Review: Start the Party (PS3)

Title: Start the Party
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Supermassive Games
Price: $29.99
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible

I’m gonna be brutally honest with you, mini-games and the PlayStation 3 simply do not belong together.  Unlike chocolate and peanut butter they are not a match made in heaven.  I’m confident the PlayStation 3 is capable of handling the stress and demands of “the mini-game” it just, well… seems unnatural.  Like the Platypus, something about it just doesn’t seem right.  More importantly, when gamers think of mini-games they almost immediately and exclusively think of the Nintendo Wii.  And there’s a reason for that; because that makes sense.

With that said, I decided to dive head first into this mini-game madness and provide you with the best possible review that I can.  Ok, that’s not entirely true.  I threw my 3 kids (ages 5, 6 and 11) head first into this mini-game madness while I reaped the benefits of an abundance of Trophies (yo)! 

Because Start the Party is most obviously designed to capture the imagination of young children this review will strictly be from the perspective of said children – is it fun, easy to understand and did it retain their attention?  If you, PS Nation subscriber, have no children to speak of and have no interest in the mini-game, feel free to move on.  You won’t hurt my feelings.

The concept of Start the Party really couldn’t get any more simplistic.  Utilizing the PlayStation Eye camera and Move controller (notice I didn’t use the plural, more on that later) the gamer and their surroundings are broadcast onto your television and into the game environment.  The Party will allow for up to 4 players and provides for 2 variations of basically the same set of minis: Party and Party Mix (pretty creative, huh).

Party mode allows for up to 10 rounds of randomly chosen mini-games while Party Mix allows you to pick and choose the games you would like to play.  The games themselves include, but are not limited to, Cut ‘N’ Color (think barbershop), Poppin’ (you guessed it, bubbles) and Pinata (do I really need to explain it?). 

One of the more noteworthy games that really caught the attention of my mini-me gamers was Spooky Shootout.  Taking the shape and utility of a flashlight, the Move controller is used to find floating ghosts that can be shot out of the air with a simple flick of the T button.  Always on the lookout for the the big red monster you need to hide the Move controller behind your back for fear of attracting his attention.  It kept my kids on their toes while trying to score as many points as quickly as possible.

The game that I found the most interesting was simply called Picture This.  Designed as a multi-level mini-game the player is prompted to fill in various shapes after the Move controller has morphed into a paint brush.  Each shape is available for a few seconds so being a quick draw is essential. 

What makes this game unique is that after the final shape is colored it is added to the other shapes to generate an animated work of art.  How well your shapes are filled in (gotta stay within the lines) will determine how well your animation comes to life.

Even though Start the Party is essentially a kid’s game there is still a level of competition that rears its semi-ugly head.  Some parents might find this intrusive to an otherwise fun children’s game.  Not me, not for my kids.  My daughters (ages 5 and 6) tear it up on a regular basis with Super Smash Bros. Brawl. 

My son (age 11) has regular access to a PSP, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and DSi – gaming has become a large part of his life.  In other words, competition – friendly or otherwise – has become a common event within my home.  Start the Party’s version of competition results in the accumulation of stars based on your success from each game – nothing more, nothing less.  The player with the most amount of stars at the end of the “Party” is the clear winner.

Still, Supermassive Games has decided to include this low level of competition while adding a healthy dose of “let’s not make kids cry for losing all the time”.  At any point during the game, if one player happens to be taking a substantial lead over the others, Start the Party will pick a random game and only allow the “losing” player the opportunity to catch up by playing this game by themselves – none of the other players will have a chance to gain points that round.  Like it or leave it, it is what it is.

Almost as important to me (as a parent) that the game was fun and that my children would enjoy it, was the ease of use the Move controller presented.  I think it’s safe to say that from a design perspective the PlayStation Move controller is vastly superior to the Nintendo Wii controller.  It’s curvature, compared to the blockiness and weight of the Wii-mote accounts for a lot of how easy it is to use. 

Still, comfortable or not, it includes a great number of buttons that might confuse and trouble some of the younger gamers stepping up to the TV.  The really nice thing about Start the Party is that none of the games go beyond the complexity of using the Move for simple motion control with an occasional game incorporating the use of the T button.

Although Supermassive Games obviously went out of there way to develop a game that practically anyone can pick up and play, with little to no instruction, they failed to realize that Start the Party might actually be a game played with a group of people.  Why then did they leave out the ability to play with more than 1 Move controller when circumstances called for it?  As it turns out, Start the Party adds yet another mini-game to the list.  It’s called pass the Move controller – what a drag.

When my 5 and 6 year-old daughters are standing mere feet away from my new 55″ Samsung 3D HD TV you can bet that they’ve got the Move controller firmly attached to their wrist.  The clasp is probably more difficult for them to manage than the actual game.  Watching them fumble with it while they quickly switch turns is painful – yet they refuse my help. 

Add to it the game moderator’s unrelenting “Start the Party”,  “press the Move button” and “what’s taking so long” comments and you’ve got yourself a front row seat to excited kids dancing around trying to remove the Move’s strap like they waited too long to use the bathroom.  Seriously?  Pass the controller?  I own 2 and would certainly have expected to be able to use them both.

If you have a PlayStation Eye Camera you know the quality of the images it captures.  They’re grainy and slightly off color but it works.  More importantly I didn’t care and neither did my kids.  This game isn’t about visuals and neither is this review.  My girls got a kick out of making funny faces in front of the camera and indulging in some spontaneous dance interpretations when a particular mini-game was a success.

Similar to my impression of the visuals for Start the Party the audio provides even less importance in this game.  At the beginning of the game each player is encouraged to record a sound sample for their character through the PlayStation Eye. 

The quality is barely passable but, for a child, it’s a part of the anticipatory build-up to the start of the game.  This isn’t a game that you’ll want to show off your new 7.1 DTS HD receiver to the neighbors.  Save that for Killzone 3, inFAMOUS 2 and Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception.

Start the Party is certainly that – a party game.  It’s best played with more than one person and even better if you’re a kid.  Even those that claim to be a kid-at-heart won’t find much to do with this PlayStation Move title. 

I played my fair share of this game in order to prepare the review you have just read but I had more fun watching my children enjoy themselves than participating in the game firsthand.  There shouldn’t be any illusions about this game being anything other than a game designed and developed for young children. 

Even with as much fun as they seemed to have with Start the Party I’m fairly certain that the repetitive nature of the mini-games will eventually wear thin and they’ll quickly turn back to the beat-down that is Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

I can’t really blame them.


Written by Bill Braun

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