While I wish it was more than just a fresh coat of paint on the PSP version, Monsters Ultimate HD is still one of the best tower defense games to date.
PixelJunk Monsters has always been one of my favorite titles on the PlayStation Network. If I look back I have probably put an absurd amount of time into not only the PS3 version and its Encore DLC, but the PSP version of the game as well. I was just a little excited when that version of the game finally got added to the Vita’s store. So you can understand that I was stoked to hear that a native Vita version of Monsters was coming out. Now after playing Monsters Ultimate HD, while it isn’t everything I hoped for, it is still the best version of Monsters to date.
The first thing you will notice is how great this game looks on the Vita screen. No longer is it a pixely blur that Monsters Deluxe was when playing on Vita. Also due to the Vita’s screen resolution, you can see more of the map while the game is zoomed in. This featured was added back with the PSP version, and now with Ultimate HD you can even play fully zoomed out by simply tapping the L Button. If you have played on the PSP version at all you know that this was not possible. The added resolution also does a lot to help not missing out on coins or having to make a double take at what the next wave will be.
If you have never played a PixelJunk Monsters game it is all about saving the Tikiman’s children from waves of different monsters. To do this you will need to build different types of towers on trees that are spread across each of the games 47+ maps (I say plus here because there is a random level generator included from the start). The towers are not free so you will need to spend coins to place them. Lucky for you start with a few and more are dropped by monsters after you kill them along with the occasional gem. Towers can be upgraded as well, either by spending a certain amount of gems or by idly dancing near them with your Tikiman.
The real strategy comes in trying to get perfect runs for each of the stages. Not only will you save all your children, but you will also receive a rainbow, which you will need to collect to progress further into the game. I would recommend for new players to start on the casual difficulty, as normal can give even veteran tower defense players a run for their money. The game, as it is a direct port of the Monsters Deluxe, uses its system for unlocking new towers. Players familiar with the PS3 version will see certain towers like the Fire and Ice towers missing when they first start. These and many others can be unlocked by finishing challenge levels on each of the islands. It is a great twist and makes some of the earlier stages even harder than they were on PS3.
Something also that is welcomed is the game’s online multiplayer. Some of my best times playing PixelJunk Monsters were with a friend sitting on a couch. Couches be damned as you can pretty much play anywhere there is a Wifi signal now. I played a few games with BlueMaxima and even though he is all the way in Australia we didn’t really notice much lag, other than some small input delay which you don’t even notice after about 5 minutes of playing. The game uses the Lobby system that was in the PSP version, so you can set up a room for up to 8 players to hang out in. One thing I do wish that wasn’t missing is voice chat. If you aren’t using the Vita’s built in “Party” system, you will have to resort to using the game’s communication wheel. While this gets the job done, it takes up a lot of time and it is far easier just to tell a person what to do verbally. I know as I have got into a few shouting matches when playing locally.
Other than the lack of voice chat, there are also no online leaderboards. So if you want to gloat about all of your rainbows or sweet high scores, you will have to use the screenshot function for the time being. The Vita version also adds some touch controls to the game, but really they are pretty much there for novelty. They are practically unusable in snowy stages of the game, with your Tikiman slipping and sliding about the forest. But really who is going to use that when the Vita has buttons that work perfectly fine.
So if you happened to miss out on the PSP version of the game or are looking to play one of the best tower defense games ever, I would totally recommend that you check out Monsters Ultimate HD. It has everything you want in a game: a good challenge and it is just hard to put down. However remember if you have played it on PSP, you aren’t going to see anything new other than some actual trophies for completing the medal challenges. So really you have to be a PixelJunk Monsters fan, like myself, to get enjoyment over what in reality is just a fresh coat of paint on your old PSP title.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
Chris K's Score:
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Developer:Double Eleven, Q-Games
Release Date:July 2013
Players:1-2 (Adhoc), 1-2 (Online)