Defense Grid: You Monster - Tower Defense Joy

12/07/2011 by Isaac Sher | Source: Threat or Menace
It’s a good sign when your first impressions from a press flyer excite squeals of delight.

As readers of this site have noticed, I have a thing about Tower Defense games. They are one of my favorite genres of games, and I am always on the hunt for new explorations of this gaming idea. But my very first TD game was Defense Grid: The Awakening, by Hidden Path Entertainment, purchased on a whim from a Steam holiday sale. I fell in love with that game, ranked it #1 in my Tower Defense overview article, and was fortunate enough to interview the development team not too long ago. In that interview, the devs talked about how they had some exciting DLC coming soon, and that they were very eager to see people’s responses.

That DLC is available for sale today, and having been fortunate enough to play it early (THANK you, Hidden Path!), I can firmly report that “Defense Grid: You Monster” is the finest, most interesting, and most expansive DLC yet for this game. Run, do not walk, to your computer, and order this immediately. Even if you’ve played Defense Grid but felt that you’d played it enough, and unlocked all the achievements you’d ever cared about, take my word for it that this expansion breathes some very welcome fresh air into the game. I think the best thing about this is the way that GLaDOS takes control of the scenario and throws you quite a few curve balls –

– wait, GLaDOS? I think I heard a few people hit the mental breaks. ”Wait, what does this have to do with PORTAL?”, I hear you ask. Heh. Yes indeed, this game is an official crossover with the Portal games from Valve. You see, when PORTAL 2 came out earlier this year, Defense Grid was able to take part in the fun, and had two new levels added that incorporated GLaDOS to the Defense Grid backstory. These were wonderful fun, so it would seem that Hidden Path decided to take that idea and run with it, resulting in this new “You Monster” expansion. And yes, that is Ellen McLain voicing the sadistic A.I. that gamers have grown to love.

Aside from having GLaDOS needle you with her sarcasm, darkly humorous wit, and outright psychological manipulation, she’s also changed how the game works. In these new levels, she takes a direct hand in the scenario, changing the rules, actively altering what towers are on the field, and stacking the deck against you with cruel glee. The result is that you are shaken out of any old habits you might have with this game; some towers just simply won’t be available at all times, and in one memorable level, you must build exactly one copy of each kind of tower before you’re allowed to build another of the same kind. There’s even a level where the Command Tower is giving a starring role, and given a status not unlike the beloved Companion Cube. After playing these new levels (and the new modes like Frozen Core, where it becomes critical to not let the enemies to get the cores at *all*), I found myself considering new strategies for the game overall, and finding new appreciation for towers I once largely ignored, like Tesla towers.

My only nitpick is that there needs to be a bit more variety in the vocal tracks from GLaDOS. A few stock phrases get repeated very frequently, and while this doesn’t in any way ruin the game, it is a minor concern.

I don’t want to give too much away, as there are some very fun and surprising moments to be found, but let me assure you that you’re in for a great treat.

If you’ve never played Defense Grid before, I heartily encourage you to pick it up now, but for all that is holy, do NOT jump right into the You Monster expansion first thing — these new levels are *hard*, and meant to challenge returning players, not teach the game to newcomers. That being said, I think the promise of more GLaDOS is a good way to bring in new players, so if you are new to the game, play the first ten or so levels of the main campaign to get the hang of things, and then switch over to the You Monster levels once you feel ready.

For only $4.99 or 400 Microsoft points on Steam or Xbox LIVE Arcade, this expansion pack is worth every penny, a wonderfully fun Threat To Your Wallet. If you need the original game, that’s only $9.99, and unquestionably one of the best bangs for your buck you will ever find. This game is awesome, the expansion is awesome, and anything with more GLaDOS in it is awesome! Go forth and download! FOR SCIENCE!