PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate HD review for PS Vita

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Publisher: Double Eleven
Developer: Q-Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

I’ve heard some people refer to Pixeljunk Monsters as one of the best games of the past generation. I can’t remember where I heard it or who the source was, and it’s not a view that I share, but looking at both Metacritic and Game Rankings, it’s clear that quite a few people hold both the PS3 original and its (expanded and even more highly acclaimed) PSP port in very high esteem.

Such people should find plenty to like about PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate HD. After all, the game is pretty much the same as the one that graced the PSP in 2009. The only differences are cosmetic, with the Vita version featuring upgraded high definition visuals and trophy support. That’s not to minimize either of those things, of course; I fully understand the allure of trophies (as evidenced by my Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and Megamind platinums), and there’s no denying the game looks gorgeous on the Vita’s OLED screen.

PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD 2

But the fact this is just a straight-up port of the PSP version means two things. First and foremost, it means that the game is still not meant for anyone looking for a casual experience. Much like its PSP predecessor, Pixeljunk Monsters: Ultimate HD is hard, even on the very easiest levels at the easiest difficulty, and going far in it requires putting a heck of a lot of time into mastering each level. I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation between the fact I suck at Pixeljunk Monsters and the fact I don’t think the game is one of the best ever…but if I’m being honest, I’d say it’s pretty darn likely. In other words, if you’re not up for being challenged, this probably isn’t the best game for you — but if you do crave that, then this should be right up your alley.

The other problem (for lack of a better word) with this being pretty much the same game that appeared on the PSP four years ago is…well, just that. The Vita is capable of much, much more than the PSP, and exists is a very different gaming landscape. For example, there’s no use made of the Vita’s touchscreen, even as iOS games like The Creeps! and Kingdom Rush have shown that tower defense and touchscreen controls go together perfectly. Not only that, but those games also show that — and here are words I never thought I’d write — there can be a place for in-app purchases in some circumstances. I feel dirty even suggesting such a thing, and in most cases I abhor the thought of being able to pay your way through a game, but at the same time, looking at my extraordinarily slow progress through Pixeljunk Monsters I can’t say that I wouldn’t jump at the chance to make some levels go a little faster or have tower upgrades come a little easier.

PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD 1

Of course, I can understand why Q-Games might not have wanted to mess around too much with Pixeljunk Monsters. After all, when you’ve basically attained perfection — at least in some people’s eyes — there’s not much to be gained by going in and making huge changes. That’s hardly the sexiest sell (“Buy Pixeljunk Monsters on the Vita! It’s exactly the same as it was before, but prettier!”), but I suspect if you’re one of those people who thought the PSP and/or PS3 versions of the game were the greatest thing ever, that’s precisely what you were hoping to hear.

Grade: B+