My column in Friday’s newspaper is a review of Sony’s new motion controller, the PlayStation Move, plus short writeups of four Move launch titles. I’ll be doing things a bit differently on the blog. I’ve already written longer posts on the Move hardware and on “Sports Champions,” the Move’s best launch title. Here, I review “Start the Party!” a collection of family friendly-minigames.
Reviews of “EyePet” and “KungFu Riders” will follow early next week.
If “Sports Champions” is the Move’s “Wii Sports,” “Start the Party!” (rated E, $40) is its “Mario Party.” It’s a competition in which players take part in a bunch of goofy minigames such as squishing insects or brushing a crocodile’s teeth, with higher scores awarded for better performance.
There are a couple dozen minigames, the best of which requires players to use a fan to blow falling baby chicks into nests, with unexpectedly comic results when a chick hits the fan blades. Though the zany presentation and roster of activities would likely start to wear on older gamers’ patience after a couple of sessions, “Start the Party!” is clearly aimed at families with preteen kids.
“Start the Party!” features both solo and group modes, but because it’s best as a social game, you’ll be spending most of your time in Party mode. Upon starting a game, selecting difficulty levels for each player and choosing five, eight or 10 rounds, each player will be asked to snap a photo with the Eye camera and record a greeting with its microphone. In a fun twist made possible by the camera, your photo will appear on the front of your little game icon, while your recorded clip will introduce you each time your turn comes up.
That’s right, this game has turns. Though lots of party games these days let players compete side-by-side, “Start the Party!” is a turn-based affair. Some critics have dinged the game for this, but the turns are so short that trading off isn’t much of a hassle, and it’s great that a family of four can play without having to shell out $150 for three extra Move controllers. In a perfect world, you’d be able to choose between side-by-side play and taking turns, but you’ll have to wait for another game to deliver that feature.
Each round, you’ll earn stars based on your performance, and the overall leader when it all ends is declared the winner.
A lot of the rounds will be straightforward minigames, such as controlling a helicopter and using it to rescue little people from rooftops before they’re eaten by a sock puppet dinosaur. But “Start the Party!” tries to mix it up a bit by including “quick-fire rounds,” in which you compete in a whole mess of minigames, switching back and forth among them at a rapid clip. In the “robber round,” players get a chance to steal stars from the player of their choice, helping to level the playing field in a game where one individual is dominating.
That said, there isn’t a ton of depth. This is clearly a family party game and will get the most mileage among younger kids who don’t mind playing the same couple dozen minigames again and again. If you’re looking for something to play with a group of adults, “Start the Party!” would be fun for an evening, and it earns points for having a cute visual style, but that’s about it. Rent it.
For the solo gamer, there’s a free play mode that lets you practice several of the minigames. A “survival” mode has you alternating between a bunch of different games and trying to keep a meter from running out while earning bonus time for good performances. Again, these are fun to mess around with a few times to unlock all the PlayStation trophies, but the lasting appeal is in party mode and party mix mode, essentially a customizable version of the standard game.