PixelJunk Monsters on PS3 came out in 2007 to great reviews and the ‘deluxe’ edition on PSP received scores in the 90’s. The game was simple, it was a Tower Defence game where you would build towers in order to stop the evil creatures getting to your hut and killing the people who are surrounded there. The difference between this game and other Tower Defence games at the time was that you controlled a movable character around the screen, rather than playing a god-like being who can summon towers out of the sky. It was deemed a successful game for Q-Games and Double Eleven, so why has it taken ten years to get a sequel? Let’s take a look and see if the strategy has changed or if they have stuck to the tried-and-tested mechanics of the original game.
The story here is irrelevant, this isn’t Defenders Quest (which I also highly recommend). Basically, Tikiman, our beloved protagonist, is in trouble! An army of mysterious monsters has begun invading his calm, peaceful forest. You must protect all the Chibis, who appear to be baby Tikimen/women, at all costs by setting up defence towers along the enemies paths in order to wipe them out before they get a chance to kill each of your babies. It sounds a bit sordid, but it’s all very comical and light-hearted, so don’t worry about it!
Throughout the game, you will unlock new towers with new abilities, gain access to new areas, and defeat a bunch of new foes. PixelJunk Monsters 2 is super addictive and so much fun, you won’t want to put it down once you start playing!
If you have played the original PixelJunk Monsters game then the gameplay, in general, will be very familiar to you as they haven’t strayed much from the core mechanics here. You play as Tikiman, a protagonist with a cool wardrobe of varying masks and shields. As you wander around the rather big maps, you can convert trees into various ‘towers’ which are erected in order to take out the onslaught of monsters who wish to kill the Chibis. If you haven’t played a Tower Defence game before, then this is the common formula, only you usually don’t have a controllable character – although X-Morph defence also has this mechanic.
There are ultimately two types of enemies in the game, not variants but physical ‘types’. You have your ground-based monsters, such as giant spiders and massive stone golems, and your flying types, such as overweight bats. As such, there are three different ‘types’ of towers you can build, those able to attack ground, air, or both. Each ‘type’ has a few different towers within them and you obtain new ones as you clear out each of the areas. This is where the strategy comes into play as money doesn’t grow on trees, although you do find money IN trees in PixelJunk Monsters 2! As such, you must manage your resources and build the towers you require for the current and next ‘wave’ of enemies. There is no point building ground-focused towers if the current ‘wave’ is all flying types – if you do then you may as well kiss your Chibis goodbye!
Upon killing the monsters, both money and gems will be dropped from time to time. You must collect these in order to build more towers and also upgrade your current towers. That’s right, each tower can be upgraded up to four times (from level 1-5) which increases the damage dealt and the overall distance it covers. If you have no gems though, don’t worry, you can upgrade towers in two other ways. The first is by letting them kill the enemies, as a tower defeats enemies the level will gradually increase. Secondly, if Tikiman stands next to a tower and you stop moving, he will proceed to perform ‘the dance of upgrading’. Ok, it doesn’t have a name, but that’s what it does! It will gradually upgrade the tower as Tikiman gets his groove on.
Once you have taken out all of the standard waves, which progressively get harder as the enemies change the route they use to get to your Chibis – so you can’t just protect one route and guarantee success, you will face off against a ‘boss’. These all appear to be similar to an Easter Island head which casually plods along the attack route on its way to your young, defenceless Chibis! The difference with this enemy is the fact it can spit out its own mini-waves of enemies at any time in order to make your life hard, as well as swap from being ground-based to flying – which means you need to ensure you have a decent selection of all three types of towers along the route.
The towers you can unlock are almost a necessity as you get further into the game though, with towers like the Ice one which spits out a frozen mist in order to slow down the monsters as you plummet them with near-by offensive towers, to the fire-breathing tower which burns them to a crisp. These are extremely powerful and can save you if some little critters are running past your other towers and towards the young ‘uns.
Also, within each mission, you will find a fruit vendor. Here you can buy various fruits which will aid you along your quests, such as a fruit which alerts you when a monster steps on it or a fruit which slows down the ones who touch it in a similar fashion to the ice tower. These cost gems to buy but you can sometimes find them lying around on the floor as you jump into the trees in-between waves.
In regards to the level design and selection, this is where the game gets interesting. You ultimately play on five different maps, each with three ‘missions’. These are ingeniously labelled 1, 2 and 3, and are unlocked one after another. However, each of the three missions has the Chibis in the same place, and you’re on the same map – so wouldn’t that get old pretty fast? Nope! Each mission basically changes the location the monsters will spawn in from, thus changing the gameplay to a point where you probably won’t even notice you are playing on the same map. Also, as I stated above, as you get further into the level, enemies begin to take new routes and even start coming in from new entrances as well, with really changes things around.
The other thing you will notice upon first starting the game is that you have a few difficulty levels. You have ‘Fun’ and ‘Tricky’. Upon completing ‘Fun’ you will gain access to ‘Tricky’ and later on, you will also gain access to the ‘Mayhem’ difficulty as well. I feel the difficulty does spike a little if aiming to save all the Chibis, but it’s all about replaying over and over as you learn where the enemies are coming from next. If you complete a level and have one or more of your Chibis devoured by the monsters, then you can progress but it’s still a failure in my eyes! In order to move on correctly, you must complete the level with no innocent young Chibi dying at the hand of the evil beings. If you do this, then you will be presented with a rainbow piece, which is added to the level marker on the map – if you collect all of these then something good is bound to happen, right?
These Rainbow pieces also serve as a progression tool. For example, you can’t unlock the other areas until you collect two, five and nine rainbow pieces. This isn’t too difficult though as initially, you have two rainbow pieces per level up for grabs, so progressing and unlocking all of the areas isn’t as difficult as some games make it. All of the levels also feature an online leaderboard, so you can see how you rank in the world and among your friends in regards to each level in each world at each difficulty.
**Just for clarification, as my original paragraph was a little confusing. There are five areas, each with three levels in them. You need two, five and nine rainbows to unlock the new areas, but once you have unlocked one, you don’t need to 100% a level in order to play all the levels in the areas you have unlocked. Also, don’t forget, initially you have both ‘fun’ and ‘tricky’ difficulties, so six rainbow pieces are up for grabs in each area – you will have nine in no time.**
Now, one of the things you may have seen in the pictures I’ve posted is how amazingly handsome my Tikiman looks with his sexy mask and shell! Well, the game contains a decent selection of new masks and shells which you can buy in-game with silver coins, which you earn by reaching new milestones such as completing a level for the first time or killing X amount of monsters. This allows you to customise your Tikiman how you like and make him your own – my only wish here would be if there was a ‘customise’ option, even if it’s after you unlock a certain amount of them. One which you could basically mix and match a bunch of key features in order to truly make your own look and style – or the option to re-paint them.
In regards to customisation – I don’t have access to this, as it’s not out yet, but I know exactly which mask I’ll be wearing soon – a certain killer teddy bear from another Spike Chunsoft franchise! that’s right, there is a season pass and deluxe edition of PixelJunk Monsters 2 out – which is still super cheap – which will give you access to two DLC packs in the near future. The one I’m super looking forward to is the Dangandronpa themed DLC which gives you a new ‘Hope’ Peak Academy’ level, a new tower, masks based on Monokuma, and it even looks like the enemies also have the infamous Monokuma face as well! The other DLC pack being released is the ‘Encore pack’ which again offers a new stage and a new tower.
I’ll be grabbing the Season pass as soon as the first piece of content drops as this game is so much fun and I can see myself easily sinking many more hours into the game.
Another feature which I haven’t tried out, but is there, is the online co-op option. This allows up to four players to play together with a shared pot of coins and gems. I’ve seen footage of this in action and it looks awesome. Previous titles had a two player local co-op, but four player is double the fun – literally!
Finally, there is the elephant in the room, which I’m sure you’ve noticed and I’ve put off until the end. The game is freaking gorgeous! Like seriously, the game looks amazing on my PS4 Pro, especially when you tap the R2 trigger and the game changes from a top-down perspective to a 3rd person cinematic mode complete with depth of field, amazingly high-quality textures, tonnes of particle effects, no slowdown on the 60fps, a super sharp image (possibly 4k), and a sense of speed and scale. It’s amazing what the team have managed to achieve. The environments and characters look almost stop-motion claymation in visual style and design but at a smooth 60fps.
I know PixelJunk Monsters 2 as a whole isn’t the most technically advanced game out there, but you’ll be hard to find a game that looks this stunning and plays this smoothly on the PS4.
The sound design is equally as good, although a little repetitive. The music is nice and relaxing, as they always are in games which could get stressful, but it is just short loops which you will hear a lot of as each level can be 10-15 minutes sometimes. However, this didn’t impact my enjoyment as I like the music and thought it worked really well, but I know some people may not like it as some seemed to have issues with a similar thing in the previous game. The sound effects of the dying monsters, the explosions, the crying Chibis, and the various tower attacks are all spot on though.
Now, I know what you’re saying – “But Rob, where are all the bad things? What’s wrong with the game? Why haven’t you opinionated the gameplay mechanics and told us all what’s bad and what could be better?” – to which I have a simple answer – “The game is perfect”. Now, if I was going to be ‘really’ picky then I would say about the music looping, but that never bothered me, or the fact that the game is quite short with only three levels in each of the five areas. However, each of those levels has three difficulties, there are leaderboards, you have a decent selection of trophies, loads of masks and shells to unlock, and an urge to save every last Chibi. So a 4-5 hour game instantly becomes 20+ hours for me, maybe even longer as I love the Tower Defence genre. Just look at Defenders Quest, I’ve spent about 100+ hours on that one so far.
I seriously can’t fault PixelJunk Monsters 2, they have catered to the fans by keeping the gameplay ultimately the same as the original game, yet catered to the modern age by updating the graphics and gameplay to a point where I was purposely running into danger in order to get the best screenshots. My only suggestion to the Q-Games team would be to possibly add a photo-mode to the game so that we can get some amazing screenshots. Your game is beautiful, it deserves to be plastered all over everyone’s computer screen!
Here is my footage of the Demo (Which you can download on PSN here):
PixelJunk Monsters 2 is a masterpiece, it looks amazing, it plays buttery smooth, and the core mechanics are solid. If you just aim to ‘finish’ the game and play through all 15 levels, then you’re looking at about five hours, but if you aim to achieve a 100% completion on all 15 levels at each of the three difficulties, then expect over 20 hours easily. The length, in combination with the low price and the brilliant, and cheap, DLC which has been announced basically makes this the easiest game to recommend which I have played to date. Fans of tower defence games need this title within their library and are only letting themselves down if they don’t grab it. To everyone else, go grab the free demo and try it out for yourself – If you like what you see then you won’t be disappointed at all with the full game.
PixelJunk™ Monsters 2£11.99
- Simply stunning graphics, lighting, textures, character design, and environments
- Nice selection of towers and enemies
- Tonnes of replayability with the Rainbows, leaderboards and silver coins
- Up to four player online co-op
- One of the best Tower Defence games on the PS4
- The music is short loops (didn't bother me)
- Some may say there isn't many levels (see my comments above regarding this)
- I wan... NEED a photo-mode
- Possibly more Tikiman customisation?