PixelJunk Monsters was an original tower defense game that was available on most of the platforms in the last generation. It was known for its charming art style, addictive gameplay elements and a challenging difficulty that required you to carefully plan for each level. The end goal in each level is that you have to save your village home from monsters that culminate with a boss fight. To prepare against their invasion, you will have to cut trees to build weapon towers along the route of the monster invasion.
It is your standard tower-defense formula with monsters coming in waves. The challenge was in identifying the locations where placing a weapon tower of a particular type will give the biggest advantage against the enemies. The fun was in the economic system that lets you find coins either by searching trees or by collecting the reward dropped by killed monsters. These coins are then used to build weapon towers where each tower requires a set amount of coins.
It was great to know that there is a sequel for PixelJunk Monsters in development, however, my excitement turned into a mild disappointment once I played the game. It was not due to the lack of improvements for the visuals, which are completely revamped now. It was more due to the lack of content and gameplay changes because even if we talk about new mechanics or gameplay elements, there are just not enough of them here to consider it a worthy sequel.
PixelJunk Monsters 2 reminds me of the jump from Plants vs. Zombies to its mobile sequel. There are improvements made here but there are just not enough of them. The biggest change is that the visuals are now in full 3D with two different camera views supported. You have the standard top-down camera angle that lets you have a wide view of each level so you can have a more clear idea of the situation, and third-person camera, which looks more like a novelty factor letting you see and roam the levels easily.
It is extremely cool at first to see the camera change in action. Pressing the trigger buttons will change the perspective easily. It is a quick change with no transition in-between and seeing it in the middle of a battle is exhilarating once your defense system comes into play and the monsters start getting killed left and right. It is also useful during exploration since it lets you find objects like a bitter fruit. This is used as a bomb if stepped upon so you can place it on the route of monsters. They are the new usable items and usually offer a good way to damage monsters that manage to escape your defense system.
A cool new addition this time is that the main Island acts as a hub where you can freely roam around. You can now customize your main character, Tikiman, from his face mask to his shells. These items are available as DLC but can also be unlocked by collecting them in the main game. The customization is fairly basic but it can result in some cool appearance for your Tikiman so that you are not stuck with the same look throughout the game.
My major nitpick is with the content offered in the game. It feels like parts of the game are cut and then sold as DLC which is a huge bummer. The game isn’t even out yet but there are at least 2 packs of DLC available that seem to add new levels to the game. In the main hub of PixelJunk Monsters 2, they are visible right in the start and the game makes it a point to tell you that you will need to buy them to reach this section of the Island.
Gameplay wise, another disappointment to me was how little has changed. It is nice to see that the developers have managed to keep the spirit of the original alive despite the transition to 3D but it hasn’t really resulted in new innovate gameplay elements. The variety of weapons is the same, the enemy and boss design is also maintained, while the upgrading system remains intact. There is the saying that if something is not broken then don’t fix it, and while I agree with it, some fresh gameplay ideas could have made it a lot more interesting as a sequel.
PixelJunk Monster 2 is sadly not a great port for the Nintendo Switch hardware. The frame rate in the top-down mode is rather clunky and it is not something that you can consider as stable frame rate. The load times are long so you will be waiting for a while as you make progress from one level to the next. The good news though is that the game doesn’t look that bad and the visuals and art style seems to scale nicely to the small screen of the Nintendo Switch.
The lack of content and variety offered in levels is disappointing but the replay value is solid. You can replay a level with the choice of multiple difficulty settings. New collectibles can also be found in each level including the Perfect Rainbow. You can get it if you save all the creatures in your home. The game now supports online multiplayer including co-op support offline for up to 4 players but the fun lies in its single player portion.
PixelJunk Monsters 2 Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: PixelJunk™ Monsters is back with the simple, yet highly strategic real-time tower defense gameplay gameplay of the original title, now with updated graphics and brand new multiplayer modes!
This is still a challenging tower defense game that has managed the transition to 3D rather well, but the developers have decided to stick with the original formula and the lack of gameplay innovations makes it a less exciting sequel.