Review: Lights, Camera, Party!

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Closing out the remainder of what has already been a jam-packed summer of digital download game promotions, indie Canadian developer Frima Studio kicks off its five-games-in-as-many-weeks “Frimarathon” with a PlayStation Move micro-game blowout.

I know what you’re probably thinking: do we really need another motion control mini-game collection? Probably not, but when they’re as silly and as fun as Lights, Camera, Party!, particularly when many of the Move’s other, similar titles haven’t been all that special, I say pop the champagne—nonalcoholic of course—and let the party begin.

Lights, Camera, Party! succeeds largely due to its absurd premise which sets an ideal stage for a family game night bash. APE TV owner and host, Gus Pacho’s plan to launch a new broadcast satellite into orbit goes awry, and as a result a rocket ship ends up crashing through the poor Funzini family’s home. Turning lemons into lemonade, Gus and his primate production crew use the catastrophe to start a new reality game show, with the Funzinis brought on to be the first contestants. Guess what the grand prize is: Yep, a new dream house!

Much wackiness ensues in a story mode that sees two to four players party it up as their favorite Funzini – Mama, Papa, Granny, or the siblings, Bella and Billy—each with his or her own vision of what their new dream home should be. Papa wants a house that looks like a candy shop, Mama wants a posh pad to call home, brother and sister would love to live in a cowboy sheriff’s office or toy house, respectively, and of course little ol’ Granny would beat down her own grandkids to have the family dwelling remodeled into a casino.

As players complete mini-games over five themed rounds (cooking show, alien invasion, Wild West, etc.), the winner of each round has a section of the house modeled after his or her dream, which leads to some crazy combinations once the mini-games have ended and the house is complete. It’s an extra form of payoff that leaves the family with one more thing to giggle at before shutting the game off until next time.

Lighthearted humor permeates every layer of the Lights, Camera, Party! experience, with likeably dopey characters, a whimsical art style and game show presentation (this Unreal Engine game certainly is not lacking in color or artistic identity), whining monkeys galore, and mini-games that are often as outlandish as they are quick and easy to pick up and play. Whether you’re shooting pigeons to prevent them from dropping poop bombs on a statue, bowling for monkeys with a puff-ball cat, pumping grape juice into frogs until they pop or tossing boiled octopus tentacles against the kitchen wall like a perfectly cooked al dente noodle, the game entertains with a goofball attitude that’s hard to play without chuckling with a smile on your face.

By and large, the motion control implementation is solid as well and also clearly explained via easily understandable diagrams shown before each event begins. A few of the mini-games feel a bit awkward – I still have trouble consistently getting the shovel bat to swing accurately in the frog homerun derby and there’s another game that has you putting different colored/shaped blocks into sockets on a robot that requires some unnatural finagling—but I really like how diverse the various activities are in mechanical design. There’s plenty of the usual light gun-style shooting gallery stuff as well as the obligatory whack-a-mole clone (this one with cats and monkeys!), but the majority have you using the controller in far more interesting ways, such as rotating the Move horizontally to spin a roasting chicken over a rotisserie spit, yanking poker chips away from other players with a hooked cane when no one’s looking, holding the controller to your face and swaying side-to-side to dodge incoming pies, and watching as the Move’s glowing orb changes color and tapping a button to match with colored sequences on the screen to put on a fireworks show.

50 games are included in total, which is a sizable number yet also somewhat slight in stature, depending on the mode you’re playing. Within the context of the single-player challenge mode which allows you to play individual mini-games for medals (bronze, silver, gold) under harder completion goals, 50 different events is more than enough. However, when going through the story mode with a full four players or taking turns in any of the three party play modes (survive being sucked into a black hole, hot potato with an alien egg, and lottery ticket collection) with up to eight players, repeats begin to happen fairly quickly. Because of this, you’re probably not going to be compelled to play more than one complete match in a single sitting. Luckily, the games are of the 10-15 seconds or less variety, so you’re never given enough time to get sick of any one event.

One other small criticism is with the overall balance of the mini-games. Some of the challenges are more demanding than others, so when playing with a group of people the results can skew when one player gets to pile up easy points by simply having to scream into the PlayStation Eye microphone to raise a decibel meter while the next player is given the far more fallible task of guiding a cow through a maze of electrified fences. This can add to the unpredictable fun of the party game dynamic, but sometimes it just seems outright unfair.

If you own a PlayStation Move or any other console motion control system, you’ve likely played other games just like this before. In terms of gameplay, Lights, Camera, Party! doesn’t do anything with motion control that hasn’t been done already, but what it does do better than most is give the routinely mocked genre a much-needed injection of personality and memorability. If you’re at all worried about getting burned by another mini-game collection, be cautious and try the demo version, as the game is $30 at full price (PlayStation Plus members can get it 50% off for a limited time). But between the three modes, various stat-tracking menus, hundreds of in-game achievements (on top of a dozen trophies), and the high production values, this game is closer in size to a boxed Blu-ray retail offering than the average PSN title. Anyone in need of a new party game romp should find Lights, Camera, Party! to be a worthy addition to their family night party bag.

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Pros:
+ Silly storyline sets the stage for family game night fun
+ Well realized characters, art design, and game show presentation
+ Goofball mini-games show off the Move’s diverse input capabilities well

Cons:
- Mini-games start to repeat during the first Story Mode run
- Certain mini-games are much more difficult than others, sometimes unfairly skewing party play results

Game Info:
Platform: PlayStation Move via PSN
Publisher: Frima Studio
Developer: Frima Studio
Release Date: 8/28/2012
Genre: Party
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-8 (local only)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is a 28 year old from-the-womb gamer turned video game reviewer/blogger and current editor/owner/operator of VGBlogger.com. Matt got his first taste of gaming as a youngster on the NES and Atari, and the rest is history from there. In 2004, three years removed from high school and still looking for a career direction in life, Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com, and after a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez Matt turned his attention to VGBlogger, and to this day is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary.