The original PixelJunk Monsters game is one of my all-time favourite time-wasters. I spent the better part of two years (2 GOD DAMN YEARS) playing the game on my PS Vita. After two long years of sporadic play, I finally finished PixelJunk Monsters to 100% completion. Then I wanted more.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to wait five years for a second dose of tower-defence goodness. Was it worth the wait, or is this second coming another disappointment. It’s a mixed bag, but it’s definitely not a disappointment.
PixelJunk Monsters 2 puts you back in the shoes of Tikiman as you try to protect your siblings from waves of monsters. The basic premise is all but the same as the first game. That’s not a complaint from me, not by a long shot. If you played the original game, you’ll know what to expect in PixelJunk Monsters 2.
Your task is to build towers along winding routes that all lead to your family’s hut. You need to protect your siblings by building the right towers in the right places at the right time. It starts off easy and you’ll have no problem breezing through the first couple of stages, even if you’re a newcomer to the series. Things soon ramp up, though. Rather than following one direct route to your precious hut, they’ll soon start coming from various directions. This is where management and strategy come into play. Build too heavily in one area and you’ll leave the other routes unguarded with a clear route to eating your family. You need to second-guess the game, but I guess you’ll be using memorisation skills just as much.
Whenever I failed a stage, it was due to the game throwing me a curve ball by sending a wave of monsters from a direction I didn’t know existed. I’d fail, reload the level, and make a mental note to place a couple of towers in that area before the fifth wave. It’s not an ideal way to play, and I guess the game could have been a little more forgiving by allowing the player more time to build between waves. Then again, that’s all part of the challenge.
The reason for keeping each and every little sod safe is that you’ll be awarded with rainbow pieces. These pieces are needed to unlock further stages. Don’t win, don’t progress. So take your time to learn the stages and remember to keep an eye on all routes.
The initial line up of towers will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played the first game. Newcomers won’t be left out in the cold, though, as PixelJunk Monsters 2 does a decent job at guiding new players. It also helps that the build menu tells you explicitly what each tower is for. So the canon will only affect ground creeps, the air-gun will only affect air-creeps, and the all-rounders (arrows) will attack everything, albeit with less gusto than the more appropriate towers.
The old bunch of towers are all there, as well as a few new ones to help keep the gameplay fresh. And it is fresh, despite being 99% the same as the other game. The other 1%, however, counts for a heck of a lot of change.
Where the original used really simple, cartoon graphics, PixelJunk Monsters 2 takes things to a whole new level. Stages are fully 3D environments. Monsters are no longer 2D cartoon figures shuffling across the screen, but are instead proper, tangible things that carry weight when they move. And then there’s Tikiman. He hasn’t changed much and he’s still recognisable, even more so when he does his little dance to level up towers. But this time you can get right into the action. By press R2, you’ll be pulled right in behind Tikiman and see everything unfold has he would. It’s a neat little addition, but it’s no way to play the game. To be honest, I don’t really see the point of it from a gameplay perspective, but it’s always better to have that not to have, right?
The change in style has not won me over completely. While I admire the wonderful faux claymation style that makes everything in the game look like a little real-life figurine, I can’t help but pine for the simpler days of the original game. It’s not that it doesn’t look good – it really does – it’s just, well, I spent two frickin’ years staring at the original game’s simple graphics. They’re what I know, and I don’t like change.
But I can take it. I’m a grown up. It looks great in motion – of the 60fps variety, might I add – and I can’t fault the earworm tunes either. It’s a great looking game. But… Well, I spent two years playing the original on the PS Vita. The intimacy that comes from holding a screen 9 inches from your face in the wee hours of morning isn’t easily replicated on my stupidly large television. I don’t feel as involved. I know, it sounds daft, but for me PixelJunk Monsters was always an intimate, personal, handheld experience. I’m not knocking the game for being on PS4, but I do wish that the PS Vita wasn’t left off the table. Oh, but it’s on the Switch. I own the Switch. Well, there goes another two years of my life…
PixelJunk Monsters 2 PS4 Review
PixelJunk Monsters 2 is almost exactly what I wanted from a sequel. The gameplay has that one-more-go quality that will keep you playing far past bedtime. The only real let down for me is the newer, fancier, more modern graphics. If my distaste for the game's wonderful graphics is my only complaint, I'd say that makes PixelJunk Monsters 2 a worthwhile game.
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Reviewed on PS4 Slim.