PixelJunk Monsters Encore Hands-On

Sony lets us try out the upcoming expansion pack for its addictive PlayStation Network strategy game.

PixelJunk Monsters is the surprisingly addictive strategy game from Q-Games released earlier this year for the PlayStation 3. The deceptively simple-looking downloadable title tasks you with keeping a small village safe from a diverse horde of critters who come at you in waves. You'll deal with the incoming threats by laying down assorted defensive structures that will hopefully take out the creatures before they get to the village. You'll earn money and jewels you can use to research new structures to build that will help defend against the increasingly challenging hordes. If you've played Desktop Tower Defense or games in that vein, PixelJunk Monsters should be a comfortable fit. In the wake of the game's success, Sony and Q-Games are prepping an expansion pack for the game, PixelJunk Monsters Encore, which adds a new island with more challenges and gameplay refinements. We had the chance to get our hands on the upcoming expansion and are pleased to report that it's looking pretty sharp.

The gameplay on Toki Island promises some refinements over its neighboring landmass .

The core of PixelJunk Monsters Encore is Toki Island, a new land mass next to the one seen in the original game, Tiki Island, which you see on the game's world map. There also appears to be a tinier land mass in between Toki and Tiki Island, but we'll touch on that in a bit. Toki Island is laid out in the same general structure as Tiki was, so you'll see a main path through the island with a few offshoots and branches along the way that represent the different levels and bonus areas. All told, you'll find 15 new levels that feature visual enhancements such as weather effects (we saw rain and snow) and, from what we've seen, more adventurous layouts. Two standout levels are a Space Invaders-style layout with the village on the bottom of the map and a Pac-Man-inspired map that sets your village in the middle.

The gameplay has also seen some subtle tweaks based on feedback and Q-Games' own desire to do some fine-tuning. The structures you'll have from the start of the game will now include the ice tower, which slows down enemies. However, our favorite tweak is the reduction of the research cost for the Tesla tower, which is now only 10 jewels. Our less favorite tweak--although, to be fair, it's more of a design thing--is that the special abilities you earned in the original game, such as the absolutely key ability to run, will have to be earned again. There also appears to be some kind of special bonus, tied to the smaller land mass we mentioned earlier, that you'll be able to access once you finish the game. While Sony reps were mum on the specifics, they did say that simply clearing the expansion pack was enough, which is good. As anyone who's tried to earn all the rainbows for clearing levels in the original game can tell you, clearing a level without losing one villager is a nail-biting, profanity-spewing kind of challenge.

As we mentioned earlier, the visuals in the game sport some new enhancements--but don't go in expecting any dramatic improvements. The subtle charm of the original game is enhanced with the addition of the new weather effects and little tweaks such as a new look for some trees. Your little tribal defender and his charges look the same, as do the various foes you'll encounter. The work-in-progress version of the game we tried still runs at a pretty smooth clip, even with the addition of the weather effects, although you'll still encounter the odd hitch every once in a while like in the original.

Tesla towers are more affordable than ever in Encore.

The in-game music for the game pack adds some much-appreciated variety to the mellow tunes you'll hear while playing, courtesy of five new tracks from Otograph. As with the visuals, you won't hear anything that departs too much from the formula used in the original game, but it fits in just fine.

Overall, we have to say we're pretty excited by how PixelJunk Monsters Encore is shaping up. The new content is fun and challenging, while the gameplay tweaks polish the action up just a bit, which is always good. If you were into the original, you'll definitely want to keep an eye out for the game when it's available on the PlayStation Network store toward the latter part of April (you'll need to already own the original game to get it). If you've never checked it out, you might want to consider having a look. Check back for more on PixelJunk Monsters Encore in the coming weeks.

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Discussion

35 comments
Elleve
Elleve

It's absolutely most fun in 2 player. I can only recommend to try it out if you haven't done so yet. (It also makes it a little easier since you can upgrade 2 towers at once or have one player upgrade and the other collect coins and gems and build new towers.

jasonmacrillo
jasonmacrillo

Can't wait for this!! Haven't touched the original since I got the last rainbow but I prob. spent more time on this than any other ps3 game.... except oblivion.. best value ever!!

lamplan
lamplan

I haven't played since I got that 20th rainbow... the stupid board with only 4 trees. This update/expansion will be great, can't wait.

