Strategy & Simulation
PixelJunk Monsters — $10
Q-Games doesn’t like to be pigeonholed… ever. The developer’s PixelJunk lineup features a hodgepodge of game genres, from racers and platformers to the strategy-evoking PixelJunk Monsters. The latter is essentially a tower-defense title, akin to Fieldrunners and Kingdom Rush, sporting challenging gameplay and hand-drawn, 2D artwork. The gameplay mechanics are very much in line with similar titles, requiring you to construct a series of specialized and upgradeable towers to fend off waves of approaching enemies, but it’s the simplistic formula that gives the RTS-tinged title its casual and hardcore appeal. The broad swath of enemies and towers is balanced and well-executed, along with the coupled cooperative mode, and the accompanying music is catchy without becoming overly kitschy as you defend your way through each of the game’s 20 diverse stages. And although it won’t hold your hand, the difficulty curve is gradual enough for even the most incompetent of players — not that we’re saying your incompetent. That would be rude.
Worms 2: Armageddon — $15
It feels strange to call Worms 2: Armageddon timeless, but it’s nearly impossible not to. The turn-based strategy titles places the player in control of a team of cartoonish worms, each armed with an expansive arsenal of new and returning weapons with which they must eradicate the opposing team. Like a greatest hits collection, Worms 2: Armageddon culls the best elements from each of the franchise’s offerings, from the PC titles to the PSP renditions thereof, and places them alongside a slew of new, customizable game modes. Although a humorous tone still swirls around the animations and general ambiance, the visuals and audio have undergone a welcome overhaul, becoming far more buffed and varied than they ever were before. New unlockables, such as those purchasable through the in-game store, also provide incentive to play the game’s 30-level campaign. However, I doubt many players will prefer playing the campaign when you can just as easily spend your time tossing Holy Hand Grenades at your friends online.
Many people consider Magic to be the stuff of nerds — and maybe it is — but there’s no denying how enjoyable Magic 2013 can be if you relish all things fantasy-related and don’t mind spending a little time fumbling through the games eight customizable decks, each touting 17 unlockable cards. Depending on the format, the grounding premise for the game pits up to three players against each other as they attempt to drain one another’s health points using a score of beautifully-illustrated cards featuring a connonade of monsters, artifacts and spells. Aside from a few minor gameplay mechanics and the additional expansion components, the latest rendition of the title isn’t a far flung departure from its predecessors, offering improvements, and unlockables that are more so welcoming refinements than new content in the traditional sense. It’s a game of unrelenting strategy at its core, bolstered by online leaderboards for tracking single-player and co-cop scores, and one that makes Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon seem like child’s play.
Plants vs. Zombies — $10.50
With Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare lurking around the corner, there’s no better time to revisit PopCap’s standout introduction to the series. For those of you who somehow missed the boat, the title is a spin on the classic tower-defense genre, one utilizing a cornucopia of tactically-placed peashooters and cabbage-pults in lieu of your traditional, spell-casting defense system. As with any game in the series, players must continually defend their home from diverse horde of undead zombies mercilessly prowling across their lawn, pool and roof. The graphics and sound are not top-notch, though they do exhibit PopCap’s signature and highly-adorable amiableness, offering a humorous look at what could be an otherwise terrible situation. The PS3 rendition of the game features more than 50 single-player levels, five game modes, 21 minigames and a wealth of unlockable content should you decide to adhere to Crazy Dave’s ludicrous pricing. Pssh. Five bags of fertilizer should not cost $2,500.
Mushroom Wars — $10
Not all RTS games are centered around tanks, aliens, and orcs. The whimsical and aptly titled Mushroom Wars is a game focused on colorful, warring mushroom tribes as they battle one another amid a series of small, yet fluid, environments. The gameplay mechanics are simple and straightforward, whether haphazardly sending troops to capture an opponents tower or merely upgrading one of your own, yet there’s a surprising amount of strategic depth considering how limited your commands are. The initial, 28-mission campaign is short and challenging regardless of the difficulty setting, and further aided by pleasant music and lighthearted troop sound effects. Keep in mind commands cannot be adjusted once given, and although there is no coupled map editor available, the bundled Skirmish levels allows you to engage in single battles against up to against three AI simultaneously in Conquest, Domination or King of the Hill game modes. It’s easily to pick up and difficult to put down — and sometimes that’s all you need.
What do you think of our picks for the best PSN games? There are sure to be standouts skirting beneath our radar, so which are some of your favorites and why? Let us know in the comments below.