The original PixelJunk Monsters feels like the product of a very different time in gaming. A simple, almost Flash-esque tower defense game, it still went on to became one of the first digitally distributed success stories on Sony's (at the time) cutting edge PlayStation 3. Over five years later it came to PC, and while reasonably well received, it never made much of a splash.
Q-Games' PixelJunk Monsters 2 may be boilerplate tower defense at its heart, too, but a shifted perspective and some impressive leverage of modern graphics tech gives the just-announced sequel a fresh and undeniably adorable claymation-like look.
One thing that modern game graphics have brought us in recent years are some truly tactile looking materials. Glossy, glazed clay goods, rough dirt paths, fuzzy felt, craggy rocks and more, all defined so much by how light plays off their surfaces. By attempting to mimic stop-motion animation, tilt-shifted camera and all, the world of PixelJunk Monsters 2 looks solid in a way so few games do, with every character and monster looking like they're hand-made out of the same materials as their world.
Nothing about PixelJunk Monsters 2 is especially groundbreaking in terms of gameplay concepts, admittedly. There have been no shortage of tower defense games played from a single unit's perspective now, and even a few reversals of the genre such as the Anomaly series, but the game's art style goes a very long way to hold my interest. The addition of four-player co-op helps too, especially given the over-the-shoulder perspective.
PixelJunk Monsters 2 isn't too far off, and will be launching for multiple platforms (including ours) on May 25th, priced at $15. The game is being published by increasingly prolific-on-PC outfit Spike Chunsoft.