Defense Grid: You Monster
Sometimes a crossover feels right. Thatís how it is with Defense Grid: You Monster. Taking up a second narrator in Portal 2ís GLaDOS while also converting Valveís clean, minimalist aesthetic into the form of tower defense, itís all well handled in the tradition of pure, unadulterated fan service. Itís that rare kind of crossover project Ė one thatís sure to please fans of either property in equal measure.
GLaDOS keeps with the usual deadpan delivery, stricken with that ever familiar robotic cadence. Sheíll drop the typical scathing commentary in the right context Ė just when you think youíve gotten away with a simple tower upgrade, she pipes in: ďThat tower was structurally fine. Now it has a sun room and a den, though, so thatís niceĒ.
The writing isnít as dead-on as in Portal 2, sure, but a lot of this has to do with the genre itself. The typical Valve approach of context-driven dialogue and narrative doesnít transition as well into tower defense, as the interaction with the game world is almost predetermined. There are some slots on the floor and theyíre custom-fit turret embankments, but really thatís all there is to interact with, so the GLaDOS commentary gets old sooner than it should, if not only because thereís nothing else to add. But there are those moments where she bears into a rough critique of tower placement and why doesnít the player diversify their placement somewhat.
One of those great moments is in the second act, when the salty Defense Grid narrator and GLaDOS carry on some kind of back-and-forth dialogue and then take up pitting you in the center. It makes her inclusion feel readily natural, next to her grizzled male counterpart, and itís just an amusing thing in concept, as they roughly carry similar tones and a detached delivery style.
You Monster is a single-player expansion, set in the starkly accessible Portal universe. Everythingís clean to the point of feeling insidious and thereís a kind of aesthetic thatís carried over well enough. Itís filled out with eight maps of story content and thirty-five stipulation challenges for the more dedicated fans. This is still Defense Grid in every sense, unsurprisingly utilizing the strength of its tower defense formula as a backbone. The new areas are more than sufficient, providing everything from test chambers to Portal 2ís newfound outdoor segments. Itís a great universe by any definition and suits the bill as a uniquely adaptable one. Thereís something iconic and modern to it, satisfying to any sense of design.
The scenarios fall on a couple familiar notes. In one scenario, GLaDOS peels away the playerís go-to abilities, stressing that the player experiments with all the different tower types. And other segments are more limited. In another, GLaDOS controls all the turrets and then itís up to the player to define enemy paths by laying down command posts. Thereís something of value in Portalís willingness to eschew violence in favor of thoughtful design and in some instances, it seems like developer Hidden Path Entertainment were able to embrace some of the qualities that make Valve such a creative force in the industry.
There are roughly fifteen hours of content in all and after the first four or five spent pushing through the makeshift narrative, itís clear that the developer Ė whom Valveís taken under its wing to work on the Counter-Strike franchise Ė has a lot left to offer. And theyíre in good company.
Defense Grid: You Monster doesnít make any sweeping changes in any one place. The focus remains true to the straightforward and undeniably compelling mechanics. Once youíve gotten back on with all the tower types, it all comes flowing back. Defense Grid remains one of the most enjoyable tower defense games on any platform, trading off finesse where so many other developers incorporated cheap gimmicks.
Following on a year filled with grim first-person shooters, Valve stood out as the only developer doing it for the science. Theyíve got something special going and itís great to see these kinds of collaborations between a big name studio and an up-and-comer. This is the kind of project that benefits everyone involved and helps bring attention to one of the higher quality strategy ports on consoles. Defense Grid is that rare brand of tower defense good enough that it can afford to forgo gimmicks entirely but now itís got a fresh kind of novelty on top of all that refinement.
Thereís plenty of content and a certain charming novelty about You Monster that necessitates a download both for fans of Portal and Defense Grid. At an attractive 240 Microsoft Points, thereís really no good reason to skip this conjoined celebration of top of the line fan service and quality PC gaming culture.
Eight out of ten
- Amusing exchanges between GLaDOS and the Defense Grid narrator
- Good use of the Portal universe
- More tower defense goodness
- Clean esthetic
- Occasionally repetitive narration