they’re finally starting to understand why we want games that can be played in short bursts.  This is perfect to bring everywhere you go.  As far as I’m concerned, PMD is a portable masterpiece.  CHERISH IT!

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