PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe Preview: Marital Bliss

I'm not writing the following preview for Kotaku readers. I'm writing it for my wife, who loves PixelJunk Monsters and has demanded more information.

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is the first PSP release in the well-reviewed, artsy-retro PixelJunk series that has been a delight for PS3 owners (and for a certain someone I live with).

Announced last year, Monsters for PSP has been a long time coming. Some of us have wondered what possibly could be taking so long — what could be in this PSP version to make such a wait worth it?

What Is It?
PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is a Q Games production slated for fall release that remixes and substantially adds to both the tower defense original, PixelJunk Monsters, and its expansion, Encore, that were released in 2008. The gamplay is simple. Enemies march toward your base in waves. You build money to build towers to kill them before they reach the base. Killing more enemies nets more money for more towers. Enemies and tower types vary, which is what makes the game a strategic puzzle. The new game adds a new map of levels called Gati Gati Island, introduces some new towers, new enemies, includes all the levels from the original game and Encore and even puts the new enemies and towers into the old maps. Plus, it has local and online co-op gameplay.

What We Saw
Very quickly upstairs at Sony's E3 booth, I got my hands on a PSP that was running Monsters Deluxe and took on a few waves of monsters. I was unable to use any of the new towers, sadly.

How Far Along Is It?
Long in development, Monsters Deluxe is well on its way to its fall release. The level I had running seemed to be feature-complete.

What Needs Improvement?
The View: The PSP screen just isn't big enough, it seems, to render a full PixelJunk Monsters map without scrolling. This could be a problem. The game camera has to pan a little, which means that there may be monsters crawling on parts of the screen you can't see. One way around that is to hold down a shoulder button, which zooms out into a full-screen view. But I'm already sure that I'm going to have to blame my inability to see all the monsters on the screen as the reason I fail a level or two. A Sony producer told me that the game will have some smart camera-scrolling that will help shift the player's view to important things happening on the screen. Seems like a trouble spot.

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe Preview: Marital Bliss

What Should Stay The Same?
The New Towers: I think they're going to be good. I'm guessing. I mean, the new towers seem like they'll be great, but I didn't get a chance to try them yet. A pair of Trap Towers can be placed on opposite sides of the pathway and will connect themselves with an energy field that hurts anything that walks or flies through it. Seems good, though the Sony rep couldn't tell me if I could put down a third one and create a triangle of traps. That'd be cool. Another new tower, the Gem Tower, emits upgrade energy to other towers on the map — just as dancing on towers normally would — but it can't be sold or destroyed once its energy is depleted.

The Chat System: Playing co-op Monsters requires a lot of communication. It sure does in my household, when one of us is not dancing on the right tower or didn't do his or her job right by building arrow towers instead of cannons. For online, assumedly because voice-chat is a no-go, players will be able to trigger symbol-based speech balloons that should short-hand most of the strategy needs of a good co-op effort.

Balloons: Nothing thrills the PixelJunk Monsters obsessives than a little thing like the sight of balloons being added to enemies that always kept to the ground in the preceding Monsters games. Now they fly? Time for a new strategy. Tweaks like that will ensure that the content already experienced by those of us who played lots of Monsters and Encore won't feel like our time is going to be wasted playing those installments' levels all over again on the PSP.

Final Thoughts
Handheld games are often reduced versions of their console counterparts. PixelJunk Monsters has everything its downloadable predecessors did and then some. I know at least one person who will be happy about that.