Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: PixelJunk Monsters

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0:00 After a heated, split debate on the Game Trust mailing list, I had to check this one out for myself. I love the various Desktop Tower Defense games I've tried online, and I'm hoping this will capture the same feeling on my TV.

0:01 For some reason, the screen seems stuck in a widescreen ratio, meaning thick black bars sit at the bottom and top of my TV. Not all of us have fancy widescreen TVs, PixelJunk!

0:02 How to play: "d-pad or analog stick moves, X selects, O cancels." Can't get much simpler than that! I have to walk around and turn trees into enemy-destroying bases so I can protect a flock of cute, bouncing head things. There's lots of stuff to learn, but there's a tutorial. Let's go!

0:04 "They'll come soon! Get ready!" Creepy! I build an "arrow" tower and watch as a helpless monster wanders into its attack radius and explodes with a cute little yelp. Collect the coins it drops, build another tower, lather, rinse, repeat!

0:06 Right away I like the connection of having an actual, movable avatar rather than just being an unseen, omnipotent god manipulating the map. Still, I wish my little dude would walk a little faster.

0:07 I get the ability to build anti-air guns just in time for the air enemies to start attacking. I love the convenience of the tutorials.

0:09 Oh noes! A few monsters make it through my gauntlet. I guess I overinvested a bit in air defense, because the ground guys don't seem to have much trouble anymore. It's a tough balancing act, it seems.

0:10 Ah, I can get rid of those old, useless anti-air towers and get cash in exchange. Handy!

0:11 I kill one final, hulking ice monster and the forest is safe. Hurrah! On to the first stage, the appropriately named "Easy 1." Wasn't that your mom's nickname in college? BURN!

0:13 Interesting level design here -- while the tutorial looked like an empty glen with a few scattered trees, this looks like a thick forest, with plenty of options for base placement. It feels organic, but still playable.

0:14 Apparently if you're not busy building something, you can stand in front of an existing tower, do a little dance, and eventually upgrade the tower to be more powerful. Don't ask me how/why that's supposed to work, but it does!

0:17 This game definitely keeps you on your toes. I have to focus on building forts, upgrading forts, collecting coins and getting new upgrades, all while watching for next wave of enemies. And I'm still on the Easy stages!

0:21 Walking behind a line of monsters and picking up the coins they drop as they explode is almost too fun.

0:27 A bouncing gold Inca statue is the final boss here. I pour my saved gems and anti-air fort money into upgrading and building up some last-minute fortification. It takes him out no problem. On to "Easy 2"!

0:29 Yikes! I let three guys through on my very first wave. The potential path for enemies splits in many directions this time, so they can go around my defenses. This is definitely gonna be tougher.

0:32 More get through in Wave 3, but I staunch the flow with a hefty cannon investment and upgrades. Whew!

0:34 My cannons are no help when the air attack comes, and I get totally swarmed. Down from 20 little dudes in my base to only four left. Poor little dudes!

0:36 I sell off some cannons and invest desperately in anti-air defense. It works out alright, but one still gets through. Gah!

0:37 I successfully cut off one path, just to see a group split off and go through another. The last little dude falls. R.I.P. little dude.

0:38 I try again, this time with a more spread-out, cannon-heavy defense at the outset. Seems to be working all right.

0:42 This time I'm ready for the air assault, and three carefully placed anti-air guns make quick work of the flying menace.

0:45 Over-investment in ice towers lets a bunch of snowmen through. Ice doesn't really hurt snowmen... who knew?

0:47 The ice works on the Inca statue, though, slowing it down and letting a vast array of cannons take it out. I'm feeling so flush, I jump to a "Medium" difficulty level.

0:53 Son of a monkey, this is tough. I've already failed once, and the second time through I'm overwhelmed from the first wave on. Just trying to collect enough coins to build more stuff is a struggle.

0:56 My anti-air defenses are woefully inadequate and I succumb in Wave 7... out of 20! I feel like getting momentum at the beginning is important. If you miss some early coins, you're done.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.

Why? A perfect mix of reflexes, strategy and cuteness. It seems like there's a lot of depth here.

This column was based on a downloadable copy of the game provided by Sony.

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