PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD

Tower defence games have had their day, but there was a time when you couldn't go five minutes without a new entry in the genre being released on a web portal, mobile platform, or handheld device.

PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD is, as you might have guessed, attempting to be the ultimate edition of one of the best received tower defence games.

Though it will feel familiar to anyone who has dabbled with tower defence games before, this is an excellent game - as long as you don't mind a challenge.

Village people

You control a little tribal mask-looking chap, and it's up to you to save some defenceless little villagers who are cowering in their hut.

Steadily approaching you are waves of baddies, and every time one of them reaches your hut a villager dies. Run out of villagers and it's Game Over.

To stop this from happening you'll need to guide your hero over to the various trees that line the pathway, and replace these trees with defensive towers.

Cannons, crossbows, mortars, machine guns, and many more turret types are on offer, all suited to certain types of enemy.

Take the mortar, for instance: it deals heavy splash damage to ground units, but it's slow to fire and the projectile takes a fairly long time to reach its target. This means that while it may be good against slow-moving enemies that move in groups it's useless against flying types, and pretty poor against fast-moving creatures.

As you survive the onslaught of opponents you'll gradually collect money and Gems from fallen foes, allowing you to improve your defences.

You build more towers, strategically placing them in positions that they'll be able to target the maximum number of foes, and you can upgrade existing ones by simply standing next to them for a set amount of time with your avatar, or spending Gems.

Far from casual

This upgrade aspect provides a great deal of tension in the game, as Gems are also used to unlock new types of towers. Do you upgrade your towers and hope your standard repertoire of defences can handle what's about to come, or do you play more frugally so that later in each mission you can access the really good stuff?

Unfortunately, the difficulty of the game is so high that the opportunities to see different tower types can be quite rare.

Even on the lowest setting of Casual, PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD is incredibly tough, and I found that frantically upgrading my towers was the only way to make significant progress. It's almost off-puttingly hard.

Thankfully, there's nothing mechanical about the game that lets it down. The traditional controls using the analogue sticks and face buttons are responsive and easily committed to memory. Though the touchscreen is on hand to provide an alternative, I found this method a little cumbersome.

There's a comprehensive multiplayer suite, so you can play the same game but with friends, either online or locally.

The 2D presentation is cute but unsophisticated, though the design of towers and creatures is distinctive and the graphics are clear enough that you can always make out the creatures easily. The audio is a soundscape of nostalgia-fused bleeps that simultaneously feels thoroughly modern and ethereal.

The game's brutal difficulty will dissuade some, and the genre still feels exhausted, but this is an excellent, generously stuffed encapsulation of everything that's good about tower defence games.

PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD

The only tower defence game on Vita you'll likely ever need, PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD is stuffed with content, and is a gigantic challenge
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.