Sunday, December 19, 2010

pixeljunk monsters


I am a perfectionist, a bad winner and sore loser, what some may refer to as a "Type A" personality; which is why I became immediately obsessed with PixelJunk Monsters, a tower defense game, by Q-Games. The meditative music, simple but charming graphics and highly addictive yet uncomplicated game play makes this a perfect choice for a novice gamer who does not like to lose.

After a short but effective tutorial, you quickly uncover the premise of the game - strategically place different types of towers (including but not limited to cannons, arrows, air cannons, ice towers, lasers, Tesla towers) around your arena to kill an ongoing onslaught of monsters before they destroy your villagers.

You have 20 waves of villains & a boss to fight off in each level. You are given a certain amount of coins to build towers, each one costing a different amount. Every time monsters are killed by your weapons, you are rewarded with more coins and gems. Coins are used to build more towers and gems can be used to increase the strength of a tower or purchase more powerful weapon towers. You can tear down towers you have built to reclaim some money (but you usually only get about half) in order to rebuild a tower elsewhere in the arena or a different type of tower to kill a particular breed of monster.

If you can clear a stage and keep all of your villagers alive, you receive a rainbow. Often, to the chagrin of my teammate, I will retry a level as soon as one villager is killed. In my mind, a level is not worth finishing if you cannot get a rainbow. I often live certain aspects of my life by this very same principle - stop and start over if you have the chance, to achieve perfection.

You can play this as a single player or with a partner. Honestly, I go back and forth between whether it is easier to play alone or with someone else. Alone, you are the only one who can build towers so the difficulty lies in making sure you are covered throughout the arena so no monsters slip by your strategically placed defenses. Together, you can easily split up and have one on offense and one on defense, however you can encounter fundamental disagreements on strategy. When you have two players, operating under different approaches it makes it hard to clear a stage with a rainbow. If you play with a partner, you need to communicate and play as a team - even if you need to endure some hostile disagreements.

One of my favorite things about this game is that it requires you to think creatively and fast. You also have to be flexible and willing to switch up your strategy mid-game if you see your initial plans are not working in your favor. I feel you can learn a lot about yourself and your teammate about their approach to playing this game. Are they aggressive and load up all the towers in the front and hope none slip through or do they prefer a more passive technique and build more towers near the villagers to ensure there is enough fire power at the end of the course?

Some of the most intense parts of the game happen when you have a significant defense built up, no more coins and are mostly convinced that you cannot take down and rebuild a tower to improve your current situation. This leaves you waiting...staring at the parade of monsters as they make their way closer and closer to your villagers...praying your towers will kill them all...even if it's at the very last minute and the safety of your villagers is threatened. It is quite enjoyable how worked up one can get playing this game.

This is easily one of the best tower defense games ever made. Under the guise of the straightforward premise and simplistic graphics, there is a game that requires just the right mix of skill, determination, patience and fun that will entice die hard and novice gamers alike.

If you aren't shooting for a rainbow, it isn't worth it.

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