Late Review: PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD – 2 Years of Frustration Are Finally Over

I’m free. It’s over. That’s what I said when I put down my PS Vita after finishing the last challenge on PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD. For the past two years (maybe a few months longer) I’ve been dipping in and out of the game. I’ve deleted it out of frustration, only to then find myself downloading it again a week later because I need to finish it. That time has come, finally.

PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD is a tower-defense game where you, the Tiki man, must defend your Tiki babies from the titular monsters by placing different towers around the game’s map. It’s a simple concept, sure, and the first few levels will be a breeze as you get the hang of placing canons, air-guns, and arrows in strategic positions. But it’s not easy. Not at all. In fact, it’s fucking solid and I’ve broken two PS Vita grips (these ones) out of sheer frustration. Yet I still love the bloody thing. I’m like one of those ditzy women you see on Jeremy Kyle (or Jerry Springer for our US readers) that is constantly getting slapped around by her abusive fella, but keeps on going back to him. I’m that girl. Or guy. Whatever.

You’ve got three different islands to tackle, each with their own individual levels. As I said before, the first island and the first few levels are piss easy

It's got them touchscreen controls, init. They're pointless though.
It’s got them touchscreen controls, init. They’re pointless though.

and you’ll breeze through them with all the bravado you can muster, but once the difficulty gets ramped up – even to medium – it suddenly stops being a cutesy game and becomes a living nightmare. That’s not a bad thing – not at all.

You’ve got 20 little Tiki babies to protect from the monsters, and so long as you keep at least one alive you’ll pass the level. However, if you want to ‘rainbow’ the level then you’ll need to keep all your little sods alive. A challenge for any parent, really. It’s here that my obsessiveness really started to take its toll. I’d completed every level within around… nine months, but it took me a further year-and-a-bit to actually perfect them.

Placement of towers is crucial, and even one wrong canon in the wrong place can destroy you on the final wave. It’s soul crushing, but it’s fun. It kept me entertained (read: enraged) for months on end. It was only after a year or so that I discovered you could unlock special towers by beating certain levels with a perfect record. Some were easier than others, but once you start collecting these special towers your life becomes a lot easier and you find getting out of bed to be a joy, not a chore. Perhaps I really did let this one get to me just a bit too much.

pixeljunkmonstersscreenTowers are built using in-game currency that monsters are kind enough to drop once they’ve been maimed. Every now and again, monsters will drop more than a few coins: they’ll drop precious gems. It’s these gems that can make or break a good run, as they dictate what towers you can use in a level. Oh yeah, those unlockable special towers have to be unlocked during a level by spending so many gems. Sometimes you don’t get enough gems, and sometimes you’re forced to spend your gems on upgrading your already build towers to make sure the monsters don’t eat your kiddies. It’s a harsh game, that’s for sure. It’s still immensely rewarding though, and I can’t think of another game (except maybe Awesomenauts) that has kept my attention for so long.

The difficulty can be downright off-putting at times, but it’s all part of the fun. What isn’t fun is thinking you’ve finished the game, declaring your victory to the developers on twitter, then finding out that you’ve got 24 challenges to complete – and they’re solid. So, weeks later here I am. Finally a complete man.

You can dance around like a prat to level-up towers. Basically no different to pole dancing for money.
You can dance around like a prat to level-up towers. Basically no different to pole dancing for money.

I realise that I’ve moaned a fair bit about how hard the game is and how it almost drove me to suicide (oh, I didn’t mention that?) but in all honesty, it’s a great game. If you’ve any interest in the tower-defense genre then this is something you owe to yourself to look into. Just don’t come blaming me when you find yourself trying to find the solution to the last challenge in the bottom of a whiskey bottle. You’ll find no answers there; just suffering.


Disclaimer: Review conducted on PS Vita using a digital version of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer.

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