Review by Chocobahn

Reviewed: 05/21/08

You are the first, last and only line of defence.

PixelJunk Monsters belongs to the "tower defence" game genre with the sole purpose of annihilate the incoming horde of enemies before they obliterate your village. While this is not the first game of its genre, it is the first game of its type that I have played. The conclusion I come up with is that the forest is definitely not a safe place.

Plot

None whatsoever, but I will provide one anyway. You start out in a forest with your fellow villagers (one friend commented that they look like chicken -_-;... ah, okay, moving on...). Just like any forest, it is a dangerous place. There are many monsters that lurk around, and knowing that all your villagers are helpless, these monsters come in waves in an attempt to pick off your poor, defenceless villagers, also known to them as food.

You, as the only person who knows how to build (and dance, I'll come to that later), are to build defensive towers around your village's surrounding to fend off any incoming fiends. You don't need to know why they know that you are in the forest, all you need to know is that the monsters will come in waves and are hungry for your tribal blood. Maybe they want to scarify your village to their Gods.

Gameplay

Gameplay is very simple. You start out with some gold, your villagers and a field of trees. In the beginning, you have access to three primitive types of defence tower, namely cannon, arrows and anti-air machine gun (how on earth did a little village get that??). Each has different power, fire rate and range. And each is good against a particular type of enemy. For example, cannon is good against a slow moving, ground type enemy, whereas the anti-air is only good for things that fly.

On the field, you can build a tower where there is a tree. Once built, the towers will automatically fire at the enemies that are within range. Your aim is to kill all of them quickly before the next wave. Doing so will give you time to upgrade and build towers.

Monsters that are killed will drop gold coins and sometimes gems. Gold is used to build towers, and the gems can be used to instantly upgrade one of your towers or research on new and powerful weapons if you have enough of these precious stones. How a mere villager knows anything about teslas or flame throwers or lasers is beyond me.

If you need the precious stones for research, there is another albeit much slower way to upgrade the tower. You do your rain dance. All you need is to stand where the tower is, and your cute looking hero will wave his arms and stomp his feet as if he is praying to the Gods. There is a gauge that tracks the upgrade progress. Once the gauge is filled, the tower will go up a level, so to speak. But it is a painfully slow process, especially when you need to upgrade the tower to its most powerful form. Gems are the way to go if you can afford it.

There are ten types of tower in total, but most need research, which requires gems. As you progress through the various forests, you will meet monsters that are resilient to a particular type of weapon. Some could be strong against cannon, but weak against fire, while others might be weak against something else. If you do not have enough gems to research on a weapon that is effective, you can kiss your village goodbye. So there is a fine balance between using gems to upgrade your towers and saving them for research.

Thankfully, there is a bar at the bottom that tells you when the wave of monster is coming, and what type it is. Knowing that information helps you immensely in planning your next move.

Even though the monsters have no interest in you (you probably don't taste as good as your fellow villagers), do not mingle with them. Touching a monster will cause you to lose some of your gold coins.

At the end of each level, you fight the "boss". It's a slow moving, foot stomping, good-for-nothing monster. Don't ever let it get past your towers. It will kill each and every one of your villagers if it ever gets its hands (or feet) on them. If you managed to obliterate all that came without a loss of life, you will get a rainbow as a reward.

The biggest and the only flaw that I found in an otherwise refined gameplay is the icons on the menu. The "sell" icon is in the same menu as the "upgrade" icon. Unfortunately, they are not labelled as such. Instead, they are represented by icons. Players, especially beginners, will sometimes confuse both. So more often than not, you might sell the tower instead of upgrading it, or vice versa. It could mean the difference between life and death. It is something that could be overcome over time, but casual gamers need to be careful when picking an option from the menu.

Graphics

Being a mere 60MB download, you are not expecting a photo realistic environment, are you? In fact, it is fully 2D. Sure, it never uses the full potential prowess of the PS3, but the drawings are crisp, and the colour used is appropriate. The villagers are a bit small to see (even on a big TV), but everything else are fairly well done, even when you have multiple towers in close proximity. They blend into the environment quite nicely.

Sound

Music is nice, albeit on infinite loop. But for the most part, it is pleasant to listen to. There are enough sound effects to get by. There is no dialogue, only the sound of towers being built, weapons firing, and the sweet sound of death (monsters' death, that is). However, sound is not a major part of this game. You can play it mute should you desire it.

Replay Value

Every time you play a new level, you are already replaying the game. Every level is the same, except for the monsters' wave pattern and path they take. Locations of trees and your village are different in every forest, but it is essentially the same. You build your towers, monsters come, towers kill monsters, collect money and gem. Rinse and repeat.

That said, there are two reasons why you would want to replay the same level over and over again. For one, there is a hi-score board. And like every board of this nature, the scores are there to be beaten. Also, some of the levels are only accessible if you have enough rainbows. So you will find yourself playing the same levels again and again if you have not gotten the rainbow in your first try.

Overall

PixelJunk Monsters brings an old concept to a new gaming platform. The result is as much an addiction as it is entertainment. The gameplay is nothing new, but the genre that it is based on is engaging, fun, and sometimes frustrating watching your friends building the wrong tower in the wrong place at the wrong time. The graphics is clean and the sound is appropriate. This is a game that is easy to learn, but hard to master, but it is something that you can pick up quite easily. With its low price tag, PixelJunk Monsters is worth every penny.

Good:

* Solid gameplay
* Easy to learn

Bad:

* Icon representation of menu items can be confusing
* Some might find the game repetitive after the novelty wears off
* Monster pattern and path are fixed on each level

Score (out of 10)

Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 7
Sound: 6
Replay: 7

Overall: 8

This review is dedicated to all those who perished in the tragic natural disasters in Burma and China in 2008. May they rest in peace.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: PixelJunk Monsters (EU, 01/24/08)

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