12 | The PixelJunk series
It seems that PixelJunk games all follow a simple trinity: memorable artwork, entrancing music, and simple gameplay. We're cheating here by including three PixelJunk games in one spot, but we couldn't agree on which one was most worthy.
PixelJunk Eden is all about growth and gravity. Each level in this game is a literal garden, with stalks, leaves, and stems sprouting from odd angles all over the screen. All you control in these gardens is the "Grimp," a little avatar that can use a single line of webbing to swing, grip, and jump through each level. While you may be tempted to just mess with the physics, there is a task at hand. Within a time limit, you must collect a "Spectra" by influencing the growth of the garden, which can be done by gathering and releasing clumps of pollen into the air. Do this enough and plenty of seeds will sprout into plants that will allow your Grimp to reach its targets.
PixelJunk Eden's surprisingly challenging, and offers a lot for $10. You'll want to go back though gardens, trying to beat your best score and compete with the best of the leaderboards. Like its other PixelJunk brethren, there's also an "Encore" package of Eden available if you manage to blast through this masterpiece in record time.
PixelJunk Monsters - another quirky offering from developer Q-Games - is tower defense at its best. As the title indicates, the main goal involves protecting your home base from every type of monster the game can throw at you: bats, giants, spiders and whatnot. Thankfully, every level in the game is a fortress in the making, as you can turn the natural scenery itself into a weapon. Provided you have the resources, it's a simple matter of turning an ordinary tree into a cannon ball-launching defense tower with the press of a button.
Most of the meat in PixelJunk Monsters is found around the different types of defenses you can unlock, and there are quite a lot of them -- arrow turrets, fire-spewing towers, and even Tesla coil-style armaments. Customizing your ideal defensive formation is a satisfying experience to say the least, and it's got that trademark PixelJunk atmosphere to tie everything together. It may borrow from several other games just like it, but this one's got enough charm to stand above the best PSN games around.
And even if you've already played the original PixelJunk Monsters to death, there's the Encore expansion, which adds another 15 levels, as well as the "Deluxe" PSP version, which includes every single feature from the previous game, plus a little extra content exclusive to the handheld system.
A lot of shooters are content to just throw wave after wave of enemies at you until you die, so it's no surprise that the genre is overloaded with too many titles that look and play alike. It's an understatement to say that PixelJunk Shooter is not one of those games. In fact, it's so wildly inventive, it's more puzzle game than shooter.
Set in the far future where mankind has taken to the stars to collect living resources, PixelJunk Shooter kicks off with one heck of a crisis. On planet Apoxus Prime, a crew of scientists face imminent death from a combination of dangerous environments and pissed off natives. Luckily, the crew of the Ers Piñita Colada and their tiny scout ships are here to save the day. It's not just about shooting holes through the planet and rescuing the hapless scientists, either -- the real star of PixelJunk Shooter is the level design. Numerous areas can be uncovered with the right mix of elements: lava can melt a path through ice, water rushes everywhere to fill empty gaps, and black ooze can be magnetized out of harm's way.
Aside from deducing the best ways to save the scientists and protect your ship, PixelJunk Shooter also achieves the right mix of catchy music, animation, and addictive gameplay -- and the overall package is worth the price of admission.