System: Playstation Vita
Original Retail Price: £9.99 (currently on offer with PS+ £7.99)
I have a bit of a historical love affair with Pixeljunk monsters. It happens to be the first digital game I bought for the Playstation 3. I loved it so much that I ended up buying it again for the psp as well. I spent many many hours happily playing away both home and away. Now we have the new Pixeljunk Monsters Ultimate HD.
This isn’t a sequel to the original, instead its an HD clean up job for the Playstation Vita. Now the original PSP version also works on the Vita so I was interested to see just what has changed.
Firstly I have to say that the moment you turn the game on it takes me back to playing it a few years ago. The quirky soundtrack starts up and the colourful start screen pops up and there he is, the Tiki man. I couldn’t wait to jump in.
Ok so down to reviewing this game properly. Well for those who don’t know about pixeljunk monsters, it’s a tower defence game for all ages. You play the part of the tiki man who must save your little friends from hordes of enemies that want to come to your hut and take them from you. In order to save them you can call upon a range of towers to help defend. These towers are placed on top of the multitude of trees that are around the map. The towers consist originally of an arrow tower, cannon tower, an anti air tower and a freezing tower. More towers can be unlocked for each level as you collect blue diamonds that can be found in the trees or dropped by enemies when you kill them. New towers range from laser towers to electric towers and heavy-duty cannons etc. different towers can affect different enemies better than others so the skill is to work out what wave is coming and make sure your defences are as well set up to defend as possible.
To begin with I was a little confused. I started the game up and while looking at the graphics I couldn’t decide if it looked any better than the original. Was this an ‘HD’ remake in name only? To find out I downloaded and opened up the original PixelJunk Monsters that also works on the Vita. Wow I was very very wrong! there is a huge difference. Nostalgia plays tricks with your mind as although I remember the original to be great looking it is nothing compared to this new Ultimate HD version. Everything is super clean and crisp. If anyone ever though HD was just a way to resell older games then check this out and forever be silenced. This is high-class HD work.
Everything is just the way that players familiar with the game will remember. It’s all there, the menu circles for choosing towers, the little hut you call home, the bouncing coins and the quirky fun sounds that accompany the game. I can easily say that fans of any PixelJunk title will feel happily at home playing this. New players will enjoy it and older players will remember the fun they had before and enjoy playing it all over again.
A couple of new features have been subtly added in. First is a zoom in and out function which is activated by pressing the left shoulder button. This does come in handy for zooming out to gauge the enemies path through the maps. The second feature added is when you press the right shoulder button. By doing this up pops every towers upgrade bar. Sounds like nothing useful at first but does come in very handy when running around to dance on towers to get them upgraded. Both these features are very subtle and not essential but they do add little helpful bits to the overall game.
All the maps that you remember from the original are here and as this is the ‘Ultimate’ version as well they have added the dlc maps as well so you have plenty of PixelJunkness to keep you going. I for one have a few personal favourite maps that I love to replay just to try getting a better score or just to play for the pure fact of enjoying the game.
Online play is also back in this new HD version. Now I didn’t really play the online games on the older title but with the Vita it almost encourages you to jump on with a friend and play a few maps. The online is co-op based and the aim of the game is exactly the same. This is a beautiful way of spending half an hour just chatting to a friend while gaming away. The online lobby system is fairly basic. In fact its pretty much exactly the same as the older version with a small addition of adding text chat function to the lobby. Personally I wouldn’t use this as the Vita is equipped with both party chat and Skype which gives you the ability to actually speak to gaming partners. For this review both were tried out and we found that Skype worked far better and was a lot clearer than the party chat. One addition to the lobby that was interesting is a running commentary of other games in the lobby. Games are played in 2 player co-op but the lobby can hold 8 people. when 2 are in the middle of a game the rest in the lobby can see a ticker which gives a stylised running commentary of whats going on such as towers upgrading steadily or low on coins etc. This is actually quite fun to watch while waiting for players. A nice little addition. Again subtle but welcome.
While testing the game we did find that a couple of errors did happen and we also noticed some lag at times but this could have been due to signal strength wavering. Even so, this is a tower defence game and not some kind of ‘twitch’ style shooter so a little bit of lag here and there does not affect the game for you. It really is nice to be able to chat away to friends while playing. I can see many hours being lost playing this while chatting away about other things. There is also local ‘ad hoc’ mode for you to get some co-op gaming while sitting with friends on the sofa, or at work shhhh.
PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD also has the return of the challenges which involve different tasks such as completing a certain map with a perfect score or completing it with a certain amount of coins or not letting your towers to get upgraded etc. All of these are fun although the latter ones can be damn well frustrating at times. They add an extra bit of challenge and gameplay to the title which adds to its playability.
Trophies have also been added to the game and most of them are exactly the same as the ones on the PS3 so fans will now just what to do. I do feel that it’s a bit of a shame yet again missing out on a platinum trophy but it’s not the end of the world. Still, I do feel that if you complete every trophy in a game then there should be a platinum. Developers choice I suppose.
Overall, well what can I say. The PixelJunk fanboy shouts at you to get this game. I personally couldn’t recommend this enough. The impartial reviewer in me takes a step back and even so says that this is a great title to add to your PS Vita collection. It’s perfect for spending some time with. 10 -20 mins here and there playing a map or two while waiting for a bus or while on the train couldn’t be more fun. That said, The online play did crash on us a couple of times which was a bit annoying. The price is also for me a little on the high side for an HD game but only just. £9.99 could be brought down to £6.99 – £7.99 which I feel would be the perfect price point.
Should you buy this game…………………….Yes!
Review copy supplied by Double 11