HardCor1981
HardCor1981

My only problem with the first game is that it's soo dang hard. You have to get 7 rainbows (I think that means that you don't let any of your tribe get killed), but after countless wasted hours I've only got 5! I give up, I just can't unlock the next stage of the game....no need in wasting money on the expansion.

dstryr13
dstryr13

WOOOOOOO only thing that makes me sad is that me and my wife play this co-op and she is SUPER addicted to it and it takes away from my gaming time oh well this game is super fun and i like having my wife hangin with my playing a really good game

Rhen_Var
Rhen_Var

I'm a sucker for unique and simple graphics but a majority say the gameplay is pretty addictive I think it's worth having both

dragonman46534
dragonman46534

this is a really good game, but I really dont feel like having to restart to get my run ability again. Its not like it would be too hard, but I earned it already, I should beable to keep it, along with my c4 charges.. Taking the good things out of a game is what can break it.

tootergray34
tootergray34

you can youtube for most rainbows, but i like to try and do it myself...this game is so addictive.

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

while i'm here...we've gotten all rainbows except one level we can't beat. anyone here beat the medium level with only 4 trees? pm me and tell me how you did it. we get to the boss but can't kill him. he walks too far for cannons and flame throwers are too slow. what are we doing wrong?!

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

man...i LOVE this little game. best game i've downloaded so far (although i had a lot of fun with "Calling All Cars" and a few others from the PSN). my girlfriend and i play this all the time. i hope they keep doing expansions with more cool layouts. i just wish they would let you have the lightning and flamethrower tower from the beginning.

xanderenigma
xanderenigma

I love the first game and cant wait for this update!

central09
central09

it would be soooo sick if like eventually we had an entire planet to go around and choose from like 100+ different levels...i love this game! this game and slot car racing are the bomb!

travelsizedme
travelsizedme

promising to be the best casual game ever. still can't get rainbows on all the levels on the first installment, but still can't stop playing it. hope it doesn't lose it's strangely addictive properties.

lozvil
lozvil

can't wait... hard game but uuuuuuhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmm... yeah, very hard for me... lol....

superox12000
superox12000

I cannot wait for this to come out!!! I loved playin the original game and was hoping that an expansion would be made. Thank you so much for expanding on this simple but awesome game! Don't be afraid to start working on PixelJunk Monsters 2 :)

GTA5Addict
GTA5Addict

Great game, can't wait for the expansion. Hopefully that other island GameSpot is talking about will be the island for another expansion.

chibi-acer
chibi-acer

Sweeeeet! Pixel Junk Monsters is my favorite game on PSN right now.

Jrfanfreak88
Jrfanfreak88

I think for $9.99 this game has been the best value for the price. I find myself not only playing it more than my countless $60 games but it's also a much more enjoyable experience too. I can't wait for the expansion pack to hit, especially since I am almost finished with the original. Anyone that owns a PS3 needs to download it now!

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

Some crazy giant level in the middle island perhaps?

stikasasn
stikasasn

I love this game! It's so time consuming. Can be frustrating with a lot of trial and error but once you win it's awesome. I got my version from the Chinese PSN so i'm probably gunna have to get the add-on from them too. Maybe i'll wait and see if the US version works with it. if not then i'll just buy it again. IMO its worth it. lol

tlow0678
tlow0678

this game is soooooooooooooo fun but also the most frustrating game experience EVER! I'm looking forward to this! still haven't beaten the first one, though...............

haesuse
haesuse

damn right! now this is a good move. i cant wait to get my hands on this. Also yeah, they do need online co-op. I dont always have ppl around that want to play this....weird, i know, and i am so close to finishing the original that it would be nice to hook up with some pros online and get it done!

Lividrecca
Lividrecca

This game is sooooooo addictive! Played it co-op singleplayer with online ranking and was a really good experience. Great game! Must buy for sure.

ocdog45
ocdog45

this game is crack. might be my first downloadable game for the ps3.

SemiMaster
SemiMaster

I want this. Period. Hell, Pixel Junk monsters is my most played PS3 game.

shaunsdu
shaunsdu

This game is fantastic. My girlfriend and I play constantly, one of the best co-op games ever! I am PSYCHED for this expansion.

4quarters
4quarters

This is the most addicting game ever !!!! A must buy, co-op is better than single player, I actually got my wife hooked on it !!!!! Simple to play / HARD to master.....must get rainbows.....

Chaos_Bladez
Chaos_Bladez

This game is pretty good! I wish I could get it!