Co-op Experience of PixelJunk Monsters

Posted on December 20, 2013 by richardgoulter
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Years ago I played PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe on the PSP.
So I thought it was awesome when I saw PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate released on Steam for Windows and Linux. (And Mac, but I don’t own a Mac. And I was largely using Linux at the time the game was released on Steam).

PixelJunk Monsters (Let’s just call it “Monsters”?) is a tower-defense game.
I like it; and I’m not really a tower-defense kindof guy.
Enemies come in waves, each wave the same type, but the waves in a level will be of different types. Enemies will follow a determined path, always the same each time the level is played.
There are similarly various kinds of towers, which can be placed only on the “trees” in the level.
etc. etc.
It’s a nice and simple, fun game to play.

Since it’s so deterministic, (or at least, everything behaves the same all the time), some of the more challenging levels can be beaten with the trial-and-error technique. (Which is a bit less fun when the levels aren’t too-short to play..; but it makes a victory all the more fun).

But I didn’t ever know anyone who I could play the game with when I played it on the PSP.
So I only just got the chance to play the game in co-op recently.

Perhaps it’s not the fairest instance of what the co-op experience is like for the game: we played the levels I knew relatively well, and my partner had never played (the game) before.
Which meant that, much of the time, I was the one who was placing the towers in the right places, and snatching all the gold. :-)
(Although, I’m not sure if playing a level where two people know how to beat the level makes all that much sense).

…Because everything is so determined; while it does mean it’s “easy” to position towers strongly if you know the paths the enemies take, it also means that it’s possible to place a Tower where it will have minimal or no range on the enemy waves, which makes it rather useless. (A tower, once placed, can be re-sold; but only for a part of the initial price. Perhaps if it could be sold at full-cost, then this side-effect of design determinism wouldn’t be so bad).
And so that’s kindof unfortunate when you have the guy who hasn’t seen the level before placing what you know is a bad tower.

The coin purse is also split; so each player gets only the coins they pick up. They don’t share.
In co-op games, I suppose that makes enough sense.. but in Monsters it felt rather restrictive.
The whole co-op experience with Monsters felt like it was rather tacked-on to the single player gameplay of Monsters. It’s still fun because of that, but I wonder if the co-op couldn’t have been more fun?

Orcs Must Die 2 (or, more/less Orcs Must Die with co-op) is a fantastic example of co-op gameplay.
(Magicka is, as far as I’m aware, what has to be the best multiplayer “co-op” game around.. but it’s not just for two players like OMD2 and Monsters are, so doesn’t quite compare).
Playing OMD2 levels in single player, one tends to notice how “designed for two players” it feels. But I never played the original OMD before playing OMD2, so I’m not sure if that’s more to emphasize trap placement strategy or not. It could be.
(It’s still quite fun in single player; just not as good as co-op).

In OMD2 each player has “their” coin, come to think of it; - but there’s no way to steal (“collect”) the coin which your teammate earns.
Perhaps that’s why Monsters feels a bit unfair like that.
But another thing which made OMD2 feel nicely co-op was that, while you can choose up-to 9 weapons/traps/etc. for a loadout in single-player, you can only pick 5 for yourself in co-op. (And your partner can pick 5).
- This adds the dynamic that you want to have a loadout which is in harmony which the loadout your partner has, even if traps are slightly less important than they are in single player (since there’s someone else to cover other angles).

At least, even if the loadouts aren’t necessarily complementary, there’s still an important and distinct role that each player can play. (“You take left, I take right..”).
Monsters didn’t feel like that; but maybe on the harder levels it might get to that point, I’m not sure. Somehow “two of the same” just doesn’t feel as fun?

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