Review: Start the Party! Save the World

StartThePartySaveTheWorld

When the PlayStation Move was first announced, plenty of comparisons were held against the glowing gaming accessory dismissing it as a “too late” Wii motion controller knockoff.  Along with those comparisons were many concerns that shovelware mini-game collections based around waggle controls would flood the PlayStation 3 library.  While some of those concerns and comparisons could be deemed valid, Sony and a good number of developers have demonstrated that the accuracy and additional uses of the Move (beyond simple waggle controls) go well beyond a copycat device.

Of course, some mini-game collections have still managed to find their way onto the PlayStation 3 console. The first Start The Party! (one of the launch titles for the Move) was a collection of mini-games that was met with mixed popularity.  Some gamer friends of mine and their kids enjoyed Start the Party!, but it was not particularly well received by gaming enthusiasts.  I honestly only played the demo of the first game without my kids around and found the trial run to be more than enough to satisfy my curiosity. Now the sequel, Start The Party! Save the World, is out as a PSN-only digital download and continues the mini-game madness with a theme centered around saving people from the clutches of an evil bad guy robot thing.

That may be a little cruel on my part, but since the game is a collection of short mini-games, the person behind the chaos and mayhem that I was trying to either avoid or defeat was never really introduced in any meaningful way.  When the game loads up a menu option prompts the player to either choose group play or solo play.  From either of those options there is a more traditional mini-game party or a quickfire selection.  Initially playing solo, I mistakenly chose the quickfire Survival option and was very quickly defeated and kicked back to the main menu.  Apparently the Survival option should’ve been selected after I had played through the mini-games in the Free Play mode so that I’d know what I was expected to do during the incredibly short bursts of multiple game types that are presented during Survivor mode.

So I went back into Free Play mode to find 20 different mini-games to choose from.  Each game gives a quick explanation of what should be done before the timer starts counting down for each mini-game round.  Unfortunately, a written explanation doesn’t always help with what should be physically done with the Move controller.  Several mini-games repeat the types of motions or buttons used to “save” divers underwater or spacemen floating around in space so in essence the game is very repetitive with little replay value.  New scenery doesn’t necessarily make for a better game.  Some mini-games had me pluck fish from under water and bring them to a boat floating at the top of the screen.  Other games had me drawing circles around little alien space ships or drawing lines of fire to scare off lightning bugs. Several games changed things up by having me fire lasers at space ships or shoot guns from a moving car or swing a mallet at teddy bears attacking a moving train.  While each game is cute in its own brief way, playing these (or the variations thereof) over and over again is not exactly a fun experience for an adult gamer.

Of course, I wanted to get my kids opinion on the game, since clearly it is geared more for the younger crowd.  While my son was initially excited to play the game, after about four rounds of Party Mode, he made it clear that he was bored and wanted nothing more to do with the game.  The best part of the game for my son was during hero creation, where players get the opportunity to record a name for their character, to which my son would blurt out things like, “Dad pees his pants,” or some other similarly 11-year-old quip intended to insult his father.  The game then replays the recorded name each time it is that player’s turn so my son found almost more enjoyment with the names that were repeated than actually playing the game.

My 9-year-old daughter was a bit different of opinion with the title.  She was very interested in how the game was supposed to work, but quickly got frustrated by how inaccurate the game responded to her movements with the Move controller.  I’m not sure if her frustration was due to how the PlayStation Eye camera was positioned or if the game’s expected window of where the Move’s glowing orb should be just never found the sweet spot to allow for a carefree game.  My daughter even commented that during Party play, the players who went second or third would always have an advantage because they would be able to see how NOT to play the game when the first player was unable to complete the task.  While I would agree that the players going later in each round would have a better idea of what was meant to be done, that still doesn’t mean that actually pulling off the intended moves gets any easier.

My biggest complaint about the game is in how different many of the mini-games use the Move and its level of accuracy.  Several challenges are easily played while sitting, yet others almost required a full six or seven feet of space, which led to a constant cycle of moving back and forth within the camera’s view in order to even halfway successfully complete the challenges.  Because the Move is so accurate, the game expects the controller to be in certain sections of physical space to register correctly on screen, but at the same time that expected physical space switches so rapidly at times that the game almost trips up on its own feet (or at least myself and my kids) as bombs drop down on unsuspecting civilians.

Another complaint I have is with the mini-game type that acts as if the Move is an arm on a clock face. When an enemy space ship appears on screen the Move’s glowing sphere needs to be rotated in the direction of the ship (say 3 o’clock).  The problem then comes when the next ship enters the screen at 8 o’clock and the Move has to be rotated counterclockwise to point the virtual laser gun on screen correctly to defeat the enemy.  To compound the problem, the next enemy ship may appear at 4 o’clock and rotating either clockwise back or further counter clockwise genuinely put a strain on my wrist.  Trying to shoot as many enemy ships as possible during the brief round can cause frustration and fatigue, and by the time my kids became disinterested in playing any further, I found I was glad to put the Move controller down just to rest my arms.

However, in very short bursts the game can be fun and the Party Mode has a great ranking system.  As each round is completed, the player who achieved the most points earns 5 overall points, second place earns 3, third place earns 2, and last place earns 1 point.  As each new round is completed, if an entirely different set of players is in first, second, third and forth place, the overall standings can be dramatic and give all players a chance at being the top dog by the end of the game.  Another positive that can be granted the game is that trophies are practically handed out just for playing each game type so for true diehard trophy hunters, this game could be an easy platinum.

As a game that can be enjoyed by the entire family, Start The Party! Save the World is not a bad choice. That being said, the game is not great either.  Obviously the developers put a lot of time into creating so many mini-games, but the presentation and overall experience left me and my kids slightly disappointed.  A demo is available that I would certainly recommend downloading, but the game is not in the same league of family fun as other Move titles like Carnival Island and Sports Champions and is a tough sell at $29.99.

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Pros:
+ Lots of mini-games
+ Family-focused fun in short bursts

Cons:
– In-game instructions aren’t always as helpful as they could be
– Mini-games are repetitive and tiring
– Move controls aren’t as accurate as in other games

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN (requires PlayStation Move)
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Supermassive Games
Release Date: 3/6/2012
Genre: Party
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-4 (offline only)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.