After over a decade, we finally have a sequel to Q-Games' delightful tower defense gem. Join Tikiman yet again, watch him do a cute little dance, and get ready to fend off hordes of dastardly monsters.
PixelJunk Monsters 2 plays a lot like the original although this time around, it has some funky fresh 3D visuals. To be honest, I played the first game so long ago that I don't remember much about it but I do know that I had a fantastic time trying to master each monster-filled stage. Thankfully, I felt the same thing while playing through PixelJunk Monsters 2. The basic gameplay of redeeming coins for towers while strategically placing them to take out the onslaught of flying and grounded enemies is a ton of fun. Factor in the variety of cute monsters and the enjoyable upgrade system where you can dance or use gems to increase your towers' power and you're left with an undeniably addictive formula that'll keep you coming back for more. Heck, even running around can be enjoyable as you can find extra coins and gems from shaking certain trees.
The graphics of PixelJunk Monsters 2 are a huge departure from the first game. I understand that many gamers prefer the pixel-perfect 2D world of the original but I actually enjoyed taking in the sights of this sequel. The 3D environments are detailed and colourful and each monster's animations are spot-on. Tikiman and the Chibis look great, too. I could watch them excitedly run, dance, and bounce around all day. PixelJunk Monsters 2's soundtrack is a big change, too. Whereas the first game had catchy music, the tracks here are much more gentle and subdued. Again, this isn't for everyone but I appreciated the soundscape. It makes the overall experience a lot more relaxing and suits the tone perfectly. In the end, every long-time fan might not like the presentational changes but I certainly do.
PixelJunk Monsters 2's core campaign consists of 5 distinct areas: Pockulu Forest, Karstale Highlands, Gardans Caves, Twinkling Snowfields, and Coco Valley. I say "core campaign" because there will be DLC later on in the form of the Danganronpa Pack and the Encore Pack. Anyway, each area consists of 3 stages and each stage can be played on 3 increasingly challenging settings: Fun, Tricky, and Mayhem. Of course, this means that there are essentially only 15 stages although the various difficulty settings change a surprising amount of aspects within a stage. Monsters will start going down paths that you didn't even realise existed and it can get super-tough. Overall, there may only be 15 stages but trying to master them all on every difficulty while saving all your Chibis adds up to a lot of replay value.
One aspect of PixelJunk Monsters 2 that I found to be rather annoying is how much emphasis is placed on trial and error. Upon first starting a stage, you really have no idea what's coming so you'll likely be ill prepared. Therefore, you must memorize the tricky parts then try again and repeat until you master the stage. This might be appealing to some but I wish it relied more on your skills and strategic abilities as opposed to memorizing every wave and repeatedly playing a stage until you perfect it.
Finally, PixelJunk Monsters 2 has a lot of minor annoyances that frequently get in the way of the fun. For starters, the camera is too zoomed in and you can't zoom out to see the whole map. While playing cooperatively with a local chum, it forces you to stay somewhat close to your partner which can be counterproductive. Because of this, I decided to mostly play solo which is a bummer because PixelJunk Monsters was more enjoyable with 2 players. Another issue is that Tikiman (as well as coins and gems) can slip and slide down cliffs far too easily. He can jump but that doesn't always help. Accidentally falling into the water only to watch the poor chump struggle for a few seconds is incredibly irritating, especially when the monsters are advancing past your defenses with ease.
PixelJunk Monsters 2 is a decent follow-up to the classic tower defense game. It may take a few steps back but there's no denying that its fresh visuals and addictive gameplay make it worth checking out for long-time fans and real-time strategy enthusiasts.
- + Addictive classic tower defense gameplay
- + Superbly charming 3D visuals and adorable gentle soundtrack
- + Various challenges add value
- - Trial and error plays too much of a role
- - Camera issues and lots of other annoyances bring down the experience
- - The core game only has 15 stages