The Pixel Junk series of games has carved a unique niche for itself on the PlayStation Network. Be it the original Racers release, or one of the Shooter or Sidescroller releases, fans have fallen in love with Q-Games franchise. The developer’s second creation, Monsters, is particularly popular amongst the PlayStation faithful. It is a simple, yet incredible polished and fun tower defense that has been well received on every platform it has been released, be it PS3 or PSP. That isn’t going to change with the recent Vita release.
The formula hasn’t changed a bit for the Pixel Junk Monsters Ultimate HD release on the Vita. If you have been here before, you should know exactly what to expect. Double Eleven has done a fine job at porting over the now-classic experience into what is perhaps the most polished and complete version of the game to date. You still control Tikiman and must protect your children from an onslaught of monsters of all shapes and sizes that come from all different areas on the various maps. As you would expect, you will build a series of towers to shoot down the attacking hordes before they reach your hut and your children, limited by both your resources and the coins that you have to spend. Your resources come in the form of trees around the environment, which means you have to make the most out of your surroundings.
Coins on the other hand will roll out to you over time along with special gems. Whether you take down an enemy or discover a hidden stash amongst the environment, batches of coins will become littered around the screen for you to collect before they disappear. This is the one aspect that sets Monsters apart from other tower defense games: in addition to building towers and simply waiting to see what happens, you have full control over the little Tikiman and can roam around the environment while the battle is being fought. It becomes a balancing act to both manage your towers and keep him safe as you pick up coins and gems all over the place. The gems are your key to upgrading your towers and obtaining new ones. They can be spent within your hut on the map to buy new towers to help fend off the monsters.
It is simple, tower defense but done so with an incredible amount of polish and style. The game can still be infuriatingly frustrating at times with insane difficulty spikes that will have your pounding your head into your hands. One level may be an absolute breeze to prefect (or “rainbow”) while the next will feel nearly impossible. Thankfully, there are more than 70 levels in the game which will let you brach out to others if you are stuck on one. This helps ease the pain of being stuck a little bit, as does the ability to play cooperative with a friencd both online and off. As good as it plays in the cooperative mode, your progress between the single- and multiplayer experience is kept separate, meaning that you won’t have access to all of the levels that you have unlocked on your own when you join up with a friend.
The one thing that has changed for this release is a drastically altered control scheme. Sure, the classic, analog control options are still present, but so is a well-crafted touch screen option that makes full use of the Vita’s capabilities. You simply tap on the location that you want Tikiman to go and he makes his way there. For the most part this works incredibly well, although I did experience occasional issues with him getting caught on something like a tree or rock in the environment and not be able to find a way around it. The same touch integration is there for building and upgrading towers on the fly. It feels natural and works really well, despite a few little hiccups along the way.
The Vita release includes the original release, all of its various DLC, and the content that came in the form of Monsters Encore. It’s every single bit of the monster experience that has been released over the past couple of years, which is both good and bad, depending on whether you have seen all of this before. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little disappointed that there wasn’t anything new included in this package. As someone who didn’t get to experience all of the various releases previously, this isn’t a big deal to me. I would imagine however that there is little incentive for someone who has already put the game through its paces to pick it up yet again unless they are completely addicted to the experience.
I like Monsters a lot. It is definitely my go-to game to kill some time when I have a few minutes to spare with my Vita. However, I have to fully acknowledge that this comes partially from the fact this still feels a bit new to me as my time with the previous releases was very limited. Everything that is here is incredibly solid and addicting, I just don’t know if you would feel the same way if you already have the other packages. If you are new to the game or absolutely love the Monsters’ experience, don’t hesitate to pick it up. Everyone else, just know that you have been here before (even if it is such a great experience).