It’s kind of difficult criticising an expansion pack not only priced at the criminally low price of £1.99, but one that also boasts enough hours of gameplay to effortlessly drift into the territory of double figures, and on top of that is the expansion to one of the best PSN games yet released. With fifteen new levels scattered across a new island, five new songs from the revered Otograph (creators of the original PixelJunk Monsters soundtrack), and four new trophy challenges Encore can pride itself, as its predecessor did, in being exceptional value for money. Especially when compared with some of the extortionately overpriced, equally unappealing titles over on Microsoft’s Live Arcade (Paperboy, Root Beer Trapper, all eyes on you.)
So disappointed is a more dignified approach to take with Encore. Not that anything has been altered. Monsters’ familiar take on Tower Defense returns in cloned style. Players control a strange dancing creature tasked with defending the inhabitants of a forest from continuing waves of monsters. Some fly, others sprint, some are tougher and can only be halted with more damaging towers. It’s down to the player to choose the right tower, opting to either immediately upgrade those already built or save to purchase the overpowering towers, sufficing with weaker defenses during the first waves. There’s still a huge element of trial and error, the levels even seem slightly more challenging than the corresponding difficulties in Monsters, but ultimately this is PixelJunk Monsters through and through.
Which is why Encore is as disappointing as it is inexpensive. The opportunity to add new towers, monsters, or abilities hasn’t been taken; Encore is only distinctive from Monsters in its new levels, though these all resemble similar scenarios from the main game. Tactics applied in Monsters are valid here and so come off somewhat tired and derivative quickly. Fire Tower, Laser Tower, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade.
Those hungering for more after the conclusion of Monsters aren’t going to be let down, and for £1.99 it would be wrong to sneer at the chance to play another fifteen levels of one of the best takes on the Tower Defense genre available. But whilst hacking down Encore’s proverbially stylized forests it’s difficult not to wish Q Games had taken the time to add something substantially new, even if it meant a higher asking price.