Status: Finished all levels on Casual and Regular (unlocked Hard-core mode), finding that I am awful at earning Medals (I have 2 of 24)
PixelJunk Monsters was one of the first PSN demos I gave any time to. Thanks to my time as a part of Sony’s now defunct Gamer Advisory Panel, I’d been aware of Q-Games new tower defense title for the PSN and was anxious to try it out. The demo gave me a small taste of what life would be like if I owned the game and I was excited for more. But I was working in video game retail at the time, and the amount of new games I told myself I needed every week kept pushing PJ Monsters to the back of my mind.
But I never forgot about it completely. It was on my video game wishlist on Amazon for a reason – even if years had passed, I still wanted that game. I was lucky enough to finally get my own copy of PJ Monsters Deluxe for my birthday, and promptly popped it into my PSP where it remained for 3 and a half months. I played it in the car, on the couch while watching TV, and even in bed instead of reading a book to help me fall asleep. When I wasn’t doing housework or playing Persona 4, PixelJunk Monsters was all I had on the brain.
PJ Monsters features three islands and a combined total of 47 levels, with difficulties ranging from Easy to Hard as you progress on each island. By clearing a stage without losing any of the little Tiki babies, you’ll earn a Rainbow. You’ll need these in order to open new areas on each island. Earning rainbows isn’t always easy, but play a level a couple of times to find the best spots to place the towers you’ll need to take out the enemy. And if you become obsessive about it as I did, you may just find yourself striving to perfect every stage because you’re just that anal about it.
The backbone of any tower defense game are the towers you have at your disposal. At the start of each level, certain base towers will be unlocked, such as the Arrow, Cannon and Anti-Air Gun. Other towers in your building wheel need to be unlocked by collecting blue gems dropped by the enemy or hidden among the trees. Once you have the gems you need to unlock a new tower, head over to the Tiki hut to unlock it. You’ll have to unlock these towers every time as they are not a permanent unlock. Some of the more unique towers will require completion of a particular level before they will show up in your building wheel, so don’t worry if you think you’re missing something.
Upgrading your towers can be done two ways: spending blue gems or dancing in front of them. Spending your rarely obtained gems will help you power up towers quickly but takes away from your ability to unlock new towers. Dancing takes more time but helps you save up for those more powerful towers. Each tower’s flag has five stages: base blue, yellow, red, purple, and finally black. Once you hit black, you’ll have the most powerful version of that tower with the best range it can get. Depending on the sort of level I am playing, I may power level one or two towers early on immediately around my hut as a last line of defense. The only way to figure out your best move is to play often and watch the movements of the enemy. A tower will also get a small boost of leveling when it successfully kills an enemy.
Some levels in the main section of the game will throw challenges at you, like the monsters won’t drop coins or gems so you need to be wise with what you have. This really enforces some creative strategics with tower placement and getting the optimal range in the designated level. I love the challenge, even when I have to restart the level six or seven times because I placed a tower in a bad spot.
And then, if you haven’t driven yourself crazy trying to get rainbows on every level, you can venture to the Tiki Hut from the main menu and take on up to 24 different challenges. These challenges unlock once you’ve cleared the level in the main game. So far I’ve been able to knock out two of these – one which dared me to complete the level without a single flag upgrading to yellow, the second a Scrooge challenge where I was tasked to clear the level with over 10000 coins. Sadly, I haven’t figured out the winning formula to the other twenty two challenges just yet.
Even after spending hours upon hours with PixelJunk Monsters, I find that going back to it for “just one level” ends up turning into hours. I believe that is a sign of a truly enjoyable game. There are few of these more casual style titles in my “Completely Addicted” list, Ninjatown and Plants vs Zombies being the other two. And just when I thought I had weened myself off of the PJ high, Q-Games went and put a version of PJ Monsters on Facebook . Needless to say that just pumped fuel back in my fire tower